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Place Betting on Favourites: Does It Pay?

To date, most of the statistical articles on Race Advisor have focused on making a profit from backing winning horses. Yet there is also the potential to make money from ‘place’ betting. This is, of course, the practice of backing a horse at medium to long odds with the hope that it finishes ‘in the places’. Depending on the size of the race, this could be the first two, three, four or even five positions.

This type of wager is also known as ‘each-way’ betting and casual punters tend to only make this bet for huge events such as the Grand National or Gold Cup which of course makes the bookies very happy. The trouble with place betting is that a lot of people choose it due to a lack of confidence over their selection. If you use it sensibly and strategically however, you can turn it from a money pit into a nice little earner.

Few people ever think of using place betting on favourites because the odds are typically too short. Take a look at how place betting odds are calculated:

  • 1-4 Runners: Win only so no place bet opportunity.
  • 5-7 Runners: First and second only and you receive 25% of the win odds.
  • 8+ Runners: First three places and you get 20% of the win odds.
  • 12-15 Runner Handicaps: First three places with 20% of the win odds.
  • 16+ Runner Handicaps: First four places with 25% of the win odds.

Then there are a few special events where bookies offer five or six places with 20% of the win odds. Such races usually have 30+ runners.

Using the above figures, you would need the favourite to be 4/1 for the 25% races and 5/1 for the 20% races just to get your money back if it doesn’t win. This obviously presents a problem because a favourite at those kinds of odds isn’t a particularly strong one. Favourites at those odds regularly finish outside the places so it is tricky to find long-term value.

The Betfair Advantage

You can potentially find better value on the Betfair Exchange as it offers Place Bets only. In contrast, most bookies require you to go each way which means double the stake since you are also covering the win.

Here is a quick example to show how Place only works on Betfair in comparison to each way.

Double Up was 3.05 to win and 1.45 to Place only in a race with 8 runners. If you bet £10 each way on the horse and it finishes second or third, you would receive £14.10 for a loss of £5.90.

If you simply put £20 on the Place only bet at 1.45, you would end up with £29 for a £9 profit. In other words, you would be £14.90 better off in this scenario.

Obviously if Double Up was to win, your each way bet would yield returns of £44.60 for a £24.60 profit. However, a Place bet may be the right option for punters who are adept at picking contenders that seldom win; a common affliction in the betting world!

It is important to point out that while you get 1.45 odds for the Place bet only, you receive just 1.41 for the ‘place’ portion of the each way bet. While 0.04 doesn’t seem like much, it can add up over the course of time and the variance is often much larger.

Can We Make Profit With Betfair Place Only?

As per usual, I will be looking at data from 2012 to the present. The first step is to check out the statistics relating to favourites; remember, the goal is to try and win by backing favourites on Place Only bets.

Bets Place % ROI
55877 65.12% -1.68%

If for some reason you had performed a Place Only bet on all 55,000+ favourites since 2012, your ROI loss would be just 1.68%. This is actually pretty good for blind beting and immediately suggests that there is something to work with. Incidentally, backing all favourites to win would result in a ROI loss of -6.98%.

What Are The Odds?

I briefly looked at all favourites with Betfair Place Odds of 1.01-1.50. The trouble with this is that you need a very high place percentage to make a profit:

Bets Place % ROI
24847 78.23 -1.1%

Despite a 78% place rate, you still lose a small amount of money.

I looked for ‘value’ bets so focused on 8-10 runner races with Betfair Place odds of 2-2.50. A quick browse through the different Classes showed that Class 4 was the best:

Bets Place % ROI
303 49.17% 2.64%

Yes, a profit but 2.84% is not the kind of ROI to set the pulses racing.

DSLR

In previous articles we have found profitability from checking out Days Since Last Run so I decided to go back to the well. Again, I am looking at favourites from 2012-present.

DSLR Bets Place% ROI
1-7 5517 66.64% 0.78%
8-30 30859 65.15% -1.53%
31-60 9369 64.72% -1.79%
61+ 8154 64.34% -2.78%

The data above suggests that we need to focus on horses that have run in the last 7 days.

The next step is to see if we can improve the ROI for 1-7 DSLR favourites by digging a little deeper.

