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How to bet on sports: A handy guide to football and horse racing

| 06.12.2021

How to bet on sports

Outrights, handicaps, accumulators and in-play wagers. There are so many different ways to bet on sports that it can all be a bit much if you’re a newcomer.

Don’t worry though as we’ve put together a handy sports betting guide with all the information you need. It will tell you how to place a bet, explain how odds work and much more.

We’ll also break down the different ways you can bet on football and horse racing, and we’ll tell you what all of the key terms mean.

Ready to begin learning how to bet on sports? Let’s get started…

Online Betting Odds Explained

Odds are used to show how much value there is in a particular bet and the likelihood of the outcome. They show you how much money you’ll win if your bet is successful.

There are several different types of betting odds and you can choose from fractional or decimal odds at Ladbrokes.

When you log into your account, click on your name on the menu bar, arrow down to ‘Settings’ and click. That will take you to a page headed ‘Change Password’ and the fractional/decimal options can be found in ‘Betting Settings’ where you can toggle between the two.

Here’s a run-through of the different odds formats and how they work.

Betting Odds

Fractional Odds

You’ll usually see fractional odds when you’re browsing the Ladbrokes website, such as 2/1.

Odds displayed in this format show you how much you can win compared to your initial stake. The first number is your potential winnings, based on wagering the amount shown in the second number.

For example, 2/1 means you would win £2 from a £1 stake if your bet comes in, plus winning stakes are returned.

If you want to bet a higher amount than the second digit, it works at the same ratio. e.g – a £5 bet at odds of 2/1 would pay out £10 profit with £15 returned in total when including your original stake.

Fractional Odds Key Terms

Now you know the basics, you’ll want to keep these things in mind:

EvensA bet that could go either way – written as 1/1 as a fraction. You’ll double your original stake if it wins.

Favourite – The most likely outcome. The favourite will have the shortest odds and offers smaller payouts.

Odds-on – Something that’s more likely to happen than not, such as a big team beating lower-league opposition at home. The odds will be reversed, with the bigger digit as the second number, such as 1/2. At odds of 1/2, a £2 stake will return £1 profit.

If you’re struggling to get your head around fractional odds, there’s the option to use decimal odds too.

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds tend to be easier to understand at a glance. Instead of showing both the stake and potential winnings like fractional odds, decimal odds simply show what you’d win with a £1 stake (your stake is included in the returns).

For example, odds of 7/2 can be displayed as 4.5 as a decimal, which makes it easy to see that a £1 bet would return £4.50.

If you want to bet more than £1, you just multiply your stake by the decimal. £10 at odds of 4.5 returns £45. The same principle applies if you want to bet less than £1 too.

How to Bet on Football

At Ladbrokes, you can bet on football from around the world. Whether you like the Premier League, Champions League, La Liga or MLS, there are thousands of events from which to choose.

Deciding which game you want to bet on is just the first step. You’ve then got dozens of markets available such as the full-time result, first goalscorer, the total number of corners in many games or the time of the opening goal, plus much more.

But before you place any bets, it’s always worth taking a look at the team news and the two sides’ recent form.

The favourites might be missing a few key players, or they may have struggled recently, which could mean there’s value in backing the underdog.

You can place your bet before kick-off or in-play once the action has begun (more on in-play betting later).

Now we’re going to break down some of the main football markets.

Football betting tips

Match Betting

This one is very straightforward – who do you think will win? You’ll see the respective odds for both sides, as well as for a draw.

Both Teams to Score (BTTS)

A simple yes or no decision, will both teams score? You can also combine BTTS with a match result bet for bigger odds.

Total Goals

If a team that has been firing in the goals comes up against a side that struggles to defend, the total goals market is worth considering.

Here you predict how many goals there will be in a game, by calling either more or less than the total. For example, you can go for Over 3.5 Total Goals if you think there’ll be four or more in the game. On the flip side, you could choose Under 2.5 Total Goals if you expect two or fewer.

