Betting on Horse Racing

by Mary Haley, Editor
Online Horse Betting

Betting on horse racing is a game of chance…or is it? We have all no doubt heard of a ‘dead cert,’ ‘hot favorite,’ ‘two horse race’ but, in the majority of cases, the traditional bet loses more often than it wins. The reason for this is that certain factors connected with probability and chance, plus what we term as ‘luck’, comes into play.

Take for example, a horse race with a field of 10 runners. You fancy the favorite at the short odds of 2.00(USA), 2/1(UK). There is an outsider that you favor also whose odds have shortened to 10.00(USA), 10/1(UK).

Now you have a bit of a dilemma…which horse will you back?

Say you would like to win $50. You could either stick with the favorite and bet $25 to win…$25 at 2.00 = $50, or $5 on the outsider to win…$5 at 10.00 = $50. Backing both of them would mean a profit whichever of them won…providing that one of them did of course.

Let us say that caution was the one you went for and you back the favorite with $25 at odds of 2.00. Now, according to the bookmaker, his odds of 2.00 means that he thinks that it has a 33 and 1/3 percent chance of winning. You can work out the percentages by changing the odds to fractions, adding the figures and then dividing the total into 100.

So then, the odds of 2.00 revert to 2/1 therefore the calculation would be 100/[2+1] = 33.33%. The outsider at odds of 10.0 have a 100/[10+1] = 9.09% chance of winning.

The bookmaker with all his information regarding track conditions, form, fitness, trainer, jockey etc., thinks that the favorite has a better chance of winning than the outsider. In fact a 33.33% – 9.09% = 24.21% better chance.

So you have a 33%+ chance of winning $50 with your $25 bet on the favorite. This appears a good bet until you notice that you have also a 66.67% chance of losing your $25…not so good now! Ok then, let’s back the favorite and your fancied outsider. Now we have a (33.33 + 9.09)= 42.42% chance of winning $50, but there is still a 57.58% risk of losing your accumulated bets of $30.

You have to think about the other 8 horses in the race also. They may be less fit etc. and deemed to have a lesser chance of winning, but nevertheless, they do have a chance.

It is not easy to calculate chance in a horse race because so many factors come into play. We can be certain however; that the favorite is more likely to lose than win and the fancied outsider is even more likely to lose.

What do you do then? Bet your $25 on the favorite and perhaps see a horse you never even considered romp home to victory? Perhaps keep your money and kick yourself as your outsider wins easily.

It is the thrill of selecting a possible winner over the probability that the selection will lose is why we gamble. Even with all the form study and hot tips etc.; betting on horses is still largely a game of chance.

To bet or not to bet, it is entirely your decision. You could try flipping coin!

This article may be reprinted with permission so long as no changes are made to the text and the following credit appears: 2006-2008 Horse Resource Organization Information, products and resources related exclusively to horses. Author: Mary Haley.

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