Racing odds are part of the excitement of the race, who is offering what odds, are they odds on etc all comes in the potential to win. At the same time, a lot of people who have never really bet, struggle to understand racing odds. At the end of the day, racing odds are simple maths. That said, I am not awesome at maths so I am going to explain it like I was five (hopefully) in the hope of helping people get how it works. Racing odds, as a general concept, can be viewed as the returns to expect if the backed horse wins. Obviously, all the odds given factor in the likelihood of winning, the history of the horse, even the type of ground that the horse is best on as well as how the bets are being placed currently. No bookie wants to offer amazing odds on the favourite to win for obvious reasons. Now that we understand the racing odds, let’s look at the maths.
Racing odds explained simply
Racing odds can be expressed in two ways, fractional and decimal. Most of the time, the odds are expressed fractionally. Fractional odds are expressed in the form of simple fractions, for example, 4/1. At these fractional odds, it means that for every £1 the reader was to bet on a winning horse at these odds they will get back £5 (£4 win plus the original £1 stake). Had the reader bet £10 @ 4/1, you would get back £50 (£40 winnings plus £10 initial stake). The fractional setup always has the 1 on the right-hand side EXCEPT for one scenario… When it’s favourite to win or odds on as it is often described.
The racing odds on favourites
Odds for favourites can also be expressed fractionally. The odds are not going to be 4/1 for the favourite because of its popularity. It’s potentially very much less because it’s the favourite, and the bookies know this. This results in a small percentage of £1 for every £1 staked. When odds are given as 1/4 it means that for every £4 staked, you get back your £4 stake and £1 back (or simply you get 25% for every £1 you put on, plus the stake.)
The same odds expressed decimally would be 5.00. You may be thinking, “Huh, 5, where did that come from?”. It’s really simple. When expressed decimally, it includes the original stake. So for every £1 at 5.00 you’d get back £5 (including the stake).
Racing odds are dynamic
At the risk of sounding obvious, the horse racing odds change over time. An early bet at 4/1, say a week prior to the race, could turn into a 1/4 favourite. (A bit exaggerated but helps with our point). The bet that was placed at 4/1 is locked in even though the odds have changed in the interim. Many factors can affect the racing odds over time, and too many to list here, but just be aware the odds change, so if you have that horse you are sure will win, be sure to get the bet on early. At the risk of stating the obvious, the odds can also worsen!
That’s it really. It’s not complex but more just understanding how it works. One pro tip, however… don’t forget to pay the betting tax when placing the bet. That way, you only pay tax on the stake and not on the winnings, which would result in a much bigger amount going to the tax man.