How to Read Horse Racing Odds

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Do you want to place bets and just hope for good luck? Or, do you want to know how to spot good value for money by getting the best horse racing odds?

Ideally, the answer is the latter and a major part of achieving that is gaining an understanding of how horse racing odds work. Where to find live horse racing odds and appreciating how they’re calculated is a great way to begin.

horse racing odds

Understanding Horse Racing Odds

Online horse betting is a complicated game when all is said and done. There are so many variables to track, the best way to go about it is to keep things simple.

The first thing to do is to always get good value for your bets. To achieve it, you need a basic understanding of how horse racing odds are formed and what purpose they serve.

Basically, horse betting odds are a representation of what chance an animal has of winning. They also represent how much a payout is worth if the said horse wins.

The best way to have horse racing odds explained then is to think of them as a simple sum. If a horse is 5/1 (five to one), then a $1 bet gets you $5 profit. If the odds are 9/2, then it’s essentially 4½ to 1, i.e. $90 profit on a $20 bet.

It’s important though to remember you get your stake back as well. That means, even when a horse is ‘odds-on’, i.e. 4/6 or 2/5, you can still make a profit if your horse happens to win. In this case, a 2/5 shot is 0.4 to 1, so a $10 bet on a winning 2/5 shot pays out $14 in total.

How to Calculate a Horse Racing Odds Payout

Understanding horse racing odds are there for us one thing, but you’ll also want to know just what payoff to expect if your wager is successful.

The very essence of this sport is the wagering aspect, so knowing instinctively what a win pays is crucial. That is why fully getting to grips with horse racing odds is so important.

Naturally, knowing how to read horse racing odds includes understanding that how they’re displayed and what payout you get depends on the type of bet you place. Horse betting odds can even be given different names.

The two main horse racing odds types are ‘fractional’ and ‘decimal’. Which type you get often depends on where you bet and who with, though with many companies you can choose between the two.

Here’s how to calculate your potential returns manually.

Fractional Odds

Odds listed as 2/1 or 7/2 etc show you how much you return in total if your horse wins, using a simple calculation. The first figure is how much you win and the second is how much is bet. The total return, however, is that sum plus your stake. For example:

  • A $10 bet on a 7/2 shot that wins pays out $45 in total. This is calculated as 10 x 7 / 2 + 10 = 45.

A different way to say this is that 7 divided by 2 is 3.5, so the horse is a 3½ to 1 shot. $10 x 3.5 is $35 plus your $10 stake = $45 in total.

Decimal Odds

Fractionals are still used in most of the major territories, such as the USA and Great Britain so you’ll see them plenty. Another popular form of displaying horse racing odds, however, is the decimal form.

In this case, a horse that is basically 8/1 would be displayed as a 9.00 chance. Your stake is factored in to the horse racing odds payout displayed. So, $25 on a 17.50 chance would actually pay $437.50.

The best way to understand and to calculate a payout is to think of it this way:

  • 25 x 17.50 = 437.50
  • Or, 17.50 – 1.00 stake = 16.50. 25 x 16.50 = 412.50 + 25 stake = 437.50

In pari-mutuel wagering, your stake will already be included in the payout displayed. The pari-mutuel is the most popular form of displaying horse racing odds in the States.

Where to Get Live Horse Racing Odds

Pari-mutuel figures move constantly, as they are determined by how much money is in the pool and how much is being bet on each horse. Even a normal horse racing odds payout will fluctuate, however. It’s the nature of the game for live horse racing odds to move around a little.

This is due to a number of factors. Horse racing odds drift out when a horse is unfancied, while they come in when there is confidence. This confidence can come from the barn, or simply because bettors are placing their hard-earned on a horse.
Understanding horse racing odds and why they cannot be static is a basic skill need. It always will be. But the key question is where to find live odds.

Go Mobile

Dedicated TV channels and websites are great, but not practical as a means to keep track of horse racing odds as they change.
Once you sign up with a reputable online racebook, however, you will be right up to the minute. Upon signup, you will have access to every live race and all associated current horse racing odds. This is the case whether you’re wagering on a certain race or not.

How to read horse racing odds even faster is to download an app. Your racebook or bookmaker should have an app to download, and on this all prices are live. Check out the list of horse betting apps available in the US.

While TV is great, you are not in control of what is being shown at any given time. Horse racing odds are in a state of perpetual motion so having an app in your hand should always be your go-to tactic when thinking of wagering.

Horse Racing Odds Calculator

Try our horse racing odds calculator.

Having horse racing odds explained to you can be helpful, but knowing in advance what to expect from your wagering selection helps you keep a level head and aim for the best value for money.

Horse racing odds are very much a fluctuating thing, so don’t stand still as a handicapper. The horse racing odds calculator could be your best pal pre-race.

Odds Converter

Enter Your Odds (Converts Automatically)

FractionDecimalAmericanImplied Probability (%)
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