How Do Odds Work in Betting

Do you ever wonder how odds work in horse racing betting? Horse racing is a sport in which bettors wager on specific horses which are offered at specific odds. The evolution of the sport has also seen an evolution in how bets are made.

The History of Odds in Horse Racing

In the earliest days of horse racing it was common for just two horses to compete against one another. When betting was introduced to the sport, bookies were enlisted to take the bets from bettors. They also were given the task of assigning odds to the horses in a race.


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Odds were conceived as a way to fairly reward individuals for betting on horses that were perceived as underdogs. Some horses were legitimately more talented than others. It only stood to reason that no one would bet on a horse that was considered inferior if they were going to be given even money. Hence, the idea behind odds in betting. Odds were designed to entice players to back horses that would not receive wagers.

Imagine if there were two horses in a race and one of them did not receive any money in bets. You would have to cancel the betting contest then. There would be no point because there would be no winner.

Bookies Give Way to Tote Boards in Horse Racing Betting

In the UK and even in the US for a long period of time, bookies were used to handle horse racing betting. The thing about the days when bets were made with bookies was that you could shop for odds among the different bookmakers. This is still the case in the UK today where bookies are still allowed to work the horse racing tracks.

Bookies competing with one another to get bets from players is good for the bettor. The problem is that a more realistic way to assign odds to horses was created. It was called the totalisator, and it changed the way that horse racing is bet all over the world.

A totalisator is also known as a tote board. The tote board is prominently displayed at the track where all the bettors can see. But it is more than just a visual attraction. The tote board keeps track of how much money has been bet into all the various pools being offered on a race. In the blink of an eye the tote board can produce authentic odds for each horse that is entered.

Tote board and parimutuel betting did what no bookie could ever do. It assigned fair odds that were perfectly in line with what bettors thought a horse’s chances were to win the race. No one had to wonder if the odds on horse racing they were getting were fair or being skewed by the bookies.

The parimutuel system has been so successful that it has remained the standard for horse racing betting throughout all of the world.

The Betting Public Decides the Odds You Receive

The truth behind how odds work in horse racing betting is that the public decides the odds. That’s right. You and your betting companions are actively assigning odds to horses with every bet that you make. The more money a horse has bet on it makes its odds go down. The less money wagered, the higher the odds.

Best of all, no human is needed to track all of this information. The totalisator does all of that. The other thing to know about the betting public is that they don’t do bad when it comes to picking winners. In fact, they get it right about one out of every three tries. Can you do that?

Bookies don’t come close to that type of winning percentage for the simple reason that they don’t have to. A bookie can make vast sums of money by offering long odds on horses that have no realistic chance to win the race. In horse racing it is always easier to pick losers than it is to pick winners.

Using Odds to Make a Profit in Horse Racing

In horse racing you will often hear handicappers speak about getting a price for their selections. Getting a price is a way of referring to the odds that are needed for the player to make a profit. We already know that the betting public gets it right about 33% of the time. Since the betting public is your competition you will need to do better than that to win.

So, does this mean that you need to be right two out of every three times? Not exactly. That is the beauty of how odds work in horse racing betting. You can choose which races you want to bet. That means you can choose the odds that you receive.

If you bet on horses that are 3-1, you only need to win slightly more than one of every three bets to break even. At 4-1 odds, a little more than one of every four. The scale keeps sliding up as your odds go up.

Here’s the golden maxim of horse racing: make bigger bets on horses with longer odds. That’s how you ultimately beat the game. Of course, there is more to it than that, but this is the core principle. Check our Bovada racebook review, AmWager ReviewTwinspires review or even our Betamerica review. All great choice if you are in the US. 5Dimes review for folks anywhere!


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