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Each Way Betting

Having posted a few each way bets lately myself I thought it may be a worthwhile exercise to look a little deeper into these bets and to see if there are any ways to improve the success rate overall or whether ditching the bet as a waste of time would be better.

To those who don’t know, an each way bet means placing two equal bets on one horse. The first stake is on the horse winning the race and the second stake is on the horse being ‘placed’.

The norm for being placed is when your horse finishes second or third but there are some variations depending on how many horses are in the race and what type of race you are betting in, a handicap or a non handicap.

If you do get placed you win a fraction of the odds back which will either be one fifth of the odds or one quarter and the table below shows all race types and winning place money.

Non Handicap Races

  • 2 – 4 runners, win only no place.
  • 5 – 7 runners, two places and 1/4 the odds.
  • 8+ runners, three places and 1/5 the odds.

Handicap Races

  • 2 – 4 runners, win only no place.
  • 5 – 7 runners, two places and 1/4 the odds.
  • 8 – 11 runners, three places and 1/5 the odds.
  • 12 – 15 runners, three places and 1/4 the odds.
  • 16+ runners, four places and 1/4 the odds.

It should be noted that these are the terms when placing a bet at a bookmakers or online bookmakers and not at the course as the same rules do not apply.

These rules also do not apply when betting on the exchanges as the place odds are not set here as they are with the Bookmakers.

You can often get five places in big field handicaps on big race days and whilst most major Bookmakers will all be making the same offer, it is worth checking that yours will be doing so.

Why Place An Each Way Bet?

Most people place an each way bet rather than a win bet because a) they don’t think their horse is definitely going to win or b) the price they are taking is 10/1 or bigger.

Often the bet will be placed without considering exactly what it is you are doing and I can be as guilty of this as anyone else. After all, you are placing two stakes on the horse and one of these is only going to get your stake back in most cases, and just a little profit at other times.

So if you are putting one stake on something that at best is going to get your stake back, why bother in the first place?

And if you are staking so much because you aren’t 100% sure that the horse is going to win, I ask again why place the bet in the first place?

The each way bet is sometimes called an insurance bet and rather like everyday insurance, it doesn’t seem to offer great value or pay out very often.

Race Type And Odds

The type of race that you are betting in and the odds that you take will determine how much you get back if your horse is placed yet some people think that betting at big odds means that you are making a worthwhile profit IF the horse can finish in the places, but of course as the odds get bigger, the less chance the horse has of winning or placing.

So take odds of 20/1 for example in an eight runner handicap race where you are paid 1/5 the odds for just finishing second or third.

4/1 seems good odds for just having to beat five others into third, you have done your homework on the race and think the horse is ‘good each way value’.

However if the horse does only finish second or third you are actually only getting 2/1, as for a £1 each way bet returns £4 for the place and you have staked £2 on the bet in total, so it is the same as betting £2 at 2/1.

And when you look at it like that, only getting 2/1 when the chances of a 20/1 shot getting placed in an eight runner race are about 15 in every 100 races, it starts to look like very poor value indeed.

Of course you are hoping that the horse will win at 20/1 but that is only going to happen on average about 3 or 4 times in every 100 races.

Looking at 8/1 shots in the same way only pays the equivalent of 4/5 if the horse is only placed and just Even money if you are betting on a 10/1 shot and the chances of these two being placed are still only around 28 times in every 100 races.

Obviously we know the odds are against us and we are trying to beat the stats by carefully selecting just those 20/1, 10/1, 8/1 or whatever odds horses that we have decided have a better chance than average and not just betting on every horse at those prices, where we clearly would end up giving our money away.

The Bookmakers Overround

You may have heard of the overround, a percentage figure that the Bookmakers work to that ensures they make money over the long term, as long as they take the correct amount of bets given the winning percentage of each horses odds in the race.

Anything over 100% and the Bookmaker is okay, in fact they work to about 110% to 115% on average, with big races like last weeks Cesarewitch, thirty four runner handicap, working to a huge 146%. Meaning if things had worked out perfectly they would have taken a 46% profit on all stakes taken for the race.

Well there is an overround figure for the place market too, which also works in their favour because of how the winning odds are set.

To ensure a profit on all each way bets they must make 100 multiplied by the number of places they are paying out to for all of the place odds as a percentage.

So if paying two places they need over 200%, for three places over 300%.

To work out the percentage you divide 100 by the decimal odds. So 3/1 is 4.0 as a decimal price and 100/4 equals 25, so a 3/1 shot has a theoretical 25% of winning a race.

Same for the places and the 20/1 horse earlier at 4/1 (5.0) for the place is, 100/5 equals 20%, much less than the actual figure of around 28% for which this actually happens in reality.

Best Races For The Each Way Bet

If you look at the odds and the place market overround, then there are a few races that don’t actually give you an edge but do allow the Bookmakers to not win as much statistically as other races.

These races where the Bookmaker has less than a 10% edge, compared to over 20% in some other races, are all 8 runner races and handicap races with between 12 and 16 runners.

So if you do want to place an each way bet, you may want to look at these as you have more of a chance against the Bookmakers and the way the percentages are set up.

A 16 runner handicap gives you the best edge of all of these but finding exactly 16 runners in a handicap these days is not that easy, the same as a dead 8 too, however there will be plenty of handicap races with between 12 and 15 runners that you may want to exploit.

