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For many people, having a bet – or a flutter – is part of the theatre and excitement of a day at the races, but it can be an intimidating experience until you feel like you’ve got a basic understanding of odds.

That’s why we’ve put together a simple guide to placing a bet to help you make the most of your day.

How and where to place a bet

It’s easier than you might think to place a bet at the races. You simply need to:

  1. Choose your favoured horse from the racecard and remember their name and number
  2. Decide the amount (the stake) you are comfortable with
  3. Choose the type of bet you would like to place
  4. Take your pick from the bookmakers at the betting ring
  5. Tell the bookmaker the horse’s number, the amount you want to bet and the type of bet, for example, “£5 each way on number 5”

The bookmakers typically have a minimum stake for placing a bet, but this will be clearly displayed on their boards.

You’ll be given a ticket once your bet has been placed; be sure to keep hold of it – if you win, you’ll need it to collect your winnings from the bookmaker.

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After a race, the winning and placed horses enter the winner’s enclosure. Jockeys dismount and return to the Weighing Room complex to weigh in with their kit and saddle.

Once the raceday officials are happy with the weights, you will hear “Weighed in, weighed in!” over the Tannoy to confirm the official result of the race.

At this point, you can hand over your betting slip to the bookmaker you wagered with to receive your winnings. If you placed a bet online, your account should be automatically credited.

The only time this might be delayed is when a Stewards’ Enquiry is called and officials need to look into a specific part of the race to ensure that no rules have been breached by a jockey and/or trainer.

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What are the common terms and phrases in horse racing?

In many cases, the jargon behind the racing is the main barrier to understanding how to place a bet, but it’s not as complicated as it might sound.

If a horse has ‘long odds’, for instance, it simply means that it has a low chance of winning based on a number of factors that you’ll find on the racecard, but it also means that you’ll get more back for your stake if it wins.

Find out more about horseracing jargon in our guide here.

How to read the form

If you want to get more familiar with the racecard to inform your bet, you can try to pick a winner by reading the form. This gives you a series of numbers and letters next to each horse’s name to indicate how it has performed in recent races. If there are more 1s, 2s and 3s than there are 7s, 8s and 9s next to the horse you like, you might have a better chance of winning.

Tips for betting at the races

  • Having a bet is not compulsory, of course; the choice is entirely up to you.
  • If you bet with a bookmaker or The Tote, keep hold of your ticket as you’ll need it to collect any winnings.
  • Don’t be shy! The bookies and other punters on the course will be more than happy to teach you how to bet on horses.

The 3 Best Times to Place Sports Bets

When’s the best time to place a sports bet? The answer is whenever you have the best chance to make a profit. Some handicappers find more value on early lines, while others are able to use the information available right before the game starts to make better bets.

You used to only be able to place bets before a game started, so you either bet on the opening lines, the lines right before the game, or sometime in between. Now, you can bet at many sportsbooks after the game or match starts. This has opened up a new way to bet on sports and another area where you can try to find value.

1 – As Soon as the Lines Are Released

The best time to find value in sports betting lines is when the lines are first released. In sports like football where each team only has one game a week, you often see lines six or seven days before the game. In games like baseball and basketball, you have to move faster because lines are opened less than 24 hours before some games.

Early lines can be quite a bit different than the lines right before a game. Once the sportsbook sets lines and bets start coming in, the lines can change based on what the majority of the public is betting on. Once a large number of bets come in, most sportsbooks are more concerned with balancing the handle on the sides than actually predicting the final score.

This is why you can often find better value betting on early lines if you’re a good handicapper.

The early lines can move quickly because many sharp bettors bet on them. This alone should tell you all you need to know about why betting early is a good strategy. Anything that winning sports bettors do is something you should consider doing.

The downside to betting on the early lines is that you can have a key injury or something that changes the way you handicap a game happen after you make a bet. But, when this happens, you can make a second bet to hedge the first one to lower your risk.

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2 – Minutes Before the Game

The argument for waiting until just before a game starts to place bets is centered on gathering and using all of the information you can. On the surface, this sounds like a good idea, but the problem is that sometimes, the lines are tighter right before the game. When the lines are tighter, it’s more difficult to find value on either side of a game.

But the truth is that most bettors don’t use advanced handicapping systems, so they’re just punishing themselves with tighter lines by waiting.

If you don’t know how to effectively hedge early bets when big news comes out, you should also wait until late to place your wagers. When you’re handicapping MLB and NBA games, the timing of your wagers isn’t as important because there isn’t as much time between games.

When I bet on MLB, I always wait until the lineups are released because a single star that gets a night off can change the expected outcome of the game. Most serious MLB bettors do this also, and the sportsbooks have access to starting lineups as fast as anyone. This means that the books can usually adjust their lines before you can get a bet down based on the lineup. This isn’t good for you, but it’s something to keep in mind if you bet on MLB.

3 – In Game Betting

The ability to place bets after a game or match has started is a fairly new development in the world of sports betting. It’s also one of my favorite betting options. I can only do so much handicapping leading up to a game, but once the action starts, it’s easier to get a feel for how individuals and teams are performing.

Though it isn’t as easy as it used to be, there are trends in each sport that are predictable. These trends can lead to profitable in-game sports betting.

One of the trends that was quite profitable before the sportsbooks started changing their lines was in the NBA. In the NBA, one team often jumps out to a big lead. They might even maintain a big lead into the half. But the other team almost always makes a run sometime in the second half.

Sometimes, the team with the big lead is able to hold on to win the game, and sometimes, they blow the lead and lose the game. But when you’re betting on which team scores the most points in the second half, you don’t care which team wins the game. This created a situation where it was easy to bet on the team that was behind by a large margin at half to win the second half of the game.

I mentioned that the sportsbooks figured out they were losing money on these bets and have made adjustments, but there are other trends that can still be profitable with in-game betting. You just have to find them and hope the sportsbooks don’t figure them out soon.

You can also use knowledge of regression to the mean when betting in game. This is the NBA trend I mentioned earlier.

Statistics show that large percentages of the time, these teams and players revert back to their expected or average production.

The problem with using regression is that it’s based on larger sample sizes than you get in one game. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use it, it just means you have to be careful.

In MLB, a hitter can get extremely hot and carry a team for days. But when he comes off the hot streak, it’s likely that he’s going to perform worse than his average to balance things out. It pays to know which hitters are prone to have hot streaks and which ones are more stable.

A stable player who starts a game with three hits is less likely to get a hit in his fourth at bat than a player prone to streaks. This can be useful when you’re betting during an MLB game.

I also use past statistics with pitchers in MLB when I bet in-game. I like to see how the pitcher is performing early in the game and use their ERA and WHIP by inning in their past starts to predict when they’re going to start declining in the current game. Pitch counts for past games is also helpful with this.

In the NHL, it’s helpful to know how scoring players perform when they’re on different lines. Some players perform much better when paired with certain other players and struggle when on a different line.

If you’ve never looked at in-game betting, it can be a good way to add some extra profit to your sports betting. It’s also a great excuse to watch more sporting events.

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