The punters friend; an each way bet. The warm and fussy feeling it gives you when your horse is convincingly beaten but you still manage to make a small profit, and all thanks to them all round nice guys the bookie.
Wait a minute! The guy smoking a fat cigar, wearing a camel skin jacket and driving a ridiculously priced sports car is the nice guy? Let’s take a deeper look into the calculations behind each way bets and let the maths decide.
This article will cover the basics of each way betting, such as what it is and what the pay-out terms are, to the more complicated elements such as how a bookies each way book compares to its win only book. And a great Top 10 list for finding value bets. If you are more than familiar with each way betting click here to jump to the more interest stuff or here for the Top 10 tips.
Let’s start with answering the main question for the newbies, what is an each way bet? Quite simply it is a bet on your selection to win or be placed. It’s a bet commonly associated with horse racing but can be seen in many other sports, particularly for outright betting markets – golf tournaments and top goalscorer markets to name a few.
An each way bet should in fact be looked upon as a combination bet, as you’re actually placing two separate bets, one to win and one to place. That’s why when you place a £10 each way bet you have to give the bookie twice that amount.
When it comes time for the bookie to give you your winnings the place bets odds will be a fraction of the win odds, generally a fourth or a fifth, discussed more in the next section. The win odds will remain the same.
Depending on what sport you are punting on the place terms can vary (the win bet will always stay the same as it would for a single outright winner bet), for example in football cup competitions you are normally paid for two places at half the odds and in golf you can be paid a fourth of the odds up to eight places.
But with horse racing being the realm of the each way punter, terms have been fixed by all the mainstream bookmakers. These each way terms have been broken down into two main sections – how many runners and is the race a handicap or not.
Each way bet terms for Non-Handicap Races
Each way bet terms for Handicap Races
For bigger races certain bookmakers will offer a promotion and pay-out on more places than the normal amount stated in their terms, the Grand National being an obvious choice. This should always be looked out for as it would be an extra blow if you and your mate had the same bet and he won money but you lost because you picked the wrong bookie.
Another great favourite of the punting public, to perm each way bets into accumulators, the reason being it now becomes more attractive to bet shorter priced horses. As I’ve said in a few other articles, I’m not against the idea of putting bets into multiples as long as each selection offers value, so each way bets are no different.
How each way betting works in accumulators or any other type of multiple bet is the same as for singles. You have two separate bets, one accumulator for winners and one for place bets.
Ok, a quick example so that everyone is up to speed and then we’ll look at the more interesting aspects of the each way bet. You’ve placed a £50 each way bet on an 8 runner handicap race, you odds were 7.5 (13/2 fractional odds). As you can see from the bullet points above this pays for three places at a fifth of the odds. Now let’s work out the potential profit
Win part of the bet = 7.5 x 50 = £375
For the place part of the bet first work out the odds, remember with decimal odds a unit stake is included in the shown odds, so this must first be subtracted and then added back after dividing by the place terms.
((odds – unit stake)/place terms) + unit stake
((7.5 – 1)/5) + 1 = 2.3
Now multiple this by the stake and you get 2.3 x 50 = £115
Meaning if the horse was to win you’d get £375 + £115 = £490. If it just placed you’d get £115 and if it didn’t place you’d lose £100. These win about contain the original stake, that’s not all profit, it the horse just placing example you’d only have £15 profit.
If you’re more comfortable using fractional odds an easy method of calculating the place odds would be to multiple the denominator by the place terms. So for the example above, 13/2 would be 13/10 (multiplying 2, the denominator, by 5, the place terms)
If you plan to use each way betting a lot then I’m sure the maths will become second nature to you, but I’d say it’s always a bonus if you have a good each way calculator you can use. Below our calculator has all the major bet types you can bet, simply select the each way option and enter the place terms.
Right; now we have got all the basic stuff out the way, let’s cut right to the chase, as I know where this article is heading.
An each way bet is nearly always a mug bet!
There, I’ve said it, loud and clear. But let’s not just take my word for it, let’s look at why and then move on to when it is beneficial to place an each way bet.
To understand the reasoning of why is it generally a bad idea to place an each way bet you must first understand a bit of the maths behind how bookies price up a race. I’m not talking about compiling the horses odds yourself I just mean how their book prices work.
