Why You Should Never Back Odds-On

Posted November 19, 2015

By David @ Betting Gods

An Odds-On win bet means that if it triumphs then the amount you win is less than your original stake. In SP terms this is a price of 20/21 or less, and in decimal terms a price of less than 2.00.


There are a number of reasons why you should never bet at an odds-on price, or at least never bet at an odds-on price in certain circumstances:

  1. Being odds-on at first glance suggests that on paper the horse has a greater than 50% chance of winning. In fact, because of the bookmaker has a price “over-round” to cover his profits; operating costs; taxes and levies, prices overstate the horses chances of winning. Thus a horse priced at 4/5, on paper only has a 50% chance of winning.
  2. Jump horses fall; get brought down; unseat their riders; and even flat horses can slip. Horses have a 1 in 250 chance of falling per jump. There is nothing in the stats to suggest that odds-on priced horses are less likely to fall than any other priced horse. If you bet odds-on then you have to deal in larger stakes to win a fixed amount. Therefore the odds-on punter will lose disproportionately more money to “racing accidents” than his fellow punters.
  3. Racing scandals have happened. Horses have been pulled up; jockeys have jumped off them; and “ringers” have been substituted. To make any financial sense usually these scams have to involve an odds-on horse not winning.
  4. False markets can be created. The odds-on pricing of a horse can be affected by the betting market which prices it up. Beware of: (other than Group) Irish racing; minor midweek fixtures; peripheral races on the card; and horses made odds-on by the withdrawal of likely favourites.
  5. nAch. Psychologists identify nAch (achievement need) as a major motivation in gambling. Backing odds-on winners generates less nAch than picking those at decent prices. In a nutshell winning less than your stake money back doesn’t generate much of a buzz.
  6. Many successful bettors employ “systems” to guide their betting. Perhaps the best known gambling system is “doubling-up” where you set out to win say £10. If the first horse loses you stake the next one to cover your first losses plus the £10 target, and so on until you eventually win. If you start trying this system with odds-on horses you very quickly run out of money with a bad run of results.
  7. Betting odds-on in large fields is notoriously dangerous. The horse may be miles ahead of the other runners on form, but the dangers of an “unexposed” type being in the field; false paces being set by inexperienced horses; and  the chances of being “blocked in” or being denied a clear run increase disproportionately.
  8. There is strong pressure on a trainer not to withdraw an odds-on horse near the start of a race, because it can “destroy” the book with large Rule 4 deductions. Therefore he might decide to run it on this occasion where otherwise he might decide not to. Watch how much attention stalls handlers give to an odds-on horse playing up as it goes into the stalls.
  9. Weather and ground conditions are a great leveller. Odds-on horses with superb form may not be suited to carry top weight through the mud.
  10. Very few horses achieve 100% wins. A class horse will be aimed at class races but has a training programme that will involve it running in “lesser” races. It may well be odds-on in these lesser races because of its breeding and past form, but winning these races won’t affect it stud value, and it is unlikely to be overextended in them if this might affect its future performance in the target race.

So if you are certain that an odds-on horse will win, lump on. Betting office floors, however, are littered with the screwed-up slips of odds-on failures. If you do fall into the trap of betting odds-on, at least have the discipline not to increase your normal stake because it is odds-on, that could be a double whammy.

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