When is Place Betting Worth Your Time?

If you look for information on horse racing betting on Google, you’ll find thousands of pages dedicated to selecting winners. This makes sense because the vast majority of punters opt for a straight win and ignore the each-way bet. Why? Because an each-way bet costs you double the stake of a simple ‘win’ bet and the odds are often not worth it.

Most bookies offer 1/4 or 1/5 odds on an each way bet. Here’s an example of each way bet with 1/5 odds.

£10 e/w on Starburst at 6/1. Your total stake is £20, and you get £94 if Starburst wins (£70 for win and £24 for the place) but just £24 if it finishes in the places. In the end, your profit is just £4 unless Starburst wins the race. According to betting expert, Simon Patton, the punter only receives value from an each way bet in handicap races with 16+ entrants.


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In every other kind of race, the bookie has the edge. The problem is, picking a selection to place in a 16+ horse race is incredibly hard. Also, the horse’s odds must be at least 4/1 (or 5/1 when the bookie offers 1/5 place odds) just to break even on an each way bet that places. Small wonder then that punters steer clear!

Not So Fast: Betfair To The Rescue!

If you’re in any way serious about making a profit from horse racing betting, open up a Betfair account today and start trading on the exchange. You are competing against other punters which mean you won’t get banned for winning too often as you do with other online bookies.

One of the best traits of Betfair is its Place Only option which eliminates the need for each way bets.

Here is an example of why Betfair is the right site when comes to place bets. I took a random horse at a Royal Ascot event called Murillo. It was available at 6/1 to win, and other bookies were offering 1/4 odds on a place finish. In these cases, £10 each way on Murillo would result in £94 for a win and £24 for a place.

On Betfair, Murillo was 2.92 to Place Only. In other words, £10 on a place only bet would result in £29.20 winnings in the event the horse placed. That equates to 21.75% more than if you went the each way route. Moreover, your profit is £19.20 compared to just £4 you’re your each way bet and of course, you bet £10 less!

There is always the risk that the horse could win but since it isn’t the favourite, it’s a chance you have to take.

Place Betting only makes even more sense for longer odds horses. If you bet £10 each way on a 20/1 horse at 1/4 odds for placing and it finishes second, you only get £50 back. This is the equivalent of betting your £20 on a 6/4 favourite! In contrast, such a horse would probably be around 5/1 for a Place Only on Betfair so your £20 would become £120 in the event it places.

Things to Consider

From a value perspective, it is tempting to look for horses with Place Only odds of at least Evens (2.0) and above. However, if you are brave enough there is the potential for profitability should you back relatively short-odds favourite for Place Only bets. Please note that in races with 5-8 entries, only the first two are considered places.

Let’s quickly compare the performance of the different Place classifications since the start of 2015. I am showing the Return on Investment (ROI) if you went for a Place Bet only on races with varying numbers of runners. I am including 2 different Betfair Place odds ranges.

No. of RunnersBetfair Place OddsROI%
5-71.01-2.00-1.42%
8-111.01-2.00-2.59%
12-151.01-2.00-2.44%
16+1.01-2.00-5.64%
5-72.01+-6.09%
8-112.01+-4.85%
12-152.01+-6%
16+2.01+-2.74%

As you can see, you would suffer a loss in every scenario although betting on shorter odds favourites in races with 5-7 entrants is the best outcome. This could be perceived as being slightly surprising. After all, bookies have the smallest advantage in terms of place betting in larger races. Also, one wouldn’t expect to make money betting on horses at short odds.

But therein lies the rub. Bookies want punters to take the long odds bets because they know they will profit in the long run. Conventional wisdom amongst too many punters is that you can’t win by looking at short odds selections, but my research found something very different to this assumption.

I used the following criteria:

  • 5-7 Runners
  • All-Weather Track
  • Clear Favourites
  • Races from the beginning of 2015
  • Betfair Place Odds of between 1.45 and 1.7

The result was a 5.72% ROI from 452 bets as your selection will finish first or second just over 68% of the time. By the way, you would also earn a 7.14% ROI for backing Win Only on Betfair Exchange using the above criteria. If you focus solely on Class 5 events in addition to the above, your ROI increases to 9.72% on Place Only bets from 169 selections, slightly higher than the 7.22% you will make from Win Only on the Exchange.

If you’re the kind of punter that likes to bet sporadically, focus on all of the above plus horses that last ran 8-30 days before the race and your ROI for Place Only goes to 16%. The problem is, you only have around 30 such bets a year.

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, there IS money to be made from place betting as long as you use Betfair’s Place Only option and display a LOT of patience. You won’t become a millionaire, but slow and steady profit is certainly possible. It is best to focus on smaller races with favourites at short Place Odds. All-Weather meetings appear to give you the best bang for your buck but don’t completely ignore the other codes.

You can test this place betting strategy today at: www.betfair.com