In the modern age, more punters place bets online than do so in a physical betting shop. Online betting has long been the dominant force and whether you place your bets using a desktop, laptop, tablet or phone, relatively few bettors regularly make their bets in a high street betting shop.
That said, there are a host of reasons why some people still regularly use bricks and mortar shops. In addition, others might need to use them from time to time, be that to claim an offer that is only available in a shop, place a bet on the go if they don’t have their phone or it has no reception/has run out of battery, or, sometimes, even to access better odds. If you do want to place a bet at the bookies, you’ll probably need to manually complete a betting slip. If you are accustomed to everything being done automatically online you might not even know where to begin.
In this article, we will explain how it all works and what different options you have, as well as what you need to look out for if you want to avoid making any potentially costly mistakes. In addition, we will also look at why writing betting slips in shops might become a thing of the past anyway.
Writing a Simple Racing Bet on a Plain Slip
When you walk into a betting shop you will typically see a rack with a whole range of betting coupons. We will look at these shortly; but near these, and at the betting counter and indeed, generally dotted around the shop, you will also see smaller, plain betting slips, as pictured below. These slips are most commonly used for horse racing but can be used to place virtually any bet you want and are simply “free-text”, meaning you can really just describe the bet you want to place.
As you can see, the slip itself says, “For racing bets, please clearly mark time and meeting” and really, with any bet you place, be it for football, golf, tennis or anything else, ensuring your intention is clear is key. You can essentially write the bet and the slip however you want, as long as what you want to bet on is clearly stated. You should also indicate the stake you want to place alongside the description of the bet. In theory, you can place more than one bet using an individual slip but it is best to use separate slips for each wager.
More Complex Bets
That said, you can place more complex bets using this basic slip, with each way bets, doubles, trebles, larger accas and even combination bets like a Yankee all possible. Whether you are placing the most simple single, or something more complex, you should write the stake for the individual bets on the slip, as well as the total stake at the bottom (where it says “Total Stake”, would you believe?). The photo below shows what a slip for a £5 each way double on two horse races might look like (forgive the handwriting but who uses a pen these days?).
As you can see, the slip clearly details the meeting, the time, the horse, the type of bet, the amount staked and the total cost. Exactly how you detail these things is not set in stone. So, for example, the order in which you write things doesn’t really matter, you can write “E/w”, “Each way” or anything else that makes the bet type clear.
“Take the Price”
One thing worth noting about this slip is that it does not show the odds. If you handed such a slip over the counter and didn’t say or do anything then the bet would be placed at the Starting Price (SP). Alternatively, you have the option to take the price available at the time, in which case you would need to notify the bookie. If you say you want to “take the price”, they will check the current odds and indicate those on the slip. Your bet, if it wins, will be settled at those odds, irrespective of what the SP is.
Note that Best Odds Guaranteed (BOG) very rarely applies in betting shops. BOG means that you can take the price at the time you place the bet but still get paid at the SP if that turns out to be higher and is offered as standard by most top online betting sites in the UK. This is one potential downside to placing horse racing bets in a shop.
Same Day’s Racing
Another thing to note about the slip is that it does not mention the date. A slip written in this way will be assumed to be for that day’s racing. This is very rarely likely to be an issue but very strange things happen and so if you are placing bets for racing on another day it is best to write the specific date or at least the day. As said, this is unlikely to be an issue. However, if you wanted to place a bet on tomorrow’s racing, it is possible, though very unlikely, that horses with very similar names could be running today at the same courses and possibly at the same or similar times.
Ultimately, you would probably be ok if the exact names and times on your slip for tomorrow were correct but it pays to avoid confusion. There are almost countless little variables like this and we cannot cover them all but if you have any doubt always ask a member of staff in the shop first. Putting the date on a slip is particularly important when betting on sports where players or teams may play each other more than once in a relatively short space of time.
In baseball, for instance, it is not unheard of for sides to play each other twice on the same day. However, a more likely scenario might be when a football team has the same opponent in the league and the cup just a few days apart. This happens surprisingly frequently and if you just put, for example, “Everton to beat Liverpool”, it will be unclear which game you are referring to if the sides play on Wednesday in the league and Sunday in the FA Cup.
The bookie will typically assume the bet is for the first game to occur and will register it as such. Whether you mean it for this match or not, it is advisable to write the date of the game and possibly the competition as well.
