Articles Each-Way Betting

Published on November 28th, 2012 | by Atholl Blair


How To Profit From Each-Way Betting In Handicaps

One of the most common mistakes I see people make – and this includes friends, family and even acquaintances I’ve met online who write for other horse racing blogs, produce their own horse racing systems to sell and some of whom even claim publicly to be professional punters (people who really should know better in that case!) – is the haphazard approach they apply to each-way betting.

For those of you who are new to the game… each-way betting is when you place a single bet with a bookmaker for a horse to either win or place. I say “a single bet”, but it’s effectively two bets – one for the horse to win and another for it to place. It is “conveniently” tied up into a single bet though as you only have to request one bet and that’s it on. But what it does is double your stake – asking for, say, £100 each-way means a £200 bet. £100 on the horse to win and the other £100 on for it to place. The odds on the win part of the bet remain the same as when you’re backing outright, but on the place side of the bet you can generally expect to receive 1/4 or 1/5 of the odds it’s trading at to win.

So if you back an 8/1 chance in a 14 runner handicap you’ll get paid at 2/1 for the place.

Each-Way Betting Terms

Here are the general terms you can expect to receive when placing an each-way bet:

Non-Handicap Races

2-4 Runners – Win Only
5-7 Runners – 1/4 the odds 1, 2
8 or more Runners – 1/5 the odds 1, 2, 3

Handicap Races

2-4 Runners – Win Only
5-7 Runners – 1/4 the odds 1, 2
8-11 Runners – 1/5 the odds 1, 2, 3
12-15 Runners – 1/4 the odds 1, 2, 3
16 or more Runners – 1/4 the odds 1, 2, 3, 4

The only exceptions to these rules are usually when the Cheltenham Festival is on and some of the bookmakers pay 1/4 the odds on all races, when there’s a big Saturday handicap on and the bookies pay 1/4 the odds on the first 5 places, and in the Grand National when a couple of the bookies usually offer 1/4 the odds on the first 6 places home. Apart from that these rules are generally set in stone.

Why Each-Way Betting (Usually) Doesn’t Pay

It’s one of the most common mistakes in betting to compromise your position with an each-way bet, because in the majority of cases the logic behind placing a bet each-way is simply that it’s “an each-way price”… with no consideration for the numbers of runners or the conditions of the race.

I hear it all the time…

— “We’ll be good for a place!”
— “A longshot – hope you’ve done it each-way?”
— “I don’t fancy it to win, so I’ve just done it each-way!”

Nevermind banter in the bookie shop, these are all comments I pulled up in two minutes from a well-known horse racing forum and most of the comments above were made by one of their chief moderators. A guy with over 4,000 posts to his name – and who others look up to for advice!

The expression “the blind leading the blind” springs to mind here!

We punters like to entertain ourselves with a particular way in logic when betting – I’m guilty of it myself at times – but the comments above really do take the biscuit. “I don’t fancy it to win, so instead of one bet, I’ll place TWO instead!”. That’s the way most people think when it comes to each-way betting.

Think about that for a minute. It’s totally illogical, isn’t it?

You shouldn’t ever think that the likelihood of a horse being placed can compensate for the lack of value on the win part of a bet. If a horse isn’t value on the win part of the bet, with a strong chance of winning the race it’s contesting, then you shouldn’t be backing it in the first place. And that’s the end of the matter. Randomly doubling your stake in the hope of “getting a place” isn’t very sensible at all.

When Each-Way Betting Does Pay

I would always suggest that you use each-way bets sparingly. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that if you were simply to double your stake on the win part of the bet you would probably be better off in the long-term, but there are exceptions to the rule as you can see from the table below…

Each-Way Betting In Handicaps

This table shows the true mathematical odds for each-way bets in handicap races. I’ve included the number of runners, the place terms that are on offer, the number of places, the true odds, bookmaker odds and the advantage the bookmaker has in each category. The theoretical assumption behind the calculations is that every horse has a mathematically equal chance and the minimum allowable number of runners is taken, because here the backer has the best theoretical chance.

As you’ll see, it’s only when we reach the 16 runner handicaps, where the bookies pay out on four places at 1/4 the odds, that the odds swing in favour of the backer. Even this is theoretical however, because these numbers are assuming a straight 100% book and in a 16 runner handicap I think the best you’ll probably do (by hunting around for the best prices) is 106% or so, but all the same I think it’s a useful insight into when, and when not, to back each-way in handicap races.

