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The betting ring, where the bookmakers, ply their trade can be intimidating to a newcomer, especially in the final few minutes before the start of a race.

Don’t be intimidated, on the whole they are friendly people. Before racing starts have a walk around the betting ring and get a feel for the place. Bookmakers have boards which show the runners in each race and against each runner you will see the odds on offer.

Odds are displayed in a couple of ways, either as full odds which is with two number divided by a slash. In those cases if you invest the number on the right you win the number on the left, plus you get your stake back. So if the odds show 2/1 it means if you put £1 on to win then if your horse wins you win £2 (plus your original stake is returned), so the bookmaker will give you £3 back if you win. Of course you can put more that £1 on so in this example if you put £5 on at 2/1 you would win £10 plus your £5 stake, therefore collecting £15.

Not all odds have a one after the slash, which can, at first, appear confusing but the principle is the same. Lets take 9/2, put simply if you bet £2 and the horse wins you will win £9, plus your £2 investment giving a return of £11. The more mathematically aware will realise that 9/2 is also the same as 4½/1 and that leads us to the other way of displaying odds, which is now becoming more common. In these cases the bookmakers will display a single number and that is the amount you will win against £1. So taking the above examples 2 will be the same as 2/1 and 4½ will be the same as 9/2. It sounds confusing but it’s quite simple when you see it in action. The odds on offer reflect the chances of the horse winning. (If you’re interested in the maths click here).

The better the chance the horse has of winning the less the odds will be, the horse with the lowest odds is known as the favourite. If the horses are closely matched and there are lots of runners then the favourite could have odds as long as 7/1. Generally the odds of the favourite are between 1/1 (known as evens) and 3/1. However if there is a really outstanding horse in the race and it is strongly fancied to win then it may be what they call odds on, this will be shown as something like 1/2, in which case you would have to bet £2 to win £1, collecting £3 in total. Just because a horse is odds on doesn’t mean it will win, plenty of odds on horses have been well beaten, as all punters will discover sooner or later.

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