Writing a Betting Slip for Other Sports
These standard betting slips are also very often used for football and other sports as well. Football is often covered by specific coupons that detail many games and/or fewer games but with many more markets listed. We will look at that shortly but let us now look at making a bet on another sport, for the same of argument, golf.
The biggest tournaments, by which we probably mean just the four majors, may well be covered by longer coupon-type slips. However, for other tournaments (and for the majors too if you prefer) you can use a standard, blank betting slip. Again, as long as your slip makes it clear what you want to bet on, there is no real set formula and you can see on the slip below that we have included two bets on the same slip.
If you did not write the odds on the slip, most major bookies have the technology to properly calculate what the odds were when you made the bet. In fact, nowadays it is possibly not even necessary to write the odds (which you can get by checking with a member of staff first), as the system automatically records the odds behind the scenes.
Settled Based on Correct Price When Bet Was Made
The traditional process was to check the odds with the bookmaker and get them to write them on the slip, initialling them too. However, this is rather outdated now and at almost all bookies you will find that irrespective of what is written on the slip, the bet will be settled according to the correct price when the bet was made.
We will look at the separate matter of cashier errors shortly but the only general exception to this concerns horse racing bets, where you have the option to pick the current price or the SP. If you take the price at the time of placement this will be written on the slip and possibly signed/initialled by the cashier.
Another thing to note about our hypothetical golf betting slip is that we have written both players’ names in full. This is advised but is, in reality, not strictly necessary. For example, should you write “DJ” for Dustin Johnson, you will probably be fine and likewise just “Spieth”, or even possibly just “Rory” (even though the tournament will probably feature other players with the same first name).
Plain Betting Slip Summary
In conclusion, when using these simple betting slips, as long as you make it very clear what you want to bet on, it does not matter how it is worded. The key things to note are that:
- Slip should be clearly written
- Indicate event/tournament/game, date, market (including type of bet, such as each way, or a double), selection and stake (including total stake for the entire slip)
- With horse racing bets indicate whether you want the SP or get the current odds marked on your slip
- With most other sports get the cashier to confirm the odds on the slip, although this is also done electronically anyway
- Keep the slip safe as it will always be needed to claim your bet
How to Fill Out a Betting Coupon
Larger betting coupons are typically offered covering major events, be that a big game of football, a tennis Grand Slam, a golf major, the Super Bowl or anything else. They are also produced to cover a whole round of matches in football, be that all the midweek games from Europe and the lower leagues, the top four tiers of English football, or an entire round of the FA Cup.
The so-called long list was very much a staple of football betting for a long time before the explosion of online and mobile betting. Even today, a weekend trip to the betting shop to look at the fixtures and odds is part of the routine for many punters who are football fans. You can see an example of a typically long list coupon below.
Usually these coupons offer the match odds for a huge number of games, in the case of this coupon a range of English and European games from the weekend (Friday to Sunday). You can opt for the home win, draw, or away win, taking the odds printed on the slip and these coupons are perfect for those wanting to place accas.
Guaranteed Minimum Odds for Certain Bets
As well as simply placing whatever acca takes your fancy, they also offer guaranteed minimum odds for certain bets. In the case of our slip you can see, for example, that if you opt for three draws you will be paid at odds of at least 22/1. Note that should the actual odds for the three-draw acca you select be higher than 22/1, you will be paid at that higher price.
The coupon also offers the odds for both teams to score (BTTS) and also for BTTS and one of the two sides to win. The exact offering will vary between bookies, coupons and games but the match odds will always feature on a long list like this.
Modern coupons are now computerised and semi-automated, meaning that you make your selections, indicate what type of bet you want to make (for example a single, double, treble and so on) and input the stake by striking a line through the relevant box. The bookie’s software “reads” the slip and generates a receipt indicating the bet or bets you have made, including the stake and potential returns.
You can see, for example, that the coupon below has been filled in to place an accumulator bet on Brentford to win at home against Watford at 10/11, Mallorca and Celta Vigo to draw at 19/10, Man City to beat Wolves (1/8) and Villa to beat Liverpool at Anfield at 8/1. Placing this bet, you would receive a receipt showing the four legs, the odds for each and the potential returns. As ever, always make sure you check the slip and ensure the bet or bets placed match those you intended.
