What Are the Minimum Odds for an Each Way Bet?

Horse race
Tobias Begemann / Flickr.com

Online bookmakers are often quite relaxed when it comes to what they will accept as a minimum stake with many happy to accept wagers of just a few pennies. If you are betting at a racecourse though, you will inevitably find the minimum stakes to be a fair bit higher. For an each way bet, many on-course bookies will ask for an absolute minimum of £1 or more likely £2, therefore costing you either £2 or £4.

So, while there may be a minimum stake to consider, are minimum odds something you need to worry about too? Technically not, but there are cases where you can actually lose money even if your selected horse places on an each way bet. Because of this, there are definitely times where an each way punt would not be seen as a bright idea. This does not mean you have to instead opt for a win only bet but it might make sense to look to some alternative markets or bet types.

Lowest Odds for Each Way Betting

Start of a horse race
Rennett Stowe / Flickr.com

With no minimum odds that you need to meet when placing an each way bet, you might be wondering what the ‘safest’ each way bet you can place is. Again, there is no fixed amount for this but you will not find too many races in which a horse (or greyhound) is trading much shorter than perhaps 1/4 or 1/5 in the main ‘to win’ market. Occasionally, it will happen but it usually takes a truly exceptional horse, such as the undefeated Frankel, who set off as short as 1/20 for the poorly attended Sussex Stakes in 2012.

So, let us say you find a runner priced at odds of 1/4 (i.e. ‘four to one on’) and you are weighing up an each way bet for them. The exact payout amount would depend on how many runners there are and the type of race it is. This can vary a little between bookies or if there is a promotion on a special race, but as standard, your each way terms are as follows.

Race type/runners Fraction of the Odds Places Paid Out
Handicaps Featuring 16+ Runners A quarter 4
Handicaps Featuring 12-15 Runners A quarter 3
Non Handicap Featuring 12+ Runners A fifth 3
All Races Featuring 8-11 Runners A fifth 3
All Races of 5-7 Runners A quarter 2
All Races of Less than 5 Runners Win Only

Payouts for Each Way Bets

We mentioned before that it is possible to lose money on an each way bet if your selected horse (or dog) only ends up placing rather than winning. To see how this works in action, say you went to bet £2 each way (so £4 in total) on races that had eight to 11 runners, meaning a place payout of a fifth of the odds on the first three horses.

Odds of horse Win return (inc. Stake) Place return (inc. stake) Total Net Win/loss if win Total Net win/loss if placing only
1/4 £2.50 £2.10 £0.60 -£1.90
1/2 £3 £2.20 £1.20 -£1.80
Evens £4 £2.40 £2.40 -£1.60
2/1 £6 £2.80 £4.80 -£1.20
3/1 £8 £3.20 £7.20 -£0.80
5/1 £12 £4 £12 £0
10/1 £22 £6 £24 £2
20/1 £42 £10 £48 £6
33/1 £68 £15.20 £79.20 £11.20

While there may be no minimum odds as such, for a field featuring 8 to 11 runners, you would only break even on an each way bet if you backed a placed horse at 5/1. Any shorter than this and you would end up losing money, albeit not as much as through a win only. If there happened to be more runners, resulting in the each way terms lowing to 4/1, this would mean that a horse that placed when priced at odds of 4/1 becomes the new breakeven point.

A little above this price and you only end up winning very little as you can see from a table above. Really, with an each way bet, a horse is only really going to provide you with a decent return once it starts getting around 20/1, assuming it only manages to place.

Should I Ever Bet Each Way with Short Odds?

We would perhaps not go as far to say you should never do this as it can reduce your losses should a horse you were confident about ends up falling just short of victory. In the long run though, you are probably better off putting your whole stake on a win only bet with a short-priced runner, rather than trying to place it safe.

Say for example you back a 7/2 second-favourite on five occasions in races featuring seven runners. On two occasions your selection wins, on two occasions they place (finish second) and on one they finish last. This is a very plausible scenario so let us see how the payouts compare if you bet £10 on a win versus £5 each way (for a £10 total stake).