What you need to know for the scope of this article is the bookies hold amount, or book percentage as it now commonly known. For the win portion of an each way bet the bookie needs his hold amount to be greater than a hundred. For example, if it’s 110 then for every £110 bet, the bookie would pay out £100 in winnings, giving them £10 profit. Obviously this will only happen if each selection is bet with the correct amount. But theoretically the bookie in this example should make ten pounds for every hundred and ten taken in bets.
For the place portion of bets the hold value has to be greater than a hundred multiplied by the number of places. So for two place’s its 200, for three place’s 300, etc.
How this hold amount is calculated is by simple adding together the implied probability percentage of each selection together. If a horses odds are 4.0 then its percentage chance of winning is simply 100/4 so a 25% chance of winning.
If you haven’t fully understood that, please read it again, as it is fundamental to understanding when an each way bet is massively against you or it is in your favour.
Firstly let’s look at a hypothetical and completely unrealistic race in order to demonstrate the value lost to the average punter blindly placing an each way bet. The race will be a 5 horse handicap, where each horse has been expertly weighted by the handicapper as to have exactly the same chances of winning the race. Now a very generous bookmaker has decided to have a 100% book on the win market, meaning that he should make no profit from straight win bets. As each horse has the same chances of winning he opens the race with each horse having odds of 5.0 (4/1).
In this example anyone betting for a horse to win is getting fair odds, but what about the mug punter that places an each way bet thinking he is taking less risk. Let’s use the maths we just learnt to form a table of the percentages each horse has to win or place and have a look at the bookies hold amounts.
As you can, if all horse are of equal strength and a bookie offered completely fair prices in a race as small as five runners, that bookie would still be able to pay his bills if taking each way bets. Making a £50 profit for every £200 he pays out, a margin of 20% profit. And this is a paten seen all the way up to the bigger and non-handicap races.
As this demonstrates, generally it would be best to just double your win stake than add an extra place bet to your betting slip. And although this is all hypothetical there are some obvious observations to take from this. Firstly the stand out margin price, that of the 16 runner handicap paying for 4 places. Secondly, that each group has its lowest margin of error for the bookies with the smallest number of runners. And thirdly, big non-handicaps and races with less than 8 runners offer by far the worst value.
This looks all doom and gloom, from these figures it looks as though only 16+ runner handicaps will offer any real value. Well that is a big positive and not to be sniffed at, it’s rare for bookies to ever offer value to punters. And yes, in most other circumstances an each way bet will be against you. But there is more light in this dark tunnel, as you know horse racing is never that well handicapped or have equally fast runners, so odds vary massively.
How this helps punters is not obvious at first, so an example is in order. This time let’s step away from the theoretical and use a real life example. The good news I already know what to look out for, we have already seen that 8 runner races and 12-15 runner handicaps is where the bookies are making their smallest each way margins. Throw this in with a little shrewd punter knowledge it is very quick to look at a race card and see if a race has potential.
Spill the beans already I hear you screaming. Well the thing to look out for is short priced favs, depending on how many runners there are and what the bookmakers win margin is, this will change. But in general you are looking for odds on favs. When this happens the place prices go crazy and become near on impossible for bookies to have a book in their favour.
Thankfully while writing this article today there is a perfect example of this – the 16:35 at Chepstow. Here we have all the ingredients of a profitable each way bet, 8 runners and an odds on fav. I have taken a screen shot of all the odds early in the afternoon, these odds are likely to get more competitive in the run up to the race but already it will do nicely to demonstrate the point.
So now let’s look at the current win and place book one of the bookies is running at; we will look at Bet Victor odds. As you can see even with a mammoth 116% win book they still struggle to get anywhere near a good book for the price portion of the book (needing 300% for a break even book)
Here you will not be able to bet every horse and have the winnings from the place portions pay for the losses in the win section (this example would give minus £27.05 in the win market compared to plus £24.03 for the place if you dutch the fav to a hundred pounds). But if the bookie offered a slightly more competitive book this can happen, and you will see it when the fav gets really short. Although we’d never recommend greening out with the same bookie as you’ll be shut down within a couple of bets. This is just to show you the dangers bookmakers run with the current each way system and how you can look to exploit it.
Before deciding to place an each way bet you must first deem both parts to be good value. Often punters will either make an each way bet thinking its win odds aren’t value but it has a great chance of placing, or secondly just for a safety net, in case their horse gets piped at the post.
If you aren’t happy with the win price then don’t do an each way bet, go over to the exchanges and bet in the place market. And same for the safety net bet, don’t do it. Always take into consideration the price you’re getting on the place bet, and ask yourself if you were only making a place bet would you be happy to make it at them odds.
