Truly understanding odds and betting is a bit of an art when it comes to horse racing, but it is a fun one to master.
We’re going to take a look at calculating odds and payouts, as well as translating between the three main expressions of odds.
Once you’ve mastered these skills, you’ll be able to find the best value horses in the field and bet with total confidence.
How to Calculate Odds
Learning how to calculate odds is sometimes easier with casino games than it is with horse racing. This is because horse racing has so many factors, such as the unpredictability of animals, the conditions of the ground, and the size of the field that working out odds can become pretty tricky.
In casino games, there’s often a set number of possible outcomes, meaning it’s a lot easier to work out the odds.
For example, even in the top blackjack online games if a player is following basic strategy then they’re likely to win 42% of the time. 49% of the time, the dealer will win, and the remaining 9% of the time it will be a tie, or a push.
In roulette, it’s similarly easy to calculate odds. If you place a bet on red, the chances of it coming in are 47.37%.
This is because on an American roulette board, there are 38 pockets, of which two are green and don’t pay out, and the remainder are equally split between red and black. If you take 18 pockets and divide by 38, you’re left with 0.4737 or 47.37%.
In horse racing, this maths is more confusing, as you don’t have numerical values to begin with, and you also have far more variables.
In order to work out if you’re receiving a good value bet or not, there are some steps that you can take instead of trying to assign a numerical value to everything.
Fractional, Decimal, and Moneyline Odds
The first of these steps is properly understanding the odds that you’re being offered. There are three main types of odds. These are fractional, decimal, and moneyline.
In America, moneyline odds are the most common and will be presented as, for example +300. This means that if you put $100 on and win, you’ll receive $300 back, plus your stake.
In the case of an odds-on bet, the moneyline odds will look as follows -33.33. This means that in order to win $33.33, you need to wager $100.
Fractional odds are most used in Britain. In the case of the above example, a +300 bet would be expressed as 3/1 in fractional odds.
An effortless way to read these odds is to see the denominator as the stake and the numerator as the winnings.
So, if you put $1 on, you’ll receive $3 back, plus your stake. In fractional odds, the above odds-on bet is written as 1/3, meaning if you put $3 on and win, you’ll receive $1 back, plus your stake.
The final way of expressing odds is as a decimal, which is most commonly seen in Europe. In the case of 3/1 or +300, this would be expressed in decimal as 4. To get here, you need to divide the denominator by the numerator and add 1.
In the case of the odds-on bet of 1/3 or -33.33, it would be expressed as 1.33.
Finding Value in a Field
Now that you understand how to calculate and express odds in all their different ways, it is time for the important bit, finding value.
Everybody wants to feel like they’ve had a great value bet, but the bookmaker’s job is to ensure that they are the ones receiving the best value, or very quickly, they’d be out of business.
If you’ve got the time to spend studying form though, then you’ve still got a good chance of winning.
Perhaps the best way to find value in a horse race is to give all of the horses your own price first. Once all the horses have your own odds allocated, see how they stack up against the odds that the bookmaker has given them.
If you’ve priced a horse much shorter than the bookmaker has, then double-check your research, and if you can’t find a fault, this might be the horse that you want to bet on.
It’s also important to remember that the closer to the event you leave it before placing a bet, the shorter the odds will typically become.
Placing ante-post bets, or bets a long way ahead of the race, can be a good way to receive better value on your bets.
Of course, there’s always the worry that a horse won’t race on the day or won’t be in the condition that you’d hoped it would be in, but that’s the price you pay for those longer odds.