When it comes to betting on horses there are a wide variety of bets available to suit every taste.
The first thing to understand is that there are two major groups of betting providers-The tote and the bookmakers.
The tote is a betting system run by the authorities where all bets placed are “banked” in a pool for that bet. For example every bet taken on the “Win” bet for a particular race will accumulate to the win pool. If the bets cost £1 each, and 10,000 bets are laid the pool has £10,000 in its account. From this figure an amount is charged to cover the administration fees of running the tote and any betting tax if applicable, depending where in the world the tote is placed. The net amount then represents the win pool. Let’s assume administration fees and betting tax are 20%, £2,000 of the pool goes to paying expenses leaving £8,000 to be distributed equally amongst the number of winning tickets.
With the tote you don’t know what the odds are. You don’t know with any degree of certainty what you will receive if you win. Most race courses have boards displaying the approximate odds at the time, but if a lot of bets are placed on a particular horse just before the off, the odds can change significantly.
The tote can never lose. It’s not in the business of gambling. It takes a fixed % of every bet laid. There will be a separate pool for each type of bet on each race. If there are no winners the terms and conditions of the tote apply, but the amount will usually be carried forward to the same bet type on the next race, or to the same bet type on a specified race at the next meeting (where for example the carry over relates to the last race of the day).
The bookmakers are a very different kettle of fish. Here you are betting directly against the bookie. You place your bet at the odds offered by the bookie at the time the bet is placed. It does not matter what happens in the betting market thereafter as you have fixed your odds. The bookie tries to balance his books, hedging his bets with other bookies where possible. However he is exposed and if he has a high number of bets laid on the winning horse can find himself incurring a substantial loss.
There are a few more rules you need to be acquainted with.
Very often there may be more than one horse in a particular race from the same trainer. Where this happens very often the “horses are coupled on the tote”. What this means simplistically is that if you bet one horse to win, you get the other one for free. If the horse you bet does not win but his stable companion does your bet still wins.
You should check your race card carefully to determine if horse couplings apply or not. Couplings don’t only apply to wins. Often they will apply to the “exotic” bets, like the jackpot, pick six, scoop six, place accumulator etc.
Couplings generally do not apply to bets laid with bookies.
Scratched horses are a common occurrence. A “scratched” horse does not mean it has run through the brambles but that it will no longer participate in the race. There are many reasons for this. Horses are nominated for specific races a few weeks in advance of the race taking place. Once the nominations have closed the race cards can be printed. However, much can happen between a horse being accepted for a race and the off of the race on race day. The horse can injure itself become ill, be disqualified from racing for some reason etc. When scratched once again the rules of the tote apply.
Where the horse has a stable companion running in the race you may only get the stable companion-a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. Where there is no stable companion you will normally get the tote favourite. Please note that the tote favourite and the bookies favourite can be different horses.
In the exotic bets often other rules apply. The Pick 6 in South Africa for example gives you the stable companion and the tote favourite. Astute punters often bet the scratched horse (even knowing that the horse is scratched) to get this combination cheap.
With the bookies rules are different. Generally you will get your bet refunded.