When your bookmaker offers you extra places on your bet – like when they offer you five places in general handicaps and six places in the Grand National – that’s when you should definitely consider an each-way bet, but do keep in mind that you should only ever back each-way when you feel that you’re getting value on both the win and place part of the bet. To take the point a step further, I believe you should only back each-way when you cannot see the horse in question finishing out of the frame.

10 Tips For Profitable Each-Way Betting

Okay, so I’ve told you why the logic behind most each-way bets is wrong and I’ve explained why and how you should only bet each-way when you’ve got the best mathematical chance of success. Now I’m going to move things up a notch and show you how to dramatically turn the odds in your favour…

1 – Avoid Small Fields

You should never consider placing an each-way bet in a race with only 5-7 runners. You might be getting 1/4 the odds in these races, but you’re fighting over just two places and it’s in this category that the bookmaker has the biggest theoretical advantage at the odds. I would strongly suggest sticking to win bets only in races with 5-7 runners. After all, you only have 4-6 runners to beat, you know?

2 – Minimum Allowable Runners

When considering an each-way bet you should always aim to back when the minimum allowable number of runners in each category are contesting the race. So in 8 runner races ideally you want there to be 8 runners and no more than that. In the next category – when there are 12 runners in handicaps only – the terms change to 1/4 the odds for the first three home, but you should restrict your each-way bets to races that have exactly 12 runners and no more. And in 16 runner handicaps you’ll be paid on the first four home at 1/4 odds, but your margin is diminished as the field size increases, so try to concentrate on races with close to, or exactly, 16 runners.

3 – Enhanced Place Terms

Prior to placing an each-way bet you should check that your bookmaker is offering the best each-way terms in order to maximise your winnings. For example, some bookmakers will offer enhanced place terms where they pay 1/4 the odds instead of 1/5th on some races. And this isn’t just on big Saturday handicaps either – they do it midweek from time to time too. If you visit and browse to the horse racing cards you’ll see that the place terms on offer with each bookmaker are displayed at the bottom of each column, so it’s worthwhile checking this out before you place your bet.

4 – Best Odds Guaranteed

Over the last few months a flurry of bookmakers have jumped onboard the “Best Odds Guaranteed” bandwagon where if you take an early price and the Starting Price of the horse is bigger, they’ll pay you out at the higher odds. The majority of bookmakers are offering this deal now and it’s a fantastic incentive that you should take advantage of every time you place a bet. Some of the best bookmakers who offer this are Bet365, Betfred, Bet Victor, Paddy Power, Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill. And if your bookmaker doesn’t do it, I’d highly recommend that you take your business elsewhere!

5 – Free Bet Promotions

Talking of incentives, something else you should do every day is check Bet365 as they have a daily promotion on two feature races of the day and every single horse race that’s broadcast on Channel 4. What happens is that if you back a winner at 4/1 or bigger they give you a free bet to the same stake on either the next feature race or the next race on Channel 4, so if the horse you were thinking about backing is running in one of these races anyway it may be worthwhile doing it with Bet365. If you find the winner of your original race and the winner of your free bet race, you could pick up a bumper payout for what’s effectively only cost you your original stake. Free money is always nice… 😉

6 – Special Bookmaker Promotions

Special bookmaker promotions can also add a profitable edge to your betting. One that springs to mind is when you’ve got a strong favourite in a handicap race and the bookies offer to give you your money back if your horse finishes second to the favourite. I’ve done this twice with Ladbrokes recently where I backed my selections each-way. The first time I had the winner of the race, so that’s fine, but the other time my horse did actually finish second to the favourite and they gave me my money back on the win part of the bet, but paid me out at the correct odds on the place part of the bet too. You won’t see these types of promotions very often, but when you do they’re worth considering!

7 – Additional Place Offers

As I mentioned above, there are times when certain bookmakers (quite often Bet365 and Paddy Power) will offer an additional place on each-way bets in 16+ runner handicaps, so rather than paying out on the first four places they’ll pay out on the first five home instead. This is a great time to place an each-way bet, especially so if the field is close to the minimum allowable number of runners rule (16) and when you feel that you’re getting value on both the win and place part of the bet, because this is when the mathematical odds are most in favour of the backer instead of the bookmaker.

8 – Out Of Line Odds

It’s been well publicised that the odds on offer on Betfair are probably the best guide available to a horse’s true chance in a race. However, betting is all about opinion and other factors can influence the market in a big way, so it’s always worthwhile checking the odds of your selection on Betfair just to be sure that someone hasn’t stepped out of line. The place market tends to be much more volatile than the win market in horse racing and it isn’t uncommon to find a runner who is trading at a much bigger price than it should be on the place market, so it usually pays to have a quick look there too.

