How to Bet on Horses: A Beginner's Guide to The Basics

Author Image Article By Gavin Beech GDC - Icon - Black - Info
Date IconLast Updated: 
Share On Your Network
How to Bet on Horses: A Beginner's Guide to The Basics

Learning how to bet on horses will add hugely to your enjoyment of the racing. 

Whether it's a day at the racecourse, or an afternoon spent watching on TV with friends, betting on horses is a time-honoured tradition in this part of the world. 

In this beginner’s guide, we'll walk you through horse racing betting 101. You'll learn where to bet, what types of bets you can place and how you can find the best value at Irish betting sites.

Popular Ways to Bet on Horses

There are many ways to bet on horses and bookmakers offer a wide range of bet types for account holders through shops, websites and betting apps.

The obvious starting point is the basic win bet, which means researching the best horse racing odds and backing a selection to win a race outright. 

You can also back your selection ‘each-way’ which means that you will get a return if the selection is placed.

An each-way bet is effectively two separate bets combined, a win bet and a place bet. A place bet pays out when your horse finishes in the top three, four, or sometimes five positions in a race, depending on the size of the field. 

Place bets are normally paid out at 1/5 of the win odds, so an each-way bet on a 20/1 selection would see the odds shorten to 4/1 for the place part of the bet. 

If you placed €5 each way, and the horse you backed finished second or third, you would land a return of €25 (€20 profit + your €5 stake).

Bookmakers' standard each way place terms are as follows:

  • 1-4 runners = Win only
  • 5-7 runners = 2 places
  • 8-15 runners = 3 places
  • 16+ runners = 4 places

Types of Horse Racing Bets

There are dozens of different horse racing bet types. Most new betting sites offer ‘place only’ odds, which means your selection only needs to be placed for you to win.

Bookmakers will also often offer ‘without the favourite’ markets, especially in races where the favourite's odds are off-putting. 

Combining multiple selections is also a popular way to bet on horses. Some popular horse racing multiples are:

  • Doubles: Two selections for two different races, with the odds of the two selections multiplied together.
  • 3/4/5-fold: An accumulator made up of more than two selections. With this bet, all selections need to win. You can also place each-way accumulators.
  • Trixie: Four bets made up of three doubles and a treble.
  • Yankee: A yankee bet is made up of four selections and amounts to 11 separate bets (six doubles, four trebles, and a fourfold). A €5 Yankee costs €55. The advantage of a bet like this is that if only two of the four selections win, there is still a return.

Read More: Get great Grand National Odds for the 2024 race


Horse Racing Betting Odds Explained

It's fundamentally important to be able to understand horse racing odds when betting on horses online. Here are five things you should know:

  1. Odds are typically displayed as fractions (e.g. 5/1) but anyone betting online will always have the option to display odds in decimal form (e.g. 6.0).
  2. When it comes to fractional odds, the number to the left of the forward slash (/) is the return you would get as a multiple of the number on the right side of the /. In the above example, if you were to place a €1 bet on a horse that is 5/1 or 6.0 and that horse was to win, then your total return would be €6 (€5 profit + €1 stake).
  3. Fractional prices are often not round numbers, so for instance, a horse could be priced up at 11/4, which is two and three-quarters to one, or 3.75 as a decimal price. In this scenario, a €10 bet would return a total of €37.50 (€27.50 profit plus €10 stake).
  4. If you see a horse priced at evens (1/1 as a fraction or 2.0 as a decimal), this is effectively a double-your-money wager. A €50 bet on an even money bet would return €100. Any price lower than even money is regarded as ‘odds-on’ while every price higher than even money is regarded as ‘odds-against’.
  5. If a horse is strongly fancied, it is usually odds-on. The number on the left side of the forward slash is smaller than the number on the right side. If a horse is priced up at 2/7, then a €70 wager would return €90 in total (€20 profit plus €70 stake).

The Best Betting Sites For Betting on Horses

If you want to bet on horses, you have to find a good bookie to bet with.

Every seasoned punter has their favourite betting site and if you're placing a bet for the very first time, it pays to find a licensed bookie that fits your needs.

It's also always a good idea to shop around for the best deals and offers. Below, you'll find some of the most important features to look out for at the best horse racing betting sites:

Welcome Bonuses

Many bookmakers offer sign-up bonuses and other free bets for new customers. 

These offers vary markedly from one site to the next, but there is nothing to stop savvy punters claiming multiple free bet bonuses to maximise value when betting on horses.

Best Odds Guaranteed

It's also worth looking out for bookies that offer best odds guaranteed (BOG) on all horse races.

Not every bookmaker offers this feature and some only on selected races/meetings. With BOG, if you back a horse and take an early price, you will automatically get the starting price (SP) if it's better.

 So, if you back a horse at 4/1 and it drifts out to 6/1 just before the race, you will be paid out at the better price. 

Live Streams

It’s not just odds that distinguish bookmakers from one another. Some online bookies will show races free of charge, while others will ask you to place a bet in order to access streams. 

So, If you want to enhance your betting experience by watching a race in full, check out betting sites with live streaming.

How to Find Value When Betting on Horses

  • The starting price (SP) of any horse applies industry-wide but up until the off time of a race, bookmakers' prices often differ, and sometimes by quite a bit. With that in mind, it nearly always pays to shop around in order to get the best price. That means having access to multiple betting accounts.
  • It also pays to keep an eye out for deals on the big festivals and race meetings. For example, you can get great Cheltenham betting offers and Grand National free bets in the lead up to these events.
  • Bookmakers tend to vary on the number of places paid out, especially when it comes to high-profile races or big-field handicaps. If you like to bet each-way then it’s important to find the best place terms.
  • Some of the top bookies offer odds boosts on particular horses, which are always worth keeping an eye out for.

Recommended Betting Sites

Bell Icon
Affiliate Disclosure: At Gambling.com, we want to ensure that players are matched with the right casino and sportsbook offers for them. For this reason, some of the recommended site links are affiliate links. More
  1. 5
    Tote Sports
    Established 1929
    More Details
  2. 6
    LeoVegas Sports
    Established 2012
    More Details
  3. 7
    BetItOn Sportsbook
    Established 2020
    More Details
  4. 9
    BoyleSports
    Established 2007
    More Details
  5. 11
    William Hill Sports
    Established 2008
    More Details
  6. 27