# How Do Odds and Betting Work in Horse Racing and Beyond?

Many people love horse racing just for the fun of the sport. The thunder of hooves as they fly past the finish line is the sort of sound that hits you in the heart and captivates you instantly. Whilst just watching such powerful creatures is more than enough for some fans, others like to have a bet too. Pouring over the form and figuring out a winner can be a hugely rewarding puzzle, but understanding odds is an important part of it. If you think you have what it takes to pick a winner but are a little confused when it comes to understanding how betting works, then you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to demystify the world of betting so that you can place your bets in confidence.

**How to Calculate Odds and Payouts**

Odds are useful in all kinds of situations, not just horse racing. Whether you want to play various casino games, create a watertight risk assessment, or bet on any sport at all, knowing about odds is going to be crucial to your success. Whilst horse racing odds are the bookmaker’s estimate of what will happen in a race, casino odds are based entirely on mathematics.

For example, in American roulette, the odds of landing on black are 47.37%. This is because there are 38 spaces on the roulette wheel, two of them are zeros, which don’t pay out, and half of the remainder (18 squares) are black. If you divide those 18 black squares, by the total number of squares, 38, then you’re left with 0.4737, or 47.37%.

In games where the probability doesn’t change, such as roulette, it’s easy to calculate odds and work out if the payout seems fair or not. In the case of the blacks only bet, you’re paid out at 1:1, meaning that if you put $10 on, you’ll receive $10 plus your initial stake. For it to be totally fair, you’d expect a 50% chance of landing on black, which would be as simple as removing those two green pockets. However, in order for casinos to make any money they need to have what is known as a house edge, or in the case of horse racing betting, overround. Those green pockets give the casino a house edge of 5.26%, enough for the casino to make some money and remain open!

**Extending This Knowledge to Horse Racing**

When it comes to horse racing, bookmakers will try to give themselves a ‘house edge’ by having the horse that they think is the most likely to win at a very short price. They might make up for this by giving those horses with only an exceedingly small chance very large odds. In many races, you might have a horse priced at 2/1. In terms of roulette, this would be like placing a bet on black, on a board without zeros; the horse has a 50% chance of winning. For a horse to be this short priced in a field of ten others, it would have to have impressive form.

Conversely, you’ll sometimes spot a horse priced at 50/1, that would be like placing a bet on a single number, on a roulette board with 50 squares. For a horse to have such an outside chance in a field of ten others, it would have to only have three legs. However, these are both odds that come up often in horse races, so understanding the fairness of the payout and the presentation of odds is the next thing we need to look at.

**Different Presentations of Odds**

There are three main ways that you’ll see odds written down. Fractional odds are the ones we’ve briefly discussed above, like 2/1 and 50/1. This is commonly seen in Britain, and they are the amount of profit (first) to the first stake (second). In Europe, decimal odds are used, as well as fractional odds. In decimal odds, 2/1 is expressed simply as 3. To get from fractional odds to decimal odds, you divide the numerator by the denominator and add 1. So, in this case, it would be (2/1) +1=3

The final presentation of odds is money line odds, which are most used in America. In the case of 2/1, or 3, in moneyline odds, this would be expressed as +200. You can convert fractional odds to moneyline odds by dividing the numerator by the denominator and multiplying by 100. In moneyline odds, you always have a plus or minus in front of the sum. If there’s a plus in front of the sum then you will receive more back than your stake, if there’s a minus then you’re placing what is known as an odds-on bet. For example, in fractional odds a 4/6 bet would mean you needed to put $6 on, to win $4 back (plus your original stake). In moneyline odds this would be expressed as -166.7, meaning you would need to wager $166.7 to win $100.