Each-way betting is an essential tool for anybody looking to maximise profit and mitigate risk in their horse racing betting. Read on as RORY DELARGY explains each-way betting and how you can make the most of the opportunities available.
Each-way betting in Horse Racing
Each-way betting remains a remarkably divisive subject in horse racing. Beloved of housewives on Grand National day, it is looked on with contempt by many who consider themselves serious punters.
Yet many of the punters who rely on making a living out of the sport rely on the vagaries of the each-way markets in order to find a big enough edge to make their career choice sustainable. Much rubbish is talked regarding the subject. Most of it revolves around win prices. There is no such thing as a “nice each-way price” if your only point of reference is the current win odds.
Each-way betting explained: ‘A psychological crutch?’
Most casual punters bet each-way because it reduces their chance of losing. It is therefore something of a psychological crutch. Some people bet each-way when the horse they think will win is priced above a certain threshold, whatever the make-up of the race. Others bet win only even at 50/1 or bigger. The failure to take the safety net of a place bet seen as a sign of machismo.
In truth, the decision to bet each-way should not be about weakness of character or indecision. If you can identify a win bet as value, you can – with some work – determine whether the associated place bet also gives an edge. That is how you should view such bets, as two propositions, win and place, with different mathematical aspects.
Each-way betting explained: Understanding place terms
Sometimes the shape of the race is the determining factor in betting each-way. This is the number of runners and relative prices. Sometimes it is the characteristics of the horse. Those with a solid catalogue of back form in the conditions and class may be more attractive propositions than the “could be anything” hype horses who are often much shorter in the betting.
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It’s important to understand what place terms you are likely to get on an each-way bet. This helps you spot when those terms err towards the punter in terms of value and vice versa. The following are the industry standard terms. While firms may offer enhancements to these in certain circumstances, these should be the least that punters ought to expect. You should certainly not accept lesser terms where you see them advertised on course:
2 – 4 Runners: Win Only
5 – 7 Runners 1/4 the Odds, Places 1-2
8 or more Runners 1/5 Odds, Places 1-2-3
2 – 4 Runners: Win Only
5 – 7 Runners: 1/4 Odds, Places 1-2
8 – 11 Runners: 1/5 Odds, Places 1-2-3
12 – 15 Runners: 1/4 Odds, Places 1-2-3
16 or more Runners: 1/4 Odds, Places 1-2-3-4
(These place terms also mirror those available when creating a Bet Request at BetConnect.)
The first thing you can see when looking at terms is that the value to be had is not linear. Backing each-way in an 8-runner race gives you a high ratio of places (3) to total runners. Take one runner away, however, and the number of placed drops by a third. This is much more significant than the reduction in total runners.
Similarly, betting in a 16-runner handicap gives you four places. However a reduction of one makes the race only marginally easier to solve, while offering a 25% reduction in places. Handicaps with 12 runners are more attractive than 11-runner ones. This is because the change in terms is more significant than the reduction in numbers despite the number of placings remaining constant, and so on.
Each-way betting explained: Overround Calculator
In order to quantify whether the terms offer value, you need to calculate the overround in both the win and place market. This will provide a demonstration of when the bookmaker’s total book percentage either favours them or the punter. A bookmaker will always ensure his win book is overround. This gives him value against the punter (the house edge if you like), but he (or she) is powerless to ensure this is the case in the place market unless offering odds which are so short that punters will not be tempted to take them.
“At BetConnect, each-way betting is a popular angle with many Pros. Each-way markets offer plenty of opportunities for matched bettors who lay the bets from their Punter accounts. Often, they can take advantage of extra places when choosing to follow the bet with a bookmaker.
For example, if SkyBet pay six places on a 18-runner handicap, the two horses finishing fifth and sixth provide double-win opportunities. A matched bettor could lay either horse each-way on BetConnect and win, and back them with SkyBet and win again.
