When you attend a race meeting, and consider making a bet, you will be faced with two choices: the Tote (usually in a permanent building) and the independent bookmakers (lined up with their bill-boards, somewhere near the paddock).
The Tote is state-owned at present and their profits return to racing. Bookmakers pay for their positions at the course. They vary from one-man outfits to large corporations! The positions are bought and sold at private sales and one or two public auctions per year – it’s a slightly closed shop (for obvious reasons) but a good pitch at somewhere like Cheltenham can cost in the region of £80,000.
The Tote does not always offer the best odds, and odds amongst the bookies will vary a little. Compare the Tote odds against the bookmakers and always go for the best. If you saw two identical hats you wouldn’t buy the most expensive, would you? So why do it betting?
Bookmakers and the Tote take ‘win’ or ‘each way’ bets. ‘Win’ means exactly that but ‘each way’ terms vary according to the amount of runners in the race. Each way costs double a win bet because you are also taking a place bet: if there are 5–7 runners in the race, each way will mean the first two places; 8 or more runners goes to three places; 16+ in a handicap runs to four places. If your horse wins or is placed, your each way bet will ‘win’. Still grappling? Simple advice: Don’t bet each way when there are less than 8 runners.