One of the great dilemmas of betting is whether to bet straight out for the win, or 'play safe' by having the same amount of money spread equally for a win and a place (each way). I get asked often about my views.

The best way to find out what works is to check your own betting records (you do keep them, don't you?!) and then apply both theories to them - all selections backed for a win, all selections backed for a place.

Let's say you went back over a month's betting and found you had 20 selections. You had a 20 per cent win strike (4 winners) and a 50 per cent place strike (10 placegetters, including the winners). The winners were all 3/1, and the other 6 placegetters were at 4/1 (evens the place).

Betting all selections to win for $10 each, you would have had a return of $160 units on your outlay of $200. Betting each way (that is, $5 each way, you would have registered the following:

WINS: Four at 3/1 x $5 for a return of $80.

PLACES: Six at evens x $5 for a return of $60.

PLACES: Four at, say, 4/5 x $5 for a return of $36.

In all, the each way betting has returned you $176 for a loss of $24, as against a $40 loss for win betting only. In this instance, you were slightly better off betting each way.

But if you're a punter who can secure a higher strike rate and better prices, you might be better off betting win only. Let's say you were able to back 7 winners at 3/1 from the 20 bets, but still the same number of placegetters (10) - 7 at, say, 4/5 and the other 3 at evens the place.

Betting for a win only at $10 per bet you would outlay $200 on the total 20 selections for a return of $280. Betting $5 each way, you would have a return of $140 on the win bets. Then you'd have seven place returns at 4/5 per $5 bet. That's a total return of $63. Then you'd have three even-money returns at $5 a bet for a return of $30. In all, then, the each way approach grosses you $233.

This is a long way behind the win only return of $280. On this occasion, you have played safe but lost out. The high proportion of winners has felled you.

It's been my experience, and that of others, that in the long run, win betting is the way to travel, if you are consistent with your selecting. The place aspect can drag you down, and siphon money from your big-paying winners. Take an 8/1 winner as an example. Bet $10 for a win and you get $90 back. Play the same horse $5 each way, and your return is $60 ($45 from the win bet and $15 from the place bet). You have shaved the odds from 8/1 down to 5/1 because of the place component.

There are some important points to keep in mind about each way betting, though. The facts are that the punter has an advantage over the bookmaker in fields with 8 to 12 runners, if he backs each way horses quoted at 7/1 and shorter. The shorter the win price the greater the advantage for a place.

The longer the price above 7/1, the better it is for the each way bookmaker. But, as Don Scott pointed out in his fine book Winning More, in the 1990s, as the on-course punters grow fewer and fewer, only a handful of amateur gamblers are backing horses each way at 8/1 or longer. The professionals are backing 6/4 and 2/1 chances each
way, a practice Scott says compels each way bookies to operate at a loss.

Many punters in the so-called 'amateur' bracket don't like to bet 6 /4 and 2/1 chances each way. They reason that the price is too short to take a quarter the odds for a place, and so they wager for a win only. If their win strike is high, this approach is the best. If their selections are 'off' and the place strike is high, the each way makes sense.

Let's see what would happen with 20 bets on horses at 2/1. Assuming you can score 7 winners and 12 placegetters and you bet $10 a win versus $5 each way. How would you come out of things?

Betting for a win, you'd have 7 winners at 2/1 x $10 for a total return of $210, and a profit of $10. Betting each way, you would have 7 winners at 2/1 x $5 for a return of $105, and 12 placegetters at $5 each at a quarter the odds, which would 1/2. These 12 place bets would return you $90, making a total return of $195, a loss of $5.

In this case, then, the straight win bets have made you a profit and the each way has made you a small loss. But what would happen in a situation where from 20 selections you struck, say, 5 winners at 7/1, 6/1, 4/1, 2/1 and 10/1 and another 4 placegetters at 4/1 each?

Betting $10 a win, you would secure a total return of $340, a profit of $140. Betting $5 each way you would have a total return on the win bets of $170, and $111 from the place bets, a total of $281, a profit of only $81. The more daring win-only betting has made a significantly higher profit on turnover - $140 against $81.

You can see now that the decision whether to bet each way should be determined by the strength of your selections. Sometimes betting for the place as well as a win can be a lifesaver, especially if you strike a horrendous run when your selections are getting pipped on the post all the time!

How many winners, then, could you reasonably expect from, say, 10 bets? My own feeling is that over a period of time you could expect probably only two if you were betting, for example horses around the 6/1 mark. Similarly, I believe you would be lucky to manage 50 per cent placings from the 10.

The shorter the odds about your selections the more winners per 10 you will select, but, of course, the returns will be smaller.

Slimming up, I think you can follow a series of rules and manage to get the whole thing into some perspective:

  1. It's best to bet a horse each way up to around 3/1 or even 7/2. On the TAB this would mean horses paying for the win around $4.00 or $4.50. C)n the tote, alas, you won't always get a quarter of the odds for the place. More likely a fifth! So remember that, too. The tote place divvies can pay below or above the quarter offered by bookies on fields of 8 or more.
  2. When you have 2 horses in a race, you can forget each way. It's wiser to back both for a win. In fact, betting two horses to win is a good way to forget all about each way betting. Many punters prefer this approach. They say they stand to win more money this way, with 2 chances to collect at win prices.

The each way dilemma is one that will never go away. Everyone has his or her own point of view. In this article I've tried to point out some of the positives and negatives and I hope I have helped you find the way!

By Rick Roberts