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The odds-on any bet are offered by the bookmaker as an expression of how likely they think a particular result is to occur, and how much the bet will pay out if it is successful. Although decimal odds and American odds are popular in some parts of the world, the UK, and in particular UK horse racing, tends to favour fractional odds. These take the following form: 4/1, in which the right hand number represents the stake being bet, and the left hand number the number of times it will be multiplied if the bet is successful. An odds- on bet is one in which the bookmaker thinks a result is so likely that they protect themselves from big losses by making the right hand number bigger than the left.
In horse racing, an odds-on bet is one which is placed on a horse which is an extremely strong favourite to win the race. The appeal of such a bet is that it is usually fairly safe, since strong favourites tend to emerge for very good reasons, while the downside is that, even if it is successful, an odds-on bet will produce relatively small winnings in relation to the money wagered. The antidote to this is to place a bigger bet, but that of course increases the amount of money which will be lost if this race is one of those occasions when the favourite comes up short. The clever bettor will find a way of balancing risk against reward, and betting an amount which they could afford to lose, but which is still large enough to generate an appealing profit.
An example of an odds-on bet:
Lucky Lad is running in the 3.15 at Chepstow, and is the favourite with odds of 1/5. A successful bet of £100 would generate a pay-out of £120 and a profit of £20.
Bettors have to choose whether they want the strong likelihood of a smaller pay out, or the slimmer chance of winning more money. As with all sports betting, the key to success lies in trying to figure out if you’ve spotted something – in the horses, the conditions or the jockey – which the bookmaker might have missed.