You can always tell a new better when you hear them ask if the skill is involved when wagering on a horse race. Perhaps it’s the phrase ‘lady luck’ that throws them, but to give you just a short answer, yes, there is a great deal of skill involved in horse race betting.
Even so, you will find that occasional time when someone has a stroke of beginner’s luck and will hit the jackpot simply by the luck of the draw, to coin another gambling phrase. Let’s take a few moments to understand what kind of skills are needed along with the time it requires to gain those skills.
The Odds Are…
When betting on horse races in person or online at sites like Toals, you are given the odds on each horse in each race until moments before they leave the gate. Those odds are telling. New bettors tend to look at odds in a very basic way. For example, 2:1 odds means simply that if you bet £5 and your horse comes in with those odds, you will win £10, or double your money which is two for one.
When betting on a horse with 9:4 odds, you will get back nine units (in this case pounds) for every four you wager, called a stake. So then, you stake £4 and get back £9. That’s a little better than 2:1 odds but obviously not as good as 3:1 where you’d get back £12 on a £4 stake. At this point, it is simple math, but you would still be working on sheer luck, and almost on luck alone.
If You Know the Odds, Why Is It Luck?
You would think that betting the odds would involve no luck, or skill for that matter. The odds are in your favor, at least you think they are. Actually, that isn’t quite true at all. Those odds are assessed based on how each horse did on tracks like the one they will be running, weather conditions and against horses that also ran (or not) on similar tracks and weather conditions. Then there is the all-important jockey to add to the equation.
Has that horse been ridden to a win by today’s jockey and if not, how often has that jockey ridden the horse, if at all. Did the horse have a series of losses with that rider? All of this goes into calculating the odds so that each horse is given such and such a chance of winning. Make sense so far? Good. Then why is it still luck?
Actually, luck enters into the picture because those odds are more often wrong than they are right! Favourites come in only about 1/3 of the time while those with higher odds tend to come in about 67 percent of the time. You are still working on luck if you go on someone else’s predictions, that is, on the odds.
Where Does Skill Enter In?
If you’ve been following along all that goes into calculating odds, you’ll see the kinds of skill you need to place a good bet. Everything mentioned above was based on a set of skills that comes from time and experience betting the horses. If you’ve never bet before and aren’t familiar with the horses, the track, the jockey, the trainer, the owner, the stables and so many other factors, you won’t have the tools needed to calculate odds. All of that goes into your skill set and without it, you are betting on a hunch or the odds.
Timing is also critical when it comes to skill. Many seasoned bettors wait until the very last minute to place their wager simply to see if the odds change any in the moments leading up to the race. Sometimes changes in odds are telling. Learning to read the signs is also a part of your skill set and a very important one at that!
When All Is Said and Done – There Is Still Something to Be Said for Luck
So then, you have seen how important skill is when picking a winner but luck still has its role. There are times when some external factor changes the odds mid-race and all of a sudden all your careful calculations go down the drain. The horse in front of your stumbles, sending yours into a frenzy or a loud noise breaks your horse’s attention and focus on that line up ahead.
Skill, luck and the odds are all a part of what goes into picking winning horse after winning horse, but it won’t be accomplished overnight. Just keep placing those bets and learning the ropes and before long your skills will definitely outweigh lady luck. That’s what seasoned bettors have over beginners and why they win more and more often.