9 – “Each-Way Steal” Races

As you’ll have gathered, profitable each-way betting relies on three things – when the horse has a “better than the odds suggest” chance of success in the race, when the conditions of the race are right (going back to the “minimum allowable number of runners” again) and when the each-way terms on offer either provide value to the backer, or the smallest advantage possible to the bookmaker. An example of this might be in an eight runner field when three of the horses are clearly superior to their rivals. If one of those horses is priced at 5/1 or bigger it may be worth considering an each-way bet, providing – of course – that the horse also represents value to actually WIN the race too!

10 – Covering Your Bets

Even after writing 2,500 words on the subject here, I’m still firmly of the view that if every punter stopped backing each-way and instead doubled their stake on the win part of the bet they’d be better off in the long run, but there’s a certain psychology to betting and the “comfort blanket” of that place bet still appeals to me too (when the timing is right), so here’s a solution to that problem…

Instead of placing a straight each-way bet on a 12/1 chance in a 16 runner handicap where the bookmakers’ terms are 1/4 the odds, consider splitting your bet £75/£25 and that way you’re still maximising your profit potential on the win part of the bet, but covering your stake should the horse only place too. This is a good strategy to adopt if you’re regularly betting at fancy prices in big-field handicaps, because you’ll be getting your stake money back when you have a near-miss, but at the same time you’ll still be cleaning up big-time when your horses do the business.

That’s a good position to be in and it will surely help you to see out your losing runs too.

Getting Started With Each-Way Bets

Okay, I’ve covered a lot of ground in this article. I hope that I’ve clearly explained when and when not to bet each-way and also how to maximise the profits from your each-way bets when you do.

To summarise, here are the main points you need to consider:

  1. Don’t bet each-way simply because something is an each-way price. That’s ludicrous – the most insane reasoning for placing a bet ever. Okay, it’s probably better than “my favourite colour”, or “my kid’s name”… but it’s still a crazy way to bet. Nothing is an each-way price unless you’re SURE about it delivering on the win and the place part of the bet too.
  2. You MUST stick to races with 8 runners or more and refer back to the information I’ve given above regarding categories and when the place terms change in each category. The closer you are to the minimum allowable number of runners in each category, the higher your profits will be. This is a mathematically proven fact, so please do take it onboard!
  3. Always shop around for the best deals. I operate almost exclusively with the bookies I’ve mentioned here (Bet365, Betfred, Bet Victor, Paddy Power, Coral, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Betfair) and every time I’m on at the best price, with the right offer, and the best each-way terms available. Check that you have an account with ALL of them and you will be too!

And on that note, here endeth my “Each-Way Betting 101″.

In future articles I’ll explain a lot more about form analysis and how to actually select your bets, but I needed to do the groundwork and explain how to swing the mathematics of it all in your favour first. I hope that this article proves useful to you. It will do, if you act on it. If you don’t, it won’t.

And if you like what I’ve written here, please click one (or two, or three) of the “Like” buttons in the left sidebar on this page. It takes a fair bit of time to write articles like this and it will encourage me to write more of them if I know people are actually reading them and liking what I’ve got to say… 😉

Any questions? Feel free to ask me about it in the box below…

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About the Author

is a lifelong horse racing enthusiast and full-time exchange trader with over 10 years experience in profitable trading. He's an expert at spotting when the odds are out of sync and will only back, lay or trade a position when he's 100% sure that everything is in place to generate a profit. When we need advice about a bet we ask Atholl and you're welcome to quiz him with your betting related questions too.

17 Responses to How To Profit From Each-Way Betting In Handicaps

  1. Roger says:

    Hi Athol,

    Were you ever on a cookery course at Ballymaloe? My wife and I met up briefly with a fellow student with your name. :-)

    Good article on the EW doubles. You refer to handicap races, presumably to get higher prices but wouldn’t focusing on Non H/c give a more consistent return albeit at lower prices?



