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How to Bet on Horse Racing

While the number of people who bet on sports is usually limited to people who have a legitimate interest in doing so, the population of people who bet on horses is significantly higher because going to the races is often treated as a recreational event or entertainment. People from all walks of life will go to the horse races or watch them for a variety of reasons. In fact, horse racing exists for the sole purpose of gambling while gambling on sports is more of a by-product of the presence of something to bet on.

If you have an interest in betting on horses on a regular basis, you should equip yourself with the skills and knowledge to do it as well as you can. With that in mind, we would like to offer your some general guidelines that should help better understand how to bet on horses.

Betting Venues

As a horseplayer, you will find that access to wagering opportunities in a variety of venues is seemingly endless. To begin with, horseplayers always have the option of going to a racetrack and enjoying the experience of live horse racing. If the beauty of the sport and betting isn’t enough reasons to head to Royal Ascot, Longchamp, Newmarket or Saratoga in the US, the pageantry of colors and the characters at the track should be enough to seal the deal.

If heading to the racetrack on a regular basis is not feasible, you always have the option of hitting one of England’s betting shops. They feature horseracing from all over the globe, as well as offering many of the same betting options. It’s legal, safe and quite convenient, depending on where you live.

For the ultimate in convenience, you always have the option of betting with an online bookmaker. Most of the top operations offer hundreds of races every day from racing jurisdictions all over the world. While the betting options from one country to the next might change, horse racing is horse racing. As long as you align yourself with a license, reputable online bookmaker, it’s quite possible to sit a home on a given day and bet the horses 24 hours a day.

Tool of the Trade

Even if you only go to the races once or twice a year, you should take the time to learn a little bit about handicapping. There’s nothing wrong with betting a horse based on its name or the colors on a jockey’s back, but you should then expect to count the money lost as an investment towards your weekly entertainment. If you want to get a little more serious, you need to be aware that all the information you need to handicap a horse race and come up with a reasonable number of winners is available.

At a minimum, you need to purchase a program. A program will provide some basic information about the horses, jockeys and trainers. You can’t really handicap a race with this information, but it will help you start getting acquainted with the sport at a higher level. If you want to become a handicapper, you need information about the horses and how they have done in the past. Past performance can be good predictors of future performances. This information is available in a variety of handicapping publications. In Europe, handicappers use the Racing Post or Form Guide. In the US, it’s the Racing Form and Ragozin Sheets. All over the world, learning to effectively read past performances is the key to becoming a good handicapper.

Caution: Don’t get in the habit of paying for picks from tipsters or touts. There’s no assurance these people know what they are doing on a daily basis. They get rich with no risk by telling everyone else what to do. If the horses they pick lose, you lose twice, the money you bet and the money you gave the tout. Learn to rely on your own instincts and handicapping ability.

How to Bet on Horse Racing

You’re online or at the race, you have your handicapping tools, and now it’s time to start betting. Prior to your first wager, you must establish your bankroll for the day. Never wager more than you can afford to lose, which could result in a variety of unwanted financial problems.

At the most basic level, you can bet on horses to win (finish 1st) or place (finish 1st or 2nd). The odds are posted by the bookmaker and you know what your risk/reward position will be before the race is run. The problem with win/place betting is the payouts tend to be lower. These types of bets are universal. If you are interested in taking a bigger risk for a bigger return, you might want to consider betting on exotic wagers.

Exotic wagers generally involve multiple horses and/or multiple races. In the US, exotic betting is very popular. Horseplayers can wager on exactas (picking the first two finishers in the exact correct order), quinellas (picking the first two finishers in any order or trifectas (picking the first three finishers in the exact correct order). The multi-race options include the Daily Double (picking the winners of two consecutive races), Pick 3 (picking the winners of three consecutive winners), up to a Pick 6.

In Europe and even Australia, the exotic betting options are fewer. They typically include the exacta, quinella, trifecta and a wager called the Omni-Swinger. This bet requires the horseplayer to pick two horses that must then finish within the first three positions. At the track, there may be a variety of multi-race wagers available.  We do have a guide on which are the best horse racing betting sites for UK punters worth checking out if you want to wager on the horses.

How Odds Are Established

In Europe and Australia, the bookmakers located at the track or with the “Tote” companies establish the odds on any given horse. The odds your select when you bet a horse will directly determine your return if your horse should win. In America and other parts of the world, pari-mutual wagering is used. Bettors bet into a pool of money. After a “take-out” portion is removed for the track, the remaining amount is divided by the number of winning tickets that exist. While betting is still taking place, the odds will move. The final odds determine the return on a winning bet. For more information on odds take a look at our betting odds explained guide.

The most important thing about betting on horses is to remember to have fun.