Betting Basics for Horse Racing

Backing Winners

What should I know about placing bets with Offshore Bookmakers or my Local Shop?

Placing bets with an offshore bookmaker or with your local shop is a completely different situation from betting at the track or with the legal off-track systems. The first thing you must check is the maximum odds paid. Some offshore bookmakers, particularly those who specialize in horse racing or who have a large race betting business will pay full track odds with no limitation. Some specialized horse racing shops will even rebate a portion of your losses to you as a way of lessening the large track take and gaining a competitive edge. Many, however, limit their payouts. All the local outlaws I have ever known or heard about limit the payouts.

The first question you must ask if you intend to bet with an offshore or local bookmaking operation is, “What is are the maximum payout odds?” The maximum odds at many bookmakers is so low that it simply doesn’t pay to bet. If you are not getting at least 35-1 as the maximum on Win bets, 20-1 on Place Bets, and 15-1 on Show bets, find another bookmaker, preferably one who pays full track odds. If the limits are above those quoted you can bet Win, Place, and Show, but don’t bet exotics if there is any limitation at all. Nothing is worse than hitting a triple or pick-4 for $1200 for each $2 bet and having your bookmaker tell you, “Our maximum payout is 75-1, here’s your $150 sucka. You shoulda asked first.” This actually happened to a few people when we hit a triple paying over $1000 for a $2 bet. One guy actually had a book with a limit of 35-1 on exotics, and got paid only $70 of his $1240 win. If your book limits the exotic payouts, either don’t bet the exotics or, once again, find another bookmaker.

If you bet with an off-shore bookmaker you must also be very careful about timing your bets. Don’t wait too long beyond 10 minutes to post before you call. Many offshore books require all bets to be placed at least 3 minutes before the time listed by the track as the official start of the race. Given the time it takes the clerks to answer the phone and write down your bets by hand, you risk being shut out if you leave yourself less than ten minutes to make your bets.

Be sure to ask the clerk to give you a bet time when betting with an offshore book. Your bet time is usually assigned by the computer after you confirm your final bet. Write the bet time down. If the bet time is on or before the time of the race published in the official charts at (also published in your local newspaper or the Daily Racing Form) then you have a bet. If the bet time you were given is after the start time in the charts you have NO bet, even if you were watching the TV and you know the race didn’t start until after you bet.

The offshore bookmaker rules disallowing bets are non-negotiable at most shops. They may seem harsh, but they were necessitated by cheats who use delays in video or audio transmission and inaccuracies in track clocks or in bookmaker clocks to regularly past-post bookmakers. An entire 6-furlong race only takes about 70 seconds to run. If your bookmaker’s clock varies by only 30 seconds from the track clock, a person at the track with a cell phone can bet halfway through the race. If the track clock is fast by a mere 45 seconds and the bookmaker’s clock is slow by 45 seconds, the cheats can even bet after the race is over. Thus the three-minute rule.


Most bookmakers only check winning bets for time — not all bets. This means that you must check every bet you lose to see if your bet time is before or after the official start time. If the bet time you got from the bookmaker is after the official start time of the race as listed in the newspaper charts or on, then YOU will need to tell your offshore bookmaker not to count the loss. Don’t worry, he’ll be sure to tell you that you have “No Bet” if you win. I’ve saved a few losers by checking all bet times against race starts, even though I believed all my bets were in time. You’d be amazed at how wrong some track clocks or bookmaker clocks can be sometimes. I have experienced official times at tracks to be as much as 5 minutes slow, causing races that started long after I bet them to be officially posted as having started before I bet them.

Finally, unlike at the racetrack, when betting with an offshore or a local bookmaker it is wise to give both the horse name and program number. The offshore and local bookmakers usually have the racing programs (called scratch sheets) and will look for each horse and number as you say the bet. The name of the horse is what will count if there is a mistake as to the number. Betting by name avoids some of the mistakes and confusion that occur when betting by program number.

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