Betting on the horses is a great way to make a day out even more exciting. The jubilation when your horse romps home, the disappointment when it comes in last, all combined with the chance to win some cold hard cash – betting makes the racing much more personal and much more entertaining.

For beginners, the betting system can seem mysterious and complex, and indeed it often is. However, just a little knowledge about odds, form and other factors and the most basic and popular types of bet is enough to get you started.

Horse Racing betting

How do odds work?

Odds are the chances a horse has of winning a particular race. They are usually expressed as two figures with a forward slash in the middle, such as ‘8/1’. The lower the odds the higher chance a horse has of winning but the lower the pay out if it does.

For example, a £1 bet at 4/1 that wins will result in returns of £5 – the £1 stake back plus 4 times that stake as winnings. A £1 bet on a horse at 100:1 odds would pay out £101 in total. However, the horse at 100/1 is highly unlikely to win, while the horse at 4/1 has a very good chance.

Basic betting types

For a beginner it is usually best to stick to two types of bet: win and each-way. A win bet is placed at full odds and pays out as shown above if that horse wins. An each-way bet is a little more complicated but a little less risky.

Essentially, each-ways bets are two bets in one. So, a £1 each-way bet costs £2, made up of a £1 win bet and a £1 place bet. The place bet (backing a horse to come as a runner-up) pays out at fractional odds, usually ¼ of the full odds. If the horse wins, both bets are honoured. If the horse places, only the £1 place bet pays, with the £1 win bet lost.

If the odds are 7/1 or less, it may be worth exploring some of your other betting options, as they may have better returns on low-odds horses than an each-way bet.

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Betting on the Grand National

The Grand National is the one race of the year where thousands of people who never otherwise gamble might turn out to place a bet. It is also the race where each-way bets make the most sense.

With a field of around 40 runners and the treacherous fences to jump, even a clear favourite isn’t always going to finish in the top places.

Understanding form

Fully understanding factors such as form, going etc. takes time and practice, but it always helps to read a little about the horse you have chosen before placing your bet.

Check out the newspaper or racecard to see what the experts have to say before making your selections. The more you read, the more you will come to understand.

If all else fails, pick your favourite name, number or colour – so long as you don’t bet more than you can afford to lose the excitement is still the same.

Placing a bet on a race can up the ante in terms of excitement, giving you more to shout about as the horses charge towards the finish post. If you’re a beginner in the world of betting, this advice can help you figure out how to pick the best horse on the day.