Live Betting On Television

Okay, so you've got a bit of an interest about horses and/or racing and you've settled down to watch a race on television. The commentators in the studio have mentioned a few horses and as the horses go down to the start the display on the screen changes shape and, then, there's a whole pile of numbers along with the horses displayed. What's this all about?

The displays are all to do with the live betting markets. There are two common screen formats and they both show different information.

The first type of display shows the current state of the live markets. Have a look at this screenshot below:

Showing the Live Prices in the Betting Ring and on the Tote

This may look daunting, but it isn't. Like most things in life which look over complicated spending a few minutes for examination makes it all come clear.

Racing in Ireland and the United Kingdom we are blessed by having two types of bookmaking; there is the Pari-Mutuel which is a pool betting method which we call The Tote and there are the bookmakers who stand in the Betting Ring which make the market much in the same way that stockbrokers make the market in the City of London.

This screenshot, of a race which was run at 3:40 at Folkestone, shows the two different markets. The actual action of the race is shown in the window at the top left of the screen. Here we can see the horses going behind the stalls and one of the starter's assistants standing in front in white with a flag. At the moment we are not interested in the live action but on the data presented.

Towards the bottom of the screen there is a scrolling caption (just to the left of the clock). Here we can see that the horse, Winning Note is 16/1. This means that the general price available in the betting ring at the time is 16/1. We say 'general' because some bookmakers may be offering 12/1 (they may have had some money placed on it and they want to dissuade others from betting on it by lowering their prices) whilst others may be offering 20/1 or whatever. But, in general, the price of 16/1 can be obtained in the Betting Ring.

This caption scrolls and it shows the prices of all the horses starting with the horse with the lowest price (the favourite) all the way through to the highest priced horses and then, often, the names of non-runners. This scrolling caption is continually updated to match any moves in the betting market.

To the right of the live video action and above the clock are the current return prices on The Tote for both a win and a place bet.

The Tote being a betting pool means that one can't go and get a particular price. The figures that appear are the what the pool payouts would be if the race were to start now and no more money were to be placed into the pool. As money is placed on a certain horse then the return on that horse would fall slightly whilst the returns on the others would rise.

One can also bet 'to win' and also 'to place' on the Tote and these are the two return prices. The first number of the two is the current return value of a win bet and the second is the place value. In the above example one can see that on the Tote Winning Note would return £26.00 if it won and £9.70 on a place.

All of the prices on the Tote are for £1 bets. Therefore, for £1 staked on Winning Note on the Tote then one would get £26 back. This beats the current price in the betting ring by nine points! Note that the Tote returns also includes the stake so one could say that £26 equates to 25/1.

As a rule, the horses which are at the 'longer end' of the market (i.e. not the favourites or near favourites) tend to offer better prices on the Tote. So, if ever a 33/1 horse ever takes your fancy then have a look on the Tote to see what the current price is there. At the Cheltenham Festival, for example, Royal Predica went off at 33/1, though 40/1 was available in the betting ring in places. But on the Tote it was available at £92, in other words 91/1. You can perhaps guess where we were queuing to place our bets.


Then, from time to time, this second price display screen will appear.

This screenshot was taken from the 6:30 at Uttoxeter on the 5th March, 2003, and it shows, at a glance, the current prices of all the horses.

The time and the location of the meeting is at the top of the card, which is self-explanatory. And, down the left hand side, all of the names of the horses are listed.

The price for each horse is to the right and the most right-hand value is the latest price available. So, the favourite is Rimpton Boy which was evens and now is currently at 5/6.

Note that these prices are taken from the betting ring and is only a rough guide to what is 'readily available'. Whilst some bookmakers may be offering evens on the horse the general market is offering 5/6. So, as the mood and prices swing in the betting ring then the prices here will change by adding a new value to the right hand side.

Two important things to note there. The first is that the left hand price need not be the opening price. It is quite likely that a horse such as Rimpton Boy could have started off at, say, 6/4 and there have been enough price changes to have the opening price scroll off the left hand side of the screen. Now in the case of the much unloved Robert The Rascal (now available at 100/1) it would be safe to say that he opened at 50/1 and there was only significant price move which pushed him out to 100/1.

The second thing to be aware of is that in this table there are no vertical columns as such. In other words there is no time correlation between any of the price movements. So, one cannot say and must not assume that at the time that Rimpton Boy moved from Evens to 10/11 that Fashion House went from 7/2 out to 4/1. It may have happened at the same time, it may have about about the same time or it may have happened three or four minutes apart. We cannot stress this enough; there is no time relation between any of the price change events.

However, we can say that, overall, Rimpton Boy is coming in (the price is getting less) whilst the rest of the others are 'going out' (the prices are getting higher) whilst, perhaps there is a little bit of support for Red Hare (14/1 from 16/1).

This is the whole purpose of this screen; just to reflect the general price movements of each of the horses and nothing more.

Sometimes if there are more runners than can fit onto the screen then only the ones at the 'closest end of the market' (the ones which are the more favoured horses and not the outsiders) will be shown and then the last row may say something like 'Bar 16' which means that the rest of the horses are at 16/1 or more. These outsiders won't then appear on this unless they start to move in and displace one of the other horses.

We would like to thank Bill Gourley for the screenshots.