There are plenty of variations on Total Goals, such as the number of goals in each half. You can combine Total Goals with the result too or the Team Goals option allows you to bet on how many times a particular side will score over 90 minutes or in either half.


How do you think the match will pan out? Will the home side dominate throughout? Or will it be tight in the first half before the away side nicks it in the second?

You predict which side, if any, will be leading at half-time and then full-time in this market which has nine potential outcomes when draws are added to the list of possibilities.

Draw No Bet

Sometimes you’re leaning towards one team but aren’t completely sold on them. In that event, the Draw No Bet market could be for you.

If there’s a draw, your stake will be refunded. However, as you have that protection, you are offered shorter odds than you would receive in the standard Match Betting (Win-Draw-Win) market.

Double Chance

The Double Chance market also reduces your chance of losing. You are backing two out of the three possible outcomes in the match. If you choose the home side and a draw, your bet will win as long as the hosts avoid defeat.

You can also choose to back both sides in the Double Chance market and will win as long as the match does not end in a draw.

Correct Score

It’s harder to predict the correct score than the match result and that’s why you’ll get significantly longer odds on correctly calling the final scoreline.

Goalscorer Markets

You can bet on who will score and when too. There are markets for First Goalscorer, Last Goalscorer and Anytime Goalscorer.

You can also be more specific and back a player to score two goals or more, a hat-trick, or to score in a win/defeat for their side.

Handicap Betting

Sometimes there is very little value in backing a favourite with a standard bet. Handicap betting can even the playing field by applying a goal handicap to either side, which can lead to bigger payouts if successful.

If you back a team with a handicap of -1 goal, they’ll need to win by at least a two-goal margin in order to overcome the handicap and make your bet successful.

Should they only win by a single goal, it means the result would be a draw when the handicap is applied and you would lose your bet.

Now that we’ve covered the main markets, it’s time to take a look at in-play betting.

In-Play Betting

One of the reasons that football is so popular is that it is so unpredictable.

The form guide and stats can give you an idea of how a match is going to unfold, but a red card or injury could drastically alter the course of a game once it has begun.

With in-play betting, you can react as you watch the match unfold. Odds will change instantly as the match progresses to reflect what is happening.

A striker may be looking very sharp and so in-play betting allows you to back them to score while the game is still going on.

It opens up even more possibilities and chances for you to win!

That’s not all either. With certain bets, you can also Cash Out while the game is in progress which allows you to settle your bet before the match is over.

Let’s say you’ve backed West Brom to beat Chelsea and the Baggies are 1-0 up with 10 minutes to go. Chelsea are piling on the pressure and an equaliser looks inevitable. In that situation, you can Cash Out rather than risk losing the bet.

If your bet is losing, you can also receive a portion of your stake back.

Cash Out is especially useful if you’ve put on an accumulator (a bet that combines four or more selections into one wager).

If one selection doesn’t look like it’s going to come in, you can Cash Out to get a portion of your total winnings.

Now that we’ve covered football, we’ll switch our focus to horse racing betting

How to Bet on Horse Racing

Horse Racing remains a huge spectator sport in the UK, second only to football. Approximately six million attend the races every year in Great Britain alone. Royal Ascot, the Cheltenham Festival and the Epsom Derby Festival remain some of the best attended sporting events in the country too.

With all of that interest, it’s no surprise that horse racing is also incredibly popular to bet on. Many people place their first bet on the Grand National but there’s racing throughout the year and plenty of markets to choose from at Ladbrokes.

Horse racing betting tips

Before you place your bet, here’s what some of the lingo means.

Flat race – A race on a course with no jumps.

Jump race – Exactly what it says on the tin: run on a course with hurdles or fences to jump over.

Going – The condition of the course. This can influence the outcome as some horses prefer soft ground, while others excel on firm ground. As a general rule, firm ground lends itself to fast racing and soft ground is slower.

Horse Racing Markets

Early Prices

Early prices are offered by late afternoon the day before a race. Early prices can change frequently but if you back a horse with Ladbrokes at the early price and the Starting Price (SP) return is greater, you’ll be paid out at the bigger price thanks to our Best Odds Guaranteed promise.

