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It’s summer, and you’ve been invited to the races. Here’s how not to lose your shirt

Tuesday, 2 August, 2011

A beginner’s guide to betting

Two golden rules are important. Don’t ever bet more than you can afford to lose (the chances are you will), and don’t get bitter about it when you do.

Watch the bookies' boards for falling odds. Someone might know something...

Gamblers will always tell you about ‘the time they won’. They don’t usually mention the days they went home skint. Everyone loses sometimes, and if you can’t afford to lose, then don’t bet. Instead, hang around those that do in the hope that they have a big winner and will consequently spend it on Champagne. Betting by proxy gets you the thrill without the risk.

If all else fails, just tell yourself you’re having a nice day out and enjoy the fashion, the horses, the colours and the view. It is more difficult when its raining cats and dogs, the picnic’s been cancelled and you’ve just ruined a pair of shoes, but even then, not impossible.

If you do want to bet, and you know nothing about horses, you’ll need to be lucky, but there are a few things you can do to increase your chances.

–          watch the bookies’ boards. Anything where the odds are shortening (moving from 8/1 to 6/1, let’s say) is being backed. The chances are that someone knows something.

–          strong favourites (less than even money) will only be worth backing if you’re happy with a small return. Put a tenner on something at 4/5 and you’ll get 8 quid back (plus your stake) if it wins. Not a great deal for the risk.

–          don’t back anything ‘each way’ at less than 4/1. Even if it wins, you won’t get your money back. (I could explain the maths, but for now, you’ll have to take my word for it).

Most bookies will have a minimum bet, probably a fiver. Remember that “five pounds each way” is a ten pound bet. If you want to bet smaller than a fiver, you can’t do it on course, but you can go to Totesport.com and open an account to bet online. I think their minimum is a pound or so. But bookies are helpful chaps. They want to take your money. If you don’t know what to do, ask one of them.

Remember too, the more runners in a race, the less chance you have of winning, but the odds will be greater. So, here’s a strategy for success.

–          Fix an amount you can afford to lose

–          Decide to spend it on the three races after the first. (The first is usually a lottery – take my word for it).

–          If there are more than 12 runners, you’ll have big odds and less chance. Pick two (at 4/1 or bigger) and back them each way. (That will mean that even if one of them comes fourth, you’ll get something back).

–          In races where there are more than 8 runners but less than 12, pick one. If fewer than 8, back the favourite or second favourite, but to win.

–          If you’ve got anything left after that, you’ll be lucky. If you win big, buy Champagne and tell everyone. Bask in your knowledge of the turf.

–          If not, smile and tell everyone that the ground was against you. Accept drinks from whoever is buying.

(c) Blakeney 2011

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