Horse Racing Odds 2023: How To Read Odds and Calculate Payouts

Horse racing is obviously a hugely popular sport on a global scale. And when it comes to betting, horse racing is desirable for all kinds of reasons. But before you can bet on horse racing, it is critical that you understand how horse racing odds actually work.

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Of course, you can engage in this form of betting through different platforms, much like you can with other sites. This includes horse racing betting apps, standard desktop sites, as well as mobile sites. So as you can hopefully see, this form of betting is very accessible these days. But before you get lined up and ready to make some bets, we want to run through how to read TVG horse racing odds right now.

And by the time you are done reading this, we are confident in stating that you’ll have a much better understanding of horse racing odds payouts, how to calculate horse racing odds, and so much more. So, let’s get started, shall we?

How do odds work in horse racing?

The actual odds in horse racing can be displayed in many ways. They can be displayed in fractional, decimal, or American style. The latter is what we shall be focusing on here since horse racing odds will often be shown in this format all of the best horse racing betting sites in the USA. If you’re new to horse racing betting online, the odds may just look like random numbers thrown together. But we can assure you that the odds are structured, and they have great importance regarding winning probabilities.

To show you exactly how horse racing betting odds work, it’s probably best to run through a quick example. Let’s go through a hypothetical race here in which there will be five horses competing. To keep things simple, let’s simply give the horses a number each of 1-5. Now, when you look at the horse racing odds through an online sportsbook, each horse will be given a probability of winning the race – as identified in the odds. Again, in order to keep things straightforward, let’s give the horses the following odds:

  • Horse 1 – -200
  • Horse 2 – +100
  • Horse 3 – +200
  • Horse 4 – +300
  • Horse 5 – +400

As you can see, there is a number assigned to each horse that will be competing in this hypothetical race. Only one horse has a negative number, and basically, this means that the horse has a better than 50% chance of winning. For all others, they have a positive symbol. And the best way of explaining the payout is that the number shows what you’d get back from a $100 bet. Of course, you can then adjust the calculations as necessary depending on the amount of money that you stake.

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Horse Racing Odds Payout Calculator

For the hypothetical race we’ve been talking about here, let’s say that horse 3 actually manages to win the race. Given the pre-race odds of +200 for horse 3 to win, this means that if you’d thrown down a $100 stake on this market, you would receive $200 in profit. However, if you had backed any of the other horses to win the race, your bet wouldn’t result in a win. But don’t forget, the horse racing betting odds that you see for a race always identify the relative chances of that horse winning.

So while in this example, the favored horse didn’t win, this isn’t always the case. Then again, that’s why they call it ‘gambling’ – as nobody knows what the outcome will be for any specific horse race.

Horse Racing Betting Terms

To coincide with building your knowledge regarding horse racing betting odds, it’s critical that you also understand the key terms for this sport. And at this point, you should have a much better understanding of how to read horse racing odds. So let us switch things up a bit and draw your attention to key horse racing betting terms:


Whenever you check up on the odds before a major horse race, you will see a set of markets known as the ‘ante-post’ selections. Now, ante-post essentially means that these are the markets you can bet on well in advance. In many cases, the list of runners may not have been announced for the race too. For that reason, the odds you can get when browsing through the ante-post options are often much higher. Of course, the danger is that your chosen horse doesn’t end up racing.

But many sportsbooks will refund your stake if this is the case, which does reduce the risk of taking a swing at the ante-post options.

Each way

In the example provided above, we only focused on the horse racing betting odds regarding who might win the race. But with horse racing, you don’t have to shoot for the winner. There are many other markets you can also consider, and the each-way market is perhaps the most popular of them all. If you make an each-way bet, you are actually betting on two outcomes. One part of your bet is placed on that specific horse to get the win. The other part of the bet is placed on that horse to ‘place’.

For a horse to place, it often needs to finish inside the top three or four, depending on the race in question.


We’ve talked about ‘place’ markets above, so you’ve already had a nice introduction to this market. As a quick reminder, you can simply bet on a horse to place, which is different from the each-way market mentioned above. When doing so, your chosen horse must finish inside the top three or four, in most cases. Now, in terms of the question ‘how do odds work in horse racing, this market is a little different. The odds you’ll see will be lower than the odds for that particular horse to win.

And that’s because there is naturally a better chance that the horse will finish inside the top three or four compared with its chances of winning the overall race.

how to calculate horse racing odds

Tips on How to Get the Most From Horse Racing Odds

Finally, now that your education on how to calculate horse racing odds is complete, what should you do to get the most value when betting on horse racing? Well, we have a quick few tips that you can use when wagering on horse racing betting apps, desktop sites, and other supported platforms:

  • Don’t always back the winner

If you constantly back the winner, even if that horse does win, your payouts will be lower than if you’d picked other horses. And remember, you can pick other horses to place rather than picking them to win.

  • Make use of bonuses where possible

If you can lock in bonuses to wager on horse racing, you can bet without having to stake your own cash. You can find bonuses at all of the top sportsbooks in the USA, including brands like FanDuel and DraftKings.

  • Look for races with ‘extra places’

Remember what we said above regarding extra places? Well, if you choose races with these incentives, your chances of making a winning bet are also improved!

For more information on horse racing odds, picks, or if you just want to know the favorites for a race, check out our free horse racing picks page.