League Tables on the Back of the Coupon
The precise nature of the coupon will vary a little between bookmakers but they are largely self-explanatory. That said, as ever, if you have any questions, just ask a member of staff. On the back of many of these larger coupons you may find further information, either in terms of odds and markets or, as in the photo below, providing stats/information, such as league tables.
Big Match Coupons
As well as coupons that cover several different matches, there are also often football coupons that focus on just a single big game, or perhaps a small selection of them. This will typically be for one of the biggest matches of the weekend or midweek period and usually the game or games that are live on TV.
Once again, the exact make-up of the coupon will vary but you will usually find the most popular five to 10 markets covered. That means options such as the match odds, over 2.5 goals, both teams to score, correct score, half-time/full-time, various goalscorer markets and a selection of other bets will be detailed. You can see an example of such a coupon below.
On the back of coupons of this style of coupon, you will normally find more markets, or stats about the two teams. As is often the case, the coupon we have here simply expands the scorecast (first scorer and correct score combined) options, providing odds for many more combinations of players and scores.
These coupons are completed in exactly the same way as the previous long-list ones, using a horizontal line to complete boxes corresponding to the selections and stake you desire. For example, the photo below shows how you would complete the form to make a £5 bet on Romelu Lukaku to score at anytime during the clash at odds of evens.
Asking for a Bet
Most bets placed in shops are on football, horse racing and big events from other sports but in the days before online betting (and before that telebetting), visiting a shop was the only way to place any wager (away from racetracks at least). It is still possible to bet on just about anything you like in a shop and, in fact, for some more obscure bets it may be the best way to go about things.
If you have a crazy special you want to bet on, or simply want to place a wager you cannot see any information on just ask a member of staff for a price. For example, if you want to place a rugby bet, chances are there will not be a coupon covering it. Just ask for the odds on, for example, Leicester to beat Saracens and the cashier can usually check it on their system. You can then use a plain slip to make the bet you want.
Alternatively, you might want to make a bet on your grandson to play for England, aliens to land on Earth or even something less “out there” such as a relatively unknown manager to be named the next boss of a certain club. In this instance, the shop will usually need to call a trader to obtain a price. It may not always be possible to make the bet you want to but often the trader will be able to confirm the odds there and then.
How to Physically Place Your Bet
Once you have completed your coupon or slip, actually placing the bet is very simple. Just head to the counter and hand it over and the member of staff will do the rest. If you are unsure that you have completed it correctly it is worth checking. They should do this anyway but depending on how rushed and/or diligent they are they may not and this could lead to confusion or a dispute down the line.
You will, of course, need to pay for your bet and this can typically be done using cash or a debit card. Some high street bookies now allow you to use a card that is linked to your online account, effectively taking the funds from there. Once you have paid you will get some form of confirmation of the bet. Depending on the wager you have made and whether you have used a plain slip or a coupon, this might be a copy of your slip itself, or it may be a printed confirmation, stating the bet or bets you have made, stake, odds and potential returns.
Check the details are correct and if there is anything unexpected point this out to the cashier. You may have inadvertently placed the wrong bet, they may have misheard or misunderstood you, the stake might be wrong, or, as we will discuss shortly, the price may have changed. Normally any problems noted at this stage can be rectified but once you leave the shop it becomes far trickier.
Last but not least, keep that slip safe. If your luck is in you will need that to collect your winnings. Note that winnings are normally paid back by the same method you used for the stake, be that cash, card, account or anything else.
Things to Look Out for & What Can Go Wrong
When it comes to making a bet in the shop and writing a betting slip or coupon, we have already covered some of the key elements. Completing the forms as clearly as possible is always a good idea, as is checking that the form, especially if it is a coupon rather than a plain slip, has not already been partially completed by a previous customer. Checking your receipt and change (if you pay by cash) are also very important. It is normally quite easy to rectify an error straight away but once you leave the counter, and certainly once you leave the shop, things are far more difficult.
Double Check the Odds
One key thing to note is that you should always check that the odds you receive are what you were expecting. In days gone by, shops would invariably honour the prices on the coupon but for various reasons they now reserve the right to amend them, so really the coupons should be best used as a guide.