Betconnect pays out industry standard each-way terms, allowing the match bettor to take advantage of these extra place on offer”– Daniel Schreiber, BetConnect CEO
In certain races, such as 8-10 runner novice races with a very short-priced favourite, the place odds associated with the bookmaker’s win prices will be under-round. In other words, giving a generic edge to the punter. They tend to be wary of laying these odds heavily to each-way bettors. The best scenario for the punter mathematically is where the odds are unevenly distributed, and the number of runners is at the low end to ensure the maximum number of places, hence many players talk about getting “the dead eight” as if it’s the holy grail.
Each-way betting tips
Look for 16-runner handicaps
From my point of view, almost as good as the dead eight is the dead 16 in a handicap. This is especially true if I can rule out a significant number of runners. I would use Saturday’s BetVictor Gold Cup as an example of where the race shape and horse profile made for a very good each-way bet. Happy Diva, winner of the BetVictor Gold Cup, was available at 16/1 generally when the declarations were known. With 17 going to post, the race was paying four places as standard. This makes Happy Diva a 4/1 shot to be placed.
The ground had turned heavy the day before, and many of those entered had little or no form on the ground. Others had stamina concerns. A fair number were unproven or had a poor record in Class 1 handicaps. Ruling out those who seemed to have little chance, I narrowed the field down quickly to around seven or eight runners.
A Happy knack of placing
I then took the view, based on previous runners, that horses carrying big weights might struggle in the conditions. I soon had quite a short list. Of those, Happy Diva did not stand out as a win selection. She looked very fairly priced. However her chances of being placed showed her to be very compelling. She has now raced 16 times over fences, being brought down once, unseating once and finishing in the first three a remarkable 14 times.
The Kerry Lee-trained mare was also placed on every occasion she had raced on soft or heavy ground (aside from her unseat). She also had plenty of form at Class 1 level, at the track and over the trip. She has occasionally been outbattled, and that is something which might have put win-only backers off, but her characteristics, allied to the place terms on offer, made her a hugely attractive each-way bet. For once the theory matched the practice perfectly. She travelled well before holding on from a rival who was cutting her back.
The risk of her being run out of it in the closing stages was outweighed by the exceptional value inherent in that 4/1 place price. It’s fair to say that a bookmaker asked to formulate a place-only price about her would have gone much shorter – possibly less than 2/1. But the fact that place betting is predicated on a horse’s win price is an anomaly, and one which consistently rewards punters who see races as more than just a “who will win” proposition.
The value of extra places
Finally, Saturday morning backers might have missed the very best win odds on Happy Diva. With firms enhancing the places and paying out on the first six home, the value of the place part of the bet merely increased. It’s therefore important to be able to calculate whether a bookmaker’s enhanced terms will compensate for a lower win-only price.
Sometimes it can be tricky to work out where the value lies. Especially when a firm offers an extra place, but reduces the terms from a quarter to a fifth of the odds, As a rule of thumb, the extra place is worth the reduction in terms. One thing to be wary of is if you lay a bet at standard place terms with a view to backing the selection at enhanced terms, you may still end up out of pocket if you accept an extra place.
For example, you lay a £5 e/w bet at 50/1 in a 16-runner handicap at ¼ odds 4 places, and place that bet with a firm offering 6 places, but at 1/5 the odds. If the horse finishes fourth, you will get a return of £55. Yur liability on that bet is £67.50. Of course, if it finishes fifth or sixth, you will be in clover, winning the bet for a free stake, but it’s important not to get caught out.
Each-way betting explained: Now do the research!
If you want to know exactly how to calculate overrounds and to establish what place terms are best in different circumstances, there are plenty of spreadsheet-heavy articles to show you the way. I’d particularly recommend you google content on this subject written by Simon Rowlands. Getting your head around the mathematics of betting can be an arduous task, but that particular road is paved with gold if you maintain your discipline.
Rory Delargy is a columnist for both the Irish Field and the Irish Daily Star and is a highly regarded racing broadcaster. He previously worked for a major bookmaker.