Win Only

This one’s easy to understand. Backing a horse in the Win Only market means you’re betting on them to finish first and win the race outright.

Each Way

An each-way bet improves your chances of winning as it’s essentially two bets on the same horse.

You’re putting half of your stake on your chosen horse to win the race and the other half on it to finish placed.

If your horse does win, you’ll win both halves of your bet. You’ll receive a fraction of the win odds if it’s only placed.

The number of horses in the race determines how many places there are.

  • Races with less than five runners – Win Only market
  • Races with 5-7 runners – Pays out on 1st and 2nd place
  • Non-handicaps with 8+ runners – pays on 1st, 2nd and 3rd place
  • Handicap race with 12-15 runners – pays out on 1st, 2nd and 3rd place
  • Handicap with 16+ runners – pays out on 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place

Forecast and Tricast

A Forecast bet involves picking the horses that will finish first and second in the correct order. Your stake covers both horses and as it’s harder to call than a win or each-way bet, the potential rewards are much higher.

A Tricast bet works in the same way, with the addition of third place too.

There are also Reverse Forecasts and Tricasts. In this option, you don’t need to predict which order the horses will finish. Your bet covers all of the possibilities, so they require a higher stake.

A £5 stake on a regular Forecast covers two horses to finish first and second in a specific order. A £5 Reverse Forecast covers the two horses to finish first and second either way round, and would require a £10 stake.

Multiple Bets

Multiple bets offer the potential to win a big payout from a fairly small stake by combining horses from several races. All of the horses in a multiple bet need to win for your bet to be successful.

Double: A bet on two horses in separate races.

Treble: A bet on three horses in separate races.

Accumulator: A bet on four or more horses in separate races.

Full Cover Bets

Multiple bets need all of your selections to win, but that isn’t the case with full cover bets. A full cover bet splits a bet over multiple selections. This means not all of the selections need to win for you to earn a payout.

The beauty of a Full Cover bet is that unlike a popular multiple like a treble, not all your selections have to win to guarantee a payout.

Naturally, with less risk attached the returns are smaller but if all your bets do come in then you’ll still be in for a handsome return.

A Trixie is the simplest full cover bet and works across three horses in three different races. You place four separate bets – three double bets and a treble. If two of your selections win, you’ll get a return.

You can add up to eight selections to a full cover bet, and each has a specific name:

Trixie: Three selections and four separate bets – three doubles and a treble

Yankee: Four selections and 11 separate bets – six doubles, four trebles and a four-fold accumulator

Canadian/Super Yankee: Five selections and 26 separate bets – 10 doubles, 10 trebles, five four-fold accumulators and a five-fold accumulator

Heinz: Six selections and 57 separate bets – 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 four-fold accumulators, six five-fold accumulators and a six-fold accumulator

Super Heinz: Seven selections and 120 separate bets – 21 doubles, 35 trebles, 35 four-fold accumulators, 21 five-fold accumulators, seven six-fold accumulators and a seven-fold accumulator

Goliath: Eight selections and 247 separate bets – 28 doubles, 56 trebles, 70 four-fold accumulators, 56 five-fold accumulators, 28 six-fold accumulators, eight seven-fold accumulators and an eight-fold accumulator

Whether you have three or eight selections, you still only need a minimum of two selections to come through to gain a return on your bet.

There are also bets that combine a full cover bet with additional singles. These only require one winning selection for a return.

They are:

Patent: A Trixie with three singles – seven separate bets

Lucky 15: A Yankee with four singles – 15 separate bets

Lucky 31: A Canadian with five singles – 31 separate bets

Lucky 63: A wager on six different horses with 63 separate bets. It involves six singles, 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 four-fold accumulators, six five-fold accumulators and a six-fold accumulator.

That covers the basics of betting at Ladbrokes. Now it’s time to put it into action. Good luck!



Daniel Anwar

Daniel has covered sports for Squawka, FourFourTwo and iSportconnect. He is a naively optimistic Arsenal fan and is also passionate about music, film and chicken wings.