The worst races you can place a bet in are non handicaps races of 12 runners or over.

Is There Any Good News?

Well you can now say that you know the races to look at to get the best out of any each way bets but is there any way to increase your chances with this bet?

Well I think first of all I would ask myself is it really worth placing an each way bet at all. After all you are placing two stakes on a horse and one of these is only getting a small percentage of the odds back in the first place and that is if the horse can mange to finish in the first three, which we know is not as easy as it would seem.

First of all I would say you should probably only bet each way on a horse that you really think has a chance of WINNING the race. You are wasting at least one stake, if not two, just thinking or hoping the horse may fall into a place.

I think it is down to fear of losing that we play the each way bet so often and just getting all or half your stake back on some races does feel like you are not on a losing run.

Clearly betting 20/1 shots all of the time is going to mean quite a few, long losing runs throughout the year and by betting each way we think that just getting a small percentage of places will at least make us feel we are not losing all of the time.

There are options of course and whilst I am not going to suggest putting both stakes on the win, unless you normally split your stakes for an each way bet, you could back two horses in a race instead.

To me this is a far better idea as apart from losing one stake for sure, you are getting the full winning odds when you win and not some small fifth or quarter that the generous Bookmakers offer us.

I read a long time ago about a psychiatrist that treated those with a gambling habit. He suggested that these people didn’t always just have an addiction to gambling, it was the losing that caused them much of the problems which led to chasing losses and increasing stakes etc..

So he suggested that for every bet they placed, they put another bet on the favourite, meaning that they would at least back a winner approximately thirty percent of the time.

Maybe this is an idea you could adopt, if not backing the favourite then perhaps the second favourite each time, along with your own carefully researched selection.

I have also read about putting one stake on the place and two on the win, which will make less profit for the place but means you win more when the selections does come first and is something you may want to look into.


What I have found which is as important a factor when betting each way, is that a jockey will not always pull out all the stops, once he knows he is beaten.

For example, a jockey that leads into the final furlong and is challenged 100 yards out, will be giving it his all to either win or come a close second.

The same jockey who is headed over a furlong out will not be putting in the same effort to try and get into third place, just so that you can win some of your each way bet, as he knows the horse is beaten. Similarly, a jockey who has never got into the race, will only go through the motions of pushing the horse out and will try and save it for next time, despite riding to the rules.

Watch a jockey riding the second horse who is challenging for the lead in the last 100 yards of the Derby for example, compared to a jockey in a run of the mill handicap who has just lost the lead and is being swamped by the other horses.

It is natural to be going hell for leather when you really feel you have a chance compared to when the race is over and I think you should take this into consideration when thinking about the each way bet.

The Failed Each Way Steal

You may have heard of the supposed ‘Each Way Steal’, betting each way in small fields against an odds on favourite, but however you look at it, you are still getting the same 2/1 place price for a 20/1 shot, or Evens for a 10/1 shot in these races and I have never understood why people seem to think so much of this idea.

Being a system addict, I have looked into hundreds of these races to try and find out which is the best horse to bet each way against the odds on shot but I have never come up with anything concrete.

The odds on shot wins at least 50% of the time and there is nothing to suggest that the second favourite is worth playing, either to win or each way, in fact if anything I would suggest laying the second favourite is probably the best long term angle.

The Opposite To ‘The Steal’

If you are an each way player then I think the best races to bet in are what would be the opposite of the each way steal and those would be races where the favourite is quite a big price, say 7/2 or 4/1.

If you only then bet in the suggested races, i.e. dead 8 runner races, or handicaps with between 12 and 16 runners and the favourite is 4/1 or bigger, then you can say that the race is probably quite an open race and almost ‘anything may happen’.

Maybe find the three races on the day with the biggest forecast favourites compared to field size, (8 to 16 runners) and just concentrate on them when looking for your each way bet.

Divide the number of runners by the forecast favourite price and choose the lowest three on the day. E.g An 8 runner race divided by a 2/1 favourite would be 4.0, an 11 runner race with a 4/1 favourite would be 2.75.

Looking At The Run Style

As I said earlier, jockeys will put in less effort when they know they cannot win and don’t always ride as hard to only get third and probably finish down the field, giving the horse an easier time, saving it for the next race.

Two ways you may find better each way bets are by looking at the horses run styles for a race. For details on the Inform Racing run styles, read this post about front runners here, or read the full user guide for an explanation here.

If you can find one horse in a race that will want to take the lead and go on, then the horse may be able to get the lead and hold on to at least second or third places, even if it cannot win.

Similarly, a horse that is usually held up for a late run, in a race full of front runners, will get the race run to suit his running style and will very likely be able to run through the tiring horses and at least stay on for a place.

See my post on Thatcherite in the 5.50 Redcar who won using this hold up run style recently here.

Find something you fancy, that you feel has a good chance of winning and with a lone run style that will be suited by the race; in an 8 runner, or 12 to 16 runner handicap and you will surely improve the strike rate from your each way bets.

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Ian Welch

Creator and owner of Inform Racing.com since 2003, I have over 30 years of racing and betting experience to share. Speed ratings are my main passion whilst updating the website and writing the odd blog post keeps me busy and hopefully other users well informed.

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