Race Outcome Win Only Bet net win Each Way Bet net win
Race 1: Win £35 £21.88
Race 2: Win £35 £21.88
Race 3: Place -£10 -£0.63
Race 4: Place -£10 -£0.63
Race 5: Unplaced -£10 -£10
Total Win/Loss £40 £32.50

So, even with two placed finishes from five, you would still end up with more of a net win having simply backed the horses in each race for on-the-nose wins. It is not simply this particular example with a fairly short-priced runner that puts win only bets on top either. Imagine you are a more adventurous bettor who likes to pick out unfancied horses capable of causing an upset. Across eight races, you back horses at 16/1 odds and the each way terms are a fifth of the odds for a placed finish.

Race Outcome Win Only Bet net win (£10 bet) Each Way Bet Net Win (2 x £5 bets)
Race 1: Win £160 £96
Race 2: Place -£10 £11
Race 3: Place -£10 £11
Race 4: Unplaced -£10 -£10
Race 5: Unplaced -£10 -£10
Race 6: Unplaced -£10 -£10
Race 7: Unplaced -£10 -£10
Race 8: Unplaced -£10 -£10
Total Win/Loss £90 £68

Even though you see returns on three occasions with an each way bet, the returns from the successful place portions do not make up for the less frequent ‘win’ return. Now, if you are very rarely managing to pick winners but you are managing some placed horses, this is where going for each way punts would serve you better. It is not necessarily your best option though as the ‘without the favourite’ or the ‘to place’ betting markets could well see you land more money.

Alternatives to Short Odds Each Way Betting

A race at Hasting Racecourse
Eyesplash / Flickr.com

If you want to bet on a short-priced horse or greyhound, ask yourself how confident you are about its chances of winning. If you have done plenty of research and you are quite confident then it will usually be best to opt for a bet on the nose as this is the best way of rewarding your hunch if the bet comes in. If you are not so confident though, perhaps due to a talented competitor or a runner that can blow hot and cold at times, then each way is probably not your best bet when the odds are relatively short. Instead, one of the three options below are likely to reward you better.

Betting Without

Betting without simply removes one runner from the market and ignores it from the result of the race. The market can exclude any of the contenders but typically betting without will exclude the favourite. This can be either a named runner or an unnamed favourite. So, if you are eyeing up the 7/2 second-favourite but are rather fearful of the 5/2 frontrunner, you can choose to ignore the market leader from the betting (at least in many of the bigger races). Should you do so, this will reduce the odds of all other runners in the contest. In a 12-horse race we looked at, excluding the favourite reduced the price of the 7/2 second-favourite to 9/4. Let’s take a look at the difference in payouts should it end up finishing second or third.

With a £5 each way bet, backing the 7/2 second-favourite would see you lose £1.50 as odds on the place portion of the bet are a fifth of the standard price. If you used your £10 and put it on a 9/4 bet without the favourite, however, you would instead score a £22.50 net win. So, this can be a great alternative if you find a runner you really like, but there is one horse (usually at lower odds) that poses a real danger. It also offers appeal in races where there is one very strong favourite that is likely to prevail. By eliminating the hot favourite from the market, you can back the next best horse without fearing you will lose half your stake before the contest has even begun.

Place Betting or Top 2/3/4

We have paired these together because they can often mean the same thing and because it operates in the same way. With a straight-up ‘to be placed’ bet you are simply backing the horse (or dog) to finish anywhere in the placed positions. For a horse race with five to seven runners this means finishing first or second; but in larger races, third and possibly fourth will also be included, just be sure to check the each way terms for the race in question. Using the same example as above, the 7/2 second-favourite ends up being 4/5 in the place only market.

Although this would only see us gain an £8 net win, this is much better than the £1.50 loss we would get if the horse placed and we had opted for an each way bet. A top 2/3/4 finish works in largely the same way only it may not necessarily correlate to the number of ‘place’ positions. This added flexibility can come in handy though as you might be confident that your horse will finish in the top two rather than simply placing (which might be top three). If this was the case, you could back the same horse mentioned above at odds of 5/4 rather than 4/5.

These bets can go the other way too as it is possible with some bookies to bet on a top-three finish even when there are only two place spots. Obviously, your returns will drop for this by a decent margin as the odds will be shorter but you will likely find it still returns you more money than an each way bet.


There are no minimum odds you need to be aware of when placing an each way bet, no matter if it is horse or greyhound racing. Do think twice before having an each way flutter at low odds though. Just because you can do it, and bookies will gladly accept it, does not necessarily make it a good idea as returns will be small (and often less than your initial stake) should your selected runner only manage to place. If you are confident of a place finish but less so of a victory, and the odds are small, better value markets are available such as place only or betting without the favourite