    • I’ve never been there Roger, but I’m from the Pitlochry area of Scotland, where Blair Castle is, in a place called Blair Atholl, and my Mum and Dad obviously thought it was rather amusing to call me Atholl Blair. Hey, ho :-)

      E/W betting in non-handicaps isn’t all that much different in respect of the runners involved – I mean, you should always try to be doing it when the field size is as tight as possible – but the problem there is that you’ll struggle to make money on either the win or the place side of the bet. You could if you did them on the exchanges though… same bet, different platform…

  2. dee says:

    hi I got 3rd in the Aintree nat. I bet £2.50 e/w @ 40/1 what should I win.? thanks

  3. darran lewis says:

    is it good to get your bet on early before the odds change for the worse

    • Yes, it makes sense to take an early price these days Darran if your bookmaker offers “best odds guaranteed”, because if the odds drift you get paid at the higher odds anyway.

  4. Paul says:

    It made my head hurt but I grasped the basics.
    Thank you.
    Remember in most bookies there are 3 paying in desks & only 1 paying out one!

  5. Angi Birts says:

    Very useful info on this Grand National day. On the large field my each way bet on second place was ok. Many thanks.

  6. mikey says:

    i have placed abet on the horses an eachway double the first horse was 3rd in a 22
    horse field ,the second won at 16/1 how much of a return would I get ,to add to my last comment I had £2.50 eachway double

  7. mikey says:

    i have placed abet on the horses an eachway double the first horse was 3rd in a 22
    horse field ,the second won at 16/1 how much of a return would I get

  8. Mickey says:

    This is a very helpful article thankyou. I think this bet makes it exciting for novice punters who feel they are in with more of a chance of not losing their money 😀

  9. Paul says:

    Hi Atholl,
    Great article. I hope you don’t mind but I have an each way related betting question but its on ante post sports betting, but it does involve a handicap :)

    Over the years I have had good success betting on the Premier League seasonal handicap. The bookmakers usually pay 15/1 – 16/1 about each team. They pay 1/4 the odds first 4 and as you know there are 20 runners.

    I like to make 2 selections each season and I’ve had a few winners in the last 10 years or so, but I always seem to get at least one team placed. My question is do you think I would be better off backing 2 to win against the field or would it be mathematically stupid for me too back them both each way?

    Hope this makes sense


    • Atholl Blair says:

      Hi Paul,

      I’m not the best person to ask about football betting, but from an odds point of view I don’t think it’s a bad move to bet two each-way when the market has the right feel to it.

      Mike did it here just a week or two ago…

      …because the 21 runner field was cut down to 16 with non-runners and some of the bookies were still paying 1/4 the odds on the first five places, so that wasn’t a bad bet at all.

      20 runners (contenders!) isn’t ideal, but if you can realistically knock out half the field say – the ones that you strongly feel won’t win – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing two each-way. Like you say, they’re paying on 4 places and if one makes the frame you still make a small profit, so you’ve got a fair chance of at least covering your stakes and you’ll hit the jackpot with a winner at those prices.

      As it’s a long-term bet I’d try my best to wangle one of the free bet offers too though. Deposit £50, place £25 e/w on the first team, get a free £50 match bet and place £25 e/w on the second team. Some of the bookies make you wait until the first bet has been settled, but I’m sure Paddy Power credit it as soon as your first bet has been placed.

      Double your stake for half the risk – that would be the smart move! 😉

      Hope this helps,


  10. Mike says:

    This was a great article Atholl. I’ve tried to stick to these rules as much as possible. I couldn’t believe our luck in the Imperial Cup yesterday when five horses were pulled out, leaving 16 exactly, and some of the bookies were still paying 1/4 the odds on 5 places. I had to get involved in that and thankfully it paid off in some style too!

    • Atholl Blair says:

      My point exactly. I absolutely HATE when I see each-way bets being thrown around willy-nilly just because something is an e/w price. It’s ridiculous. It’s like betting when you know that everything ISN’T in your favour. Then take yesterday as an example… what you did there was absolutely perfect… 16 runners, bookies paying on 5 places, the edge to the backer was huge. And you got two results in a single race. Getting the winner of the race would have been nice too, of course, but we still collected on both bets, so no-one can knock that!

      • Duncan says:

        Yup, I’m following this to the letter now too. Every penny is a prisoner and any slight edge we can build into our betting is essential. Mike’s call in the Imperial Cup was one of the best yet. Only unfortunate that we could only fill the 2nd and 3rd spots. Great shout though.

        • Duncan says:

          Did you know that this article is the most popular on here? It’s been tweeted over 100 times alone. I’m impressed!

          • Atholl Blair says:

            I know, I’m not sure how that happened, lot’s of people just started liking it and tweeting about it all of a sudden. I didn’t do anything to instigate that. It’s been viewed over 4,000 times too, believe it or not.

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