Do All Bookies Offer the Same Number of Places on a Horse Race?

Horse race
LincolnRogers /

When betting on a horse race, the most obvious decision a punter faces is which horse to back. Beyond that, whether to back them to win or whether to opt for an each way punt is right up there as the most important decision us racing fans must make. Seeing a horse you backed on the nose come in a narrow second is agonising. But then is it more or less agonising than seeing your horse win and then noting the less-than-amazing returns from your £5 each way bet when you had previously toyed with the idea of going for a £10 win?

Each way betting is a huge part of horse racing, chiefly because the number of runners in a race often means that many are priced at odds that suit such a bet. One factor that is sure to influence your decision on whether to back a horse each way or not is the each way terms. There are two variables at play here, chiefly the number of places and the fraction of the odds on which each way bets are paid out.

Do all bookies pay the same number of places on a horse race? Do they all pay the same percentage of the odds? We’ll answer those questions and more as we take a closer look at each way betting on horse racing.

Do Betting Sites Pay the Same Number of Places Each Way?

We’ll assume you already understand each way betting but, if not, skip to the section below where we explain how it works. For those that do know how each way bets function, let’s cut straight to the chase here and say no, racing betting sites do not all pay the same number of places on each way bets.

Obviously, that answers the question posed by the title of the article but we’re assuming you’d like a little more information than that alone. Traditionally all bookies would have offered the same each way terms, both in regards to the number of places they pay and in terms of the fraction of the odds. These terms are actually part of the official Tattersalls Committee Rules on Betting, the Tattersalls rules more or less being the official rules of the sport. These rules dictate that “Unless clearly displayed otherwise, all each-way bets” will be paid as such:

Number of runners Type of race Places paid Fraction
Fewer than 5 All None – win only NA
5-7 All 2 1/4
8 or more Non-handicap 3 1/5
12-15 Handicaps 3 1/4
16 or more Handicaps 4 1/4

However, for a long time now bookmakers have from time to time offered enhanced terms. They cannot pay each way terms worse than the standard ones but they can offer slightly better ones. This means, for example, that whilst the standard each rules offer a return for a finish inside the top three, a certain bookmaker may try to attract more customers by instead paying out to four places. All things being equal, that is far more attractive as you have far more chance of landing a place, especially in smaller field contests where the extra place represents a larger proportion of the total number of runners.

Enhanced Terms

Generally speaking, the bookies only offer enhanced terms on the most prestigious and popular races, and also on the ones with big fields. Given those two points, it should be no surprise to learn that the number one race for enhanced each way offers is the iconic Aintree Grand National.

For the famous old slog, many bookies now pay five places, almost as standard, with extra special deals being released close to the off that might offer six, seven, eight or even 10 places! Terms for these might be slightly different from normal (of which more below) but even so, such promos offer punters real value and an excellent chance of winning from what is usually a fiendishly difficult puzzle to unpick.

Other Sports

Such improved each way terms are increasingly being offered in other sports too, with golf’s majors regularly befitting. In racing, some bookies offer enhanced each way terms on one or more races every day. Details of these offers can usually be found on the site’s promotions or offers page. These boosted place terms are typically offered on big-field handicaps and the details of which races are benefitting from such deals, and any other terms, will be shown at the site in question.

Do Bookies Pay Each Way Bets at the Same Percentage?

Horse racing
Hans_Chr /

As with the number of places, the fraction of the odds is, as per the table above, part of racing’s rulebook (unless it is clearly advertised otherwise). Bookmakers cannot pay each way terms worse than that but they can, as with the places, offer an improved rate. In truth, such promotions are far less common than ones that offer an extra place or places but from time to time you may see such promotions.

Though it may seem to contradict what we have just said, the more likely scenario is that you will actually see worse fractional terms. Whilst this is not allowed based on the standard number of places, where a bookie offers extra places they are allowed to pay these at a lower fraction of the standard odds. The details must be and always will be shown clearly alongside the race information.

So, for example, if a bookie is paying out for four places or perhaps even five places, instead of the standard three, they may pay out at 1/5 of the odds rather than the standard quarter. Generally speaking, most punters are not put off by this but it is definitely something you should bear in mind.

If you are backing a real outsider at long odds then opting for an extra place or two and a smaller potential net win may well be wise. If, on the other hand, you are backing a horse at odds of 6/1 and viewing the each way part of the wager almost as a bet to nothing, being very confident that, if it doesn’t win, it should at the very least claim second or third, you will probably be better off backing it for a top-three finish at a quarter of the odds.

Anything Else to Be Aware Of?

Improved each way terms often offer incredible value but as with all betting offers, there are sometimes terms and conditions of which you should be aware. However, probably the most important thing to be aware of when it comes to these promotions is not the terms but the odds.

Whilst getting one, two, or sometimes as many as five extra places is obviously going to help you land a winning bet, it is important that you look at the odds too. Most of the time, though not always, the betting sites offering extra places compensate for this by offering lower odds. This is not a scam or “unfair” but is simply a trade-off that you as a punter have to weigh up.

The Higher the Places, the Lower the Odds

Where a bookmaker offers just one extra place they may well contend with their odds, or at least be not too far off the best available. However, the majority of the time, if you opt for a site that is paying each way bets to seven or more places in total, you will find that the odds are lower, sometimes significantly so.

As with considering what fraction of the odds you are accepting, a lot will come down to how confident you are in your selection. If you really fancy a horse to maybe win, but certainly land a top-four finish, opting for bigger odds and fewer places will probably make sense. Taking four places at 16/1 is a great deal if the horse finishes in the top four. However, if you are less confident and think the horse may nick a place, then perhaps taking 12/1 each way for a top five (or six, or more) would make better sense.