You may feel that they are obliged to give you the price as per the slip but this is not the case and is only fair all things considered. A weekend coupon may include games on Friday to Sunday, meaning they are probably printed on Thursday or even earlier. Much can change between Thursday and Friday, let alone between Thursday and Sunday afternoon. For example, if a team loses their two best players to injury on Friday, or perhaps the manager decides to rest a number of players ahead of a big European game the following midweek, prices can change considerably.
In an ideal world, the cashier would notify you of this, but this rarely happens, so checking your receipt, or asking for the odds in advance before you make the bet, really is key. Another thing to note is that bets placed in person, using a plain slip, often have a considerable degree of manual imputing and this means that human error enters the equation. Bets made online are almost always entirely automated and complex software ensures that bets are placed and processed correctly, with ineligible wagers just not possible.
Examples of Bets Incorrectly Placed
In shops, this is not the case and there are several examples over the years of punters being left disappointed when a bet did not play out how they were expecting. One recent example concerned a bet made on Emma Radacanu to win the US Open in 2021. A punter believed he had placed a £50 double on the young Brit to win the tournament outright at 15/2 and also to win her upcoming match at the event at 6/5.
He wrote out such a slip and the bet was accepted by staff but this was an error as the two legs of his bet were related contingencies and thus not combinable in a double. This would not have been possible with an online bet and the systems would have generated an error message but in a shop, the correct manual checks were not made. The 15/2 price for Radacanu to go all the way effectively already included the match odds (because she could not win the tournament without winning her next match) and so Betfred paid the bet as two singles. This meant far smaller returns than Carl Wright (who made the bet) had hoped for.
There are other similar tales, including a very well-known bet on it being a white Christmas at various UK locations. The man landed what he thought was a huge payout thanks to two accas and was expecting to get around £7m back. Imagine his disappointment when he got just £31!
Again, it was an issue with related contingencies and the bet should not have been accepted as an acca and was ultimately not paid as one. Whilst a punter may feel that a bookie should pay up if they have accepted a bet, they do not have to due to the industry concept of palpable errors, something approved by the relevant regulatory bodies.
Palpable errors are when a bookie makes a clear and obvious error. They can occur due to simple human failing, technological issues and certain other reasons. One example might be if the football coupon shows Man City at 14/1 to beat Wolves, with Wolves priced at 1/8. Even if the bookie accepts this bet and you receive a receipt with those odds, they would not have to pay as it would be fairly obvious to anyone with a reasonable knowledge of betting that the odds were the wrong way round.
If you ever see a bet that seems too good to be true there is a fair chance that it is and that it may be classed as a “palp” by the bookie. If in doubt it may be worth checking or, at the very least, be prepared to receive a smaller payout should your bet win.
As well as all the options we have already discussed, many high street betting shops now offer terminals. These look a little like a modern slot machine or fixed odds betting terminal, or can be built into the wall, and can be used both to check odds and fixtures, as well as to place bets. In one sense they are almost like the bookie’s app but rather than being on your mobile, it has a physical form.
These terminals allow punters to pay for bets using their debit card and winnings are usually collected from the counter. Some punters like them because they allow you to see all the various odds and markets on whatever sport or sports you are interested in. You can study these in your own time, rather than having to ask for a specific price at the counter, often whilst someone is impatiently waiting behind you to get their bet on.
Of course, to those familiar with betting on their mobile or even desktop/laptop, this will not seem like anything new. However, for some shop-users, these terminals are very handy. That said, they have not caught on hugely and this is perhaps because people who are in a shop are probably there because they don’t want to use a machine, or do not feel comfortable doing so. On the other hand, those that are a little more tech-savvy, are more than likely to be using the app in the first place and not be in the shop.
The Future of Betting Shops
In the years to come, we may see fewer and fewer staff in shops and betting terminals becoming the norm. Whatever happens in the future, in the here and now it is worth noting that we have heard of the terminals having both different odds and sometimes even different rules to those offered when bets are made over the counter.
This will vary from case to case and bookie to bookie but certainly in the past we have heard of machines occasionally offering better odds. That said, it has also been reported that bets made using a terminal are not always eligible for certain offers, such as paying out on both the first past the post racing result and the steward’s enquiry outcome. If you do intend to use a terminal, it may, therefore, be worth double-checking with the staff on both these points.