Big margins and only two paid places means a big advantage in the bookies favour. With only a maximum of only six other horses to beat, it would be much better to just go straight for the win bet.
For the same reason as the smaller fields, large non-handicapped races are far to weighted in the bookmakers favour. In fact other than eight and nine runner non-handicaps you’ll unlikely find any value in these types of races. From eight runners onwards the general bookmaker hold just gets larger and larger.
Once a handicap race hits 16 runners the bookies start paying out on four places. This makes it extremely difficult for bookies to offer competitive win odds without having an over broke book for places.
Bookmakers are well aware their each way terms are out dated, the betting exchanges place market made them well aware of this. There were discussions to change this at various points over the years, but with punter outrage and the majority of each way bets being mug bets, bookies have so far decided to the hits on the chin. How long this will last is anyone’s guess.
But on course bookies haven’t been as forgiving. A couple years ago the Jockey Club, the UK’s biggest racecourse group and owning many racecourses, standardised their each way terms and made 16-21 runner handicaps pay a fifth of the odds instead of a forth.
As demonstrated earlier in the article, this is fundamental to finding value in each way betting for any race that isn’t a large handicap race. The maths does get a little tricky, but if you want to beat the bookies you’re an idiot if you think it is going to be easy. Set up an excel spread sheet (I’ve done it and it’s easy) so you can simple add all the win odds and have excel do the maths for giving you the place book, and say if the each way profit will compensate for any win market loss.
For every different each way pay-out category the few number of runners the better, therefore you will find the most value in races 5,8,12 and 16 runners for them categories. But as we have also demonstrated with our bookie margin table, there are other races that shouldn’t be ignored – all handicap races from 12 upwards.
Be aware that horses can pull out of a race at any time, meaning that when you placed your bet on an excellently valued eight runner race it can fast become a nightmare, spilling you into the higher range of the next category if a single horse pulls out. So when possible always place your bets just before the off.
Enhanced place terms, something that happens in the big race meetings. To be honest, it doesn’t happen that often and is much more likely to be seen in other sports such as golf, football and tennis. But if you see it, you must consider taking advantage of it, a fourth of the odds instead of a fifth surly adds up over a series of bets.
Enhanced number of places, this is slightly more popular than enhancing the terms as it’s much easier to advertise, but again you’re more likely to see it for other sports. The Grand National is probably the most famous race you’ll see this offer, where you can get paid for fifth and sixth place.
Obviously a free bets it the best you can get; unless you’re a big time loser you’d normally only get this as a sign-up bonus. Of course you can use this for a risk free each way bet, but you can use this for any type of bet and get value. You might find the section on free bets in our arbitrage betting article a good read before using it for each way bets.
Best odds guaranteed. From memory Bet365 were the first to offer this on all races, and as with every massively successful promotion, if other bookies want to stay in the game they have to keep up with all the latest innovations. This promotion is now widely offered by a host of the big online bookmakers, so make yourself aware of who offers it as it would be silly to leave money on the table of your horses odds drift.
Other specials to look out for that all add unseen value to your bet – bet365’s offer of a free bet on the next race if you have a 4/1 winner. Several companies do money back if your horse finishes second. Price boosts and happy hour promotions, all these are generally on selected races only, but do look out for them as these should decide who you place your bet with.
A tip I wasn’t overly sure about adding; this is due to added risk of getting you account marked up by a bookie and having either your account closed or stakes limited. But it is defiantly something to look for; if not out of line prices you should at least be looking to get the general top odds. Meaning accounts with many bookies and using odds comparison sites – a good thing for long term profit that everyone should do as standard.
Ok, i don’t actually have 10 tips, so never start a top 10 list unless you know you have at least ten things to say. No, scrap that. How about re-read the list and make sure everything has sunk in. Yeah that’s better.
But remember, even with this maths knowledge and the top 10 list of thing to look out for, bookies aren’t stupid. They will be looking out for punters that are making solely these moves, you will have to mix up your game, use each way bets as one of the tools in your armoury, do each way accumulator bets or other multiples to try and hide it. Have other value bets you throw in the along with it, or maybe try place these bets in your local bookie.
Back in the day bookies priced up races solely on the win market, but the better trading rooms will now have the tools to see place liability’s as well, and will do all they can to minimise this loses, so don’t be under the opinion this is a fool proof method and you can had you notice in tomorrow. To profit you will need to stay under the radar, and know the bookies will be looking for you and once found you will be limited or banned from betting. So happy punting!