Unavoidably, whatever decision you make you run the risk of it being the wrong one. If you pick the 16/1 about a top four and the horse finishes fifth, you will receive nothing and wonder why for the sake of a few quid difference you didn’t opt for the extra place. On the other hand, plump for the shorter odds and the extra each way place and you may greedily wonder about the extra cash you could have won when it comes fourth, or, “worse” still, actually wins. That’s betting though and ultimately the decision about what to do is yours alone.

Other Ts & Cs

Whilst the odds are probably the biggest thing to note, some sites may offer slightly unusual terms in respect of the extra each way places. This will vary from site to site, race to race and offer to offer. We have seen the extra-place offers structured in a range of ways, but things to consider include:

  • Are Winnings Paid in Cash? Sometimes some or all of the extra places are paid in free bets, rather than cash.
  • Are Extra Places Paid at a Lower Fraction of the Odds? You might get a quarter of the odds for a top four finish, for example, but only a fifth if the horse finishes fifth, sixth or seventh.
  • Maximum Stakes: The stake eligible for the extra places may be capped.
  • Limit on Selections: Check if there is a limit on the number of horses (or golfers or anything else) you can back under the extra places promotion.

That said, in recent years greater regulation has meant that many offers tend to be simpler, with fewer terms. The Gambling Commission and Advertising Standards Authority have required bookies to make promotions as easy to understand and as clear as possible. Increasingly, that now means that the extra each way places pretty much do what they say on the tin, bookies covering their extra generosity by reducing the odds as discussed above.

How Does Each Way Horse Race Betting Work?

Punters watching horse race on screen
p.lange /

If you do not know what each way betting is, this is the portion of this article to read first. Then, once you understand the general concept you can check out the above info on how the number of places offered does sometimes vary from one site to another.

Each way betting is popular in horse racing, golf and other sports where picking the outright winner is very difficult, usually due to the number of participants in the contest. An each way bet is two bets combined into one and requires two stakes, so a £5 each way bet will cost £10 in total.

Half of the wager, £5 in this case, is a straight win single and pays out as normal if the horse (or golfer) wins. It pays at the standard odds and you get your £5 stake back as usual. The second half of the £10 total goes on the each way leg of the bet and is a wager on the horse to place. In most races, this means it has to finish second, third or sometimes fourth. The full details of the standard each way terms are shown above and should also be listed alongside the race information when you make the bet.

The each way portion of your bet is paid based on your full £5 each way stake but only a fraction of the odds. This is often a quarter of the normal price but may be a fifth, whilst in some sports such as tennis or football, where an each way bet includes two places only (effectively a bet on a player or team to make the final), it may be half the normal odds.

If your pick wins then both halves of your wager are successful and you get both £5 stakes back, as well as the related winnings. On the other hand, if your horse finishes second (or third, or in any of the stated place positions) then you lose the win selection of your bet but win the place portion. Let us imagine a £5 each way bet on a horse called Peach Pay at 12/1 that is based on a quarter of the odds for a top-three finish. The table below shows the various outcomes.

Each Way Betting Example: £5 EW on Peach Pay at 12/1

Result £5 Win Bet £5 Place Bet (1/4 odds) Overall Result
Horse wins Wins @ 12/1 = £65 return Wins at 3/1 = £20 return £85 return and £75 net win
Finishes second or third Loses Wins at 3/1 = £20 return £20 return and £10 net win
Finishes fourth or worse Loses Loses £10 loss

Why Place an Each Way Bet?

Each way bets are perfect for open races that are hard to predict and they are also a good option when you want to oppose a favourite at short odds. Each way bets can be used in a range of ways though but no matter what, they give you two chances to win: either if the horse finishes first or if it claims a place.

You can get a higher return by backing a horse simply to win, with a £10 bet “on the nose” on Peach Pay, our example above, returning a net win of £120, rather than £75. However, if you back it to win and it finishes second by a nose, you lose £10, whereas a more cautious punter who backed it each way would still make a net win.

Place Bets

On the other side of the coin, you could simply back the horse in the “To place” market. This is effectively the other half of an each way bet. If a horse is 12/1 to win it may well be 3/1 for a top-three place. A £5 bet on Peach Pay would return the same £20, but this time would deliver a net win of £15 not £10 as you did not “waste” the £5 stake on it to win. Clearly, if the horse finishes second or third that is great but if it wins you would still only receive the same £20 – there is no bonus for it finishing first.

What Odds Should I Look for When Placing an Each Way Bet?

Generally speaking, most punters only place each way bets on horses with odds of around 4/1 or higher. At around that price you should still return a net win or break even if the horse only manages a place (though this will depend on the each way terms in question). You may still want to back a horse each way at 3/1 or 2/1 or whatever but bear in mind that unless it wins you may still be out of pocket overall.

Most people will only usually consider an each way punt if a horse or other selection is priced at 8/1, or perhaps double-digits odds and up. In a wide-open race with lots of runners, such as the Grand National, or pretty much any golf tournament, the favourite may be priced at those sorts of odds and this can be a good bet to make. If your pick wins you’ll be looking at a bumper payout whilst you will still make a reasonable net win even if it places. The same applies of course if you fancy an outsider and perhaps you are not convinced it will win but you think it can pinch a place – whilst still having an outside chance of actually claiming the victory.

For example, let us imagine that Peach Pay had drifted like a barge from 12/1 all the way out to 28/1. A bet of £5 each way at that price would yield a very tidy net win of £30, whilst if it won you would be looking at a huge £175 net win.