How to improve your betting and a guide to the bets available with the Tote
Horse racing and betting have been intrinsically linked for centuries, with the origin of the word 'steeplechase' tracing back as far as 1752, when two Irish horsemen had a wager that their horse would defeat the other in a race between two local church steeples.
Fast forward nearly 200 years and gambling and racing forged another strong partnership when Winston Churchill created the Tote. This formed the start of one of the most longstanding institutions, combining the racing world with betting in a way that was fair to all. Now, in 2020, the Tote has been reinvigorated to bring even more opportunities to racing fans and betting aficionados.
Before anyone starts betting on horseracing, it is vital to have an understanding of the types of bets available, which horses are worth betting on, and how to manage your stakes and betting banks.
When you've developed an understanding of betting and how you can form your own opinions, you’re ready to take your first steps into betting with the Tote.
Types of bets
The most simple and widely used bet type is the Win bet. Simply, select the horse you think will win the race (or is best value - more on that later), and if it comes home first, your bet is a winner.
Place bets allow for some margin of error. Your selected horse doesn't need to win, it simply needs to place in the particular race. Depending on the number of runners, the position it needs to fill changes:
Four or fewer runners: No place betting
Between five and eight runners: The first two
More than eight runners: The first three
Handicaps with 16 or more runners: The first four
When betting with the Tote you also have other types of exotic bets which can yield big returns for a small outlay.
The Tote Exacta and Tote Trifecta require bettors to select the horses that will come first and second in the case of the Exacta, and first, second and third (in that order), for the Trifecta. With a large range of combinations, the odds and subsequent rewards can be substantial.
Single bets, i.e. betting on one horse in a particular race, is the most common type of bet, but there are occasions where your stake will be carried over multiple races, or legs.
The Tote Placepot and Quadpot are such examples. The task for anyone tackling either of these bets is to find a horse to place in the first six races (or races two-six in the case of the Quadpot) on a given card. Successfully negotiate your way through all legs and bettors win a share of the pool, depending on their initial stake.
The betting basics
When betting with the Tote you are betting into a pool. That means all the money staked on each horse in the race is pooled together. After the race, everyone who has backed the winner will receive a share of that pool money, depending on the size of their original stake.
This way of betting is very different to betting with a traditional bookmaker. With the Tote you are betting against other racing fans and bettors, rather than taking on the bookie.
Secondly, as a business, the Tote do not set the odds you’ll get when backing a horse as a traditional bookmaker would. The return on any winning bet is determined by the number of people who have backed that horse. Therefore, betting on a horse that is less popular means a bigger winning dividend if it triumphs.
As the dividend isn't known until after the race it is impossible to know what you will receive for a winning bet before the event. However, you will always see an estimation of the dividend based on the money in the pool.
One of the major plus-points to betting with the Tote, especially when you fancy an outsider, is you will often receive a bigger payout.
The Tote Guarantee means that even when the bookmakers SP is larger than the Tote dividend, the Tote will top up bet returns so you are never worse off.
Some of the time, the Tote Guarantee isn’t needed as you’ll simply be paid more than at SP for a winning bet. This is particularly the case when it comes to outsiders in the field.
In 2019 60 per cent of winners that paid 10-1 or bigger with fixed-priced bookmakers returned a bigger payout on the Tote. The reason for this is simple. Because fewer people are likely to have backed an outsider it means there are fewer people to share the pool with.
Utilising your opinions on horseracing
Many horseracing bettors will start their study of a race by looking at the likely favourite. Although you can’t see the exact price a horse will be prior to a race, you'll be able to get a good idea through the projected dividends.
By judging whether you feel that horse has as good a chance as the market suggests allows you to make a decision about whether to support the favourite, or look for something else in the race with which to oppose it.
Form study is a cavernous area, with bettors favouring different methods to dissect a race. Whether it is looking at trainer form, recent performances, a horse's pedigree, race times, or more advanced strategies such as sectional times and stride-lengths, bettors can find an edge in a race.
Sometimes you can utilise your opinions to good effect by betting with the Tote.
For example, if you feel the favourite is solid at the top of the market but could be vulnerable to one of the next in the betting, a Combination Exacta could be the way to go. That way, you are protected if the favourite wins, with your second choice filling the runner-up spot. However, an Exacta which sees an outsider defeat the favourite can often pay a healthy dividend.
For example, the final race of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival saw Early Doors defeat Dallas Des Pictons in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle. The straight forecast with the fixed-priced bookmakers paid £20.98 to a £1 stake, whereas the same selections in a Tote Exacta returned a dividend of £25.30.
Betting small to win big with the Tote
Of course, when placing any bet the opportunity to win a larger amount of money is always an attractive one. When betting with the Tote there are certain types of bets that can return a big payout for a small outlay.
The best examples are the Tote Scoop6 and Tote Jackpot. While the latter is available at one course each day, the Scoop6 is a Friday and Saturday exclusive.
Winning either of these bets is straightforward, but not easy. Select the winners of six specified races and you will share the winning pool. For the Scoop6, that prize is often sizeable. The record for an individual winner was £1.3 million, paid out to a number of shop bettors who successfully picked the winner in each Scoop6 race in 2014. Two of those had staked the minimum £2 to take part in the bet, turning that small outlay into a monumental windfall.
Sometimes it's not even necessary to pick winners to turn small stakes into a huge payout. Particularly during the major racing festivals, the Tote Placepot pool will swell to a notable size. And if you are one of the bettors who can negotiate the six races a big dividend can ensue. One betting shop customer staked just a single £2 Placepot line on the first day of the 2019 festival. Six races later, that racing fan collected a whopping £182,566.20 – as one of just 56 winning units that day.
Investigating these exotic pools and bet types might not come off regularly but, when they do, it could mean a bumper payout from a small initial outlay.
Of course, when taking part in any form of gambling, it is important to show control and set yourself sensible limits.
One way of maintaining discipline when it comes to placing racing bets is to create a staking plan. Having a separate ‘bank’ of money used for your bets can be useful in order to keep your betting separate from your everyday spending.
With a bank established, working out a staking plan can be a good way to ensure you are staking sensible amounts on each horse. A staking plan can work on a points-based system, with 1 point representing a specific amount. You would then tailor each bet to stake 0.5 points, 1 point, 5 points etc. depending on how confident in your selection you are.
It goes without saying, but if you feel you are running into trouble with your betting, speaking out is vital. The Tote Customer Service Team will be able to help utilise our control tools or close your account should you wish to stop betting.
Betting on racing should be fun and never have an effect on your day-to-day finances or social life. If you think you’re at risk of this happening, speaking to organisations such as Gamcare can help.
It may not become this serious, but by ensuring you are betting responsibly you can keep gambling fun.
What about horseracing tips?
Finding and following profitable racing tips may seem like the default action when you start betting.
There are, of course, a number of dedicated tipsters who share their expertise when it comes to analysing a race or a horse in particular, who are worth following.
However, simply backing a tipster's selections blind is not advised. Using information provided by others, such as tips in the Tote Blog, alongside learnings you have established yourself, can be a healthier balance. By utilising as many opinions as you can you can be more assured in your betting decisions.
There are different approaches to consider when you start betting. Will you focus on handicaps on the Flat? Do you find analysing the form of seasoned chasers easier to pull apart? Or maybe you have a handle on the breeding aspect for maiden and juvenile races?
Watch as much racing as you can, develop your own approach to analysing a race and ensure you bet responsibly to make betting on a day's racing exciting as well as potentially profitable.
*This article was originally posted on tote.co.uk