Paul Cooper: How Odds are decided

Bookmakers drive Bentleys and punters ride bicycles – Not always true. I know a number of broke bookies!


Why is a certain horse ‘evens’ and another 3/1 and another 20/1? It is often presumed that the punters/gamblers make the odds. No, the bookmakers start the ‘Book’. Bookmakers employ oddsmakers who are knowledgeable about the form of the horse, the horse’s likelihood of acting well on the prevailing ground on a given racecourse, the well-being of the trainer’s horses, the skill of the jockey etc. The betting exchanges also give helpful clues as to whether a certain horse is fancied. Normally a horse that has been winning at York, Ascot or Chester is going to be a shorter price than one that has been getting beaten at Catterick or Thirsk. The bookie’s odds build in a profit margin. That does not mean that they make a profit on every race – just most of them! 


When the odds are available to the betting public there will be fluctuations and oscillations in the ‘Odds’ as a results of the punters’ bets. The more a horse is backed, the more the given price will contract. It is like supply and demand. 

Some punters, normally losing ones, just latch on to what Frankie Dettori is riding or to what is being backed. The shrewd punter, however, will work out what is ‘value for money’. If he thinks a horse has a chance but is only 5/1 when he thinks it should be 8/1 the chances are he will not bet. On the other hand if that horse is 12/1 the shrewd punter may double his bet. 

Ah that Bentley!

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