When you place a bet on a horse in a race, the odds will be displayed on TV screens around the world. But what does the TV screen actually show you? Does it show you the odds that are currently available? Is the payout percentage at 100%? Could you potentially lose your entire stake on one spin of the roulette wheel? Let’s find out more about betting on horses in general and how to fill out a racing betting slip in particular.
Before you make your first ever bet on a horse in a race, there are a few things you need to know. The first is the legal stuff—you’ll need to check with the State to see if it’s legal to gamble in the state you live in. Most places don’t allow betting on horse races so you’ll have to search for other types of gambling if you want to place wagers on the races. But once you’re allowed to place bets, the next thing you need to know is how to fill out a betting slip. Some people also refer to this document as a ticket or an account statement. Either way, it’s a list of the bets you’ve made and the results of each bet.
The form is actually pretty simple; all you need is a space for the number of the ticket (or a piece of paper) and a space for each type of wager you make. You’ll also want to make sure you’ve got the correct form filled out in case you do happen to lose a bet. For instance, you might bet on a certain horse and when they lose, you’ll need to fill out a ticket stating what you bet and why. This way you can get your money back if there’s an error on the form.
Odds are basically the chances that a given horse is going to win or place ahead of another horse in a race. If you’re not familiar, odds can be found in newspapers and online at websites that cover the races you’ll bet on. They’ll be in the form of H2O (Horse A is the 2nd horse in the race) or H2O (Horse B is the 2nd horse in the race) for singles or doubles, respectively. For example, H2O is the odds on a given horse winning the race.
Sometimes there will be two or more horses in a race with similar odds, making it hard to choose which one to back. In these cases, you can either pick a side or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, take a shot on both horses. If you win, you’ll end up with two winning tickets (or statements) instead of just one. If you lose, you’ll still have one to claim your money back on.
Payouts are the amounts of money you’ll win or lose for a particular wager. Some bookmakers will also list the winning odds for the race so you can see how much you actually won or lost for the bet. Calculating your payout is easily done by multiplying your stake (the amount you bet) by the odds for that particular bet. For example, if you stake $10 on a horse with the odds of 3 to 1, your payout would be $30. The downside is that sometimes you’ll win more than you bet, meaning you’re actually receiving free money. The upside is that, in most cases, you’ll lose less than you bet. When you win, the payout will be the same as your stake; when you lose, you’ll have a deduction in the form of a “house edge” (how much the bookmaker pays on a single bet) taken from your winnings.
There are a few terms and phrases you need to know before you start betting. The first is the anvil—this is the term used when there’s a small field of competing horses. In other words, it’s not extremely likely that your horse will win so you won’t lose a huge amount of money if they lose. Second, if a horse ends up in the money (finishing in the top four or five places in a given race) chances are there’ll be a lot of money to be won. For instance, a horse that places last in a $5,000 race will only win $125, not including entry fees.
Last, if you’re scratching and backing (betting on the outcome of a race as it’s being run) you’re essentially doing it professionally. The problem with this approach is you’ll never know if you’re winning or losing until the race is over. If you’re lucky, you’ll find out who won before the next race starts; otherwise, you’ll learn of your loss in the post-race news or online at websites that report race results.
How to Fill Out a Betting Slip
Now that you have the basics down, it’s time to get down to business. You’ll need to decide which type of bet you want to make (straight-up wager, each-way bet, etc.) and find the appropriate form. For the sake of this article, we’ll use the H2O (Horse A is the 2nd horse in the race) format since most people are familiar with this system. Once you found the form, you can start writing out your bet.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s say you want to bet on the favorite—the horse that most people think is going to win the race. If they win, your profit will be great. If they lose, you still have another chance at winning. But if they place, you’ll either win or lose money depending on whether they place first or last, respectively. For this example, we’ll use the H2O format again and assume you’re betting $10 on the favorite.
First, you’ll need to write down the name of the horse you’re betting on and the reason for your selection. Next, fill in the amount of money you’re betting, followed by the anvil (if the field is large enough for there to be meaningful competition). Finally, list the payout if the horse you selected wins, followed by the payout if they place or lose.
If all goes well, you’ll end up with something like this:
Name of the horse: Desert Jewel
Reason for selection: Desert Jewel has a good name and they’re from an excellent breeding family. She also wins a lot of races so I think she’s going to win this particular race. Plus it’s easy to remember—jewelry is made of gems so it’s basically like putting a winning lottery ticket on your slip.
Amount of money: $10
Anvil: H2O (Horse A is the 2nd horse in the race)
Payout if Desert Jewel wins: $10
Payout if Desert Jewel places: $0
Payout if Desert Jewel loses: $0
That’s all there is to it! Just make sure to keep track of the numbers on your ticket—you’ll need this to claim your winnings if everything goes well.
Keep in mind there are many other ways to fill out a betting slip, depending on what type of bet you want to make. For instance, if you want to take a shot on a longshot (a horse that’s not been prepped for the competition) you might use this form:
Longshot: Win $10 if it wins
Longshot: Place $10 if it places
Anvil: HS (Horse Sex—it’s a shot on either sex of the horse; if it wins, you win $10; if it places, you place $10)
Payout if Longshot wins: $20
Payout if Longshot places: $10
Payout if Longshot loses: $0
This form is usually used for non-win bets, like the French randonneur (rodeo rider) who might bet on the favorite and then on the longshot, if they’re running.
If you’re not sure which form to use, just pick a form that makes the most sense to you and the type of bet you want to make.
Once you get the hang of it, making a betting slip isn’t that hard. Just make sure to have everything written down before you fill it out—if you’re filling it out on site at the track, you might want to take a little bit of time to think everything through. Otherwise, you’ll likely forget something important and have to start over again. Racing forms are pretty self-explanatory so take your time and enjoy the experience.