Going to a racecourse is great fun, and being there offers exciting betting options.
All racecourses run a tote. Tote booths will be placed strategically around the racecourse. A large real-time board will display tote prices on each runner. The tote operates similarly to a lottery. All the bets are “pooled” the tote organisers take a cut of the pool to cover their costs, and the rest is paid out to the winners. The fewer winning tickets that there are in the pool, the greater the amount won by each winning ticket. The tote offers “win” “place” and “forecast” bets on all races. They also offer speciality tote bets “placepot” “quadpot” and “jackpot” bets that can offer from decent to enormous profits for a modest outlay. Generally tote returns are higher on outsiders and lower on favourites than Starting Price (SP.) It is not possible to “take a price” on a tote bet.
A colourful element to any racecourse is the line of “on-course” bookmakers. These are individuals or regional businesses who hold bookmakers’ permits and buy licences from the course for pitches at the meeting. Typically they have a board to mark their prices on, and a tick-tack man who can see all other bookmakers’ prices and signal prices changes. How accessible they are usually indicates how much they have paid for their licence, and peripheral ones are likely to have lower payout limits than the prime sites. Any payout limits are clearly displayed. Many peripheral bookmakers will also offer books “without the favourite.”
The on-course bookmakers do not usually “chalk up” their prices long before the off, which is a great opportunity to study the horses in the paddock. Board prices change quickly, but do vary from bookmaker to bookmaker. As soon as you have determined your bet and the best price available walk up and strike it. You will receive the board price then shown unless you ask for SP. Speak clearly as your bet strike is audio-recorded, and you will be given a ticket. The ticket will just have a bet number on it, and you need to remember what your bet was.
It is important to realise that the on-course bookmaker is a business person. He has every right to refuse your bet if it doesn’t fit in with his risk portfolio. Particularly he may refuse a large win bet if you cleaned him out the week before or if he already has a lot of money riding on the horse. Don’t be perturbed try another. Also with a largish bet it is always worth asking for better odds, “will you take a hundred at evens on the favourite” when he has it priced up at 4/5. There is no point in asking silly things, but if he hasn’t taken much money on the favourite he may oblige to balance his books.
Larger bookmaking companies will “be associated” with certain on-course bookmakers, which enables them to change the prices if they have a lot of off-course money. This may be used to shorten the odds on a particular horse, so don’t assume that all price movements are being determined by “in the know” course money.
Leaving the on-course bookmakers take the opportunity to look up at the mirrored-glass rooms at the top of the stands. These house the “betting exchange” crowd, who pay vast sums of money to leverage gain by seeing things in real-time. This is not a world that you can enter.
Retiring to the bar you will probably find a strategically placed branch of one of the high street bookmakers. If this suits you better than the tote or on-course bookmakers, there are certain advantages to be had over your local betting office. They are likely to take large bets without the need to ring up for “authorisation;” and pay you out large amounts of cash without looking at you as if you have just cost them their job.