The ROI increases when you focus on Class 5 events only:

Bets Place % ROI
1592 69.25% 2.76%

Promising but not enough to give bookmakers a headache just yet. Now I’ll divide the above into the three race codes to see if we see any further improvements.

Race Code Bets Place% ROI
National Hunt 416 72.12% 4.71%
Flat 776 66.06% 0.07%
All Weather 400 72.43% 5.97%

We can now get rid of Flat Class 5 events and switch our focus to National Hunt and AW races.

Let’s go back to the different Betfair Place odds again and see if you should focus on short priced places or take a risk with longer odds. Just to recap, here are the other criteria I am using:

  • 2012-2016
  • Class 5
  • 1-7 Days Since Last Run
  • Favourites
Race Code Betfair Place Odds Bets Place% ROI
AW 1.01-1.50 214 79.91% 0.41%
AW 1.51-1.99 143 62.24% 2.27%
AW 2.00+ 42 69.55% 47.07%
NH 1.01-1.50 234 80.77% 4.30%
NH 1.51-1.99 154 62.99% 4.73%
NH 2.00+ 28 50% 8.21%

As you can see, you’ll make a profit regardless of the odds but it seems as if backing longer odds favourites in AW races is a really profitable strategy. Clearly, you would be searching for 3/1+ favourites and the almost 70% place ratio of such favourites in AW races is extremely high. Of course, with only 42 such horses in the last 5 years, you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled!

Conclusion

By focusing on DSLR, I was able to find that horses with a recent run out offered the best chance for Betfair Place betting profit. It is also apparent that favourites in Class 5 races in All-Weather and National Hunt events are well worth looking at. Additionally, it might be worth looking at longer odds because while the strike rate for short priced Place odds favourites is high; it isn’t actually high enough to provide a profit.

Overall, you can make a profit from Place Betting on Favourites. Many years ago, bookies on the High Street used to accept Place Only bets. Ultimately, they began to lose money so they switched to each way wagers. This information alone suggests there is profit to be made and the research above seems to correspond with that theory.

One final point; if you decide to use Betfair Exchange, always wait until approximately 10 minutes before the start of the race (the ‘show) before placing your bet as this is the time when you’ll get the best value for money.

All of the above figures have been derived using Betfair Starting Price and do not include the 5% commission the exchange take off. This may mean that the results of this system show a small loss or break even. However, if you use this process to find contenders and then use form reading to determine which horses to bet on, you will be able to bring this into profit easily and effectively.

I recommend that you read some of the form reading approaches that we use here.

Patrick Lynch

Patrick graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with an MA in Literature and Publishing but decided he would rather have the freedom of a freelance writer than be stuck in a publishing house all day. He has enjoyed this freedom since 2009 and has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics but sports betting is his passion. While his specialty is finding mismatches in obscure football leagues, he also likes to use his research skills to provide punters with detailed winning strategies in horse racing. You can check out his personal blog on www.lynchthewriter.com or Twitter @pl1982 where he writes content to help small businesses achieve success.

3 Comments

  1. Really Great Post (Thank You). Do you happen to know how the same Place Betting Data Looks when only Handicap Races are considered? If not, any chance you might consider a similar Post on Place Betting ‘Handicap’ Races?

    1. Hi Martin,

      So I just looked at a few statistics; they are slightly updated so I am focusing on 2013-2017 here.
      Favourites that last ran 1-7 days before the race fare better in handicap races from the bettor’s perspective with 65.45% place strike rate on Betfair and a slight profit of 1.42% compared to a higher strike rate of 73.19% in non-handicap races but with a LOSS of 2.43%.
      In the article, focusing on Class 5 events gave you a 2.76% ROI which increases to 3.76% when you focus on Handicaps only.
      Finally, using the following criteria
      • 2013-2017
      • Class 5
      • 1-7 Days Since Last Run
      • Favourites
      • AW
      • Odds of 2.00+ for place
      We had an excellent 47% ROI in the article. With handicap races only, the ROI is 44% with the updated statistics although admittedly, there are hardly any non-handicap events.
      In summation, it appears as if handicap races offer slightly better value but as always, be your own detective!

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