I've never been much of an each-way punter, that old conundrum of whether to halve your stake or double it to incorporate the original win element.
However, since I've been taking this game more seriously it's clear that there are some occasions that merit an each-way bet, or more pertinently a place only wager on the machine.
After a couple of months on the sidelines I decided to skip up to Ripon on Tuesday night for a slice of the action, armed with a few Timeform comments and a handful of Racing Post ratings. I'll admit I had only heard of half a dozen of the horses names.
The reason I wanted to write this post was that I had a couple of bets that got me thinking about the merits of each-way betting, and how best to utilise it.
Firstly, you may wish to go here to read James's eloquent post on when and when not to delve into the murky world of place betting. Don't forget to come right back though!
Let me say right now that I understand for many winning punters the each-way market is pretty much dead; A, because you can't get on with the firms and B, the place markets are not liquid enough. Which is another reason why I still like to bet on course, but more of that in a bit.
So, back to Ripon and the first bet in question was a 9/2 poke called Athollblair Boy in the opening maiden. De Sousa riding for N Tinkler was a good starting point and he was a big, strong horse who looked sure to build on a recent run at York that yielded an RPR of 65 - the best of those with experience.
The market was headed by Godolphin's By Far at 5/2, but he looked a bit green and on the small side and I figured if he'd shown a great deal at home he would have been much shorter against this lot.
There were others of interest including Dreaming Of Rio, a nice looking horse who had been backed throughout the day, and newcomer Best New Show, who looked fine without perhaps being strong enough to go in first time.
With Candy Banter and More Kudos being notably weak in the market it looked like there were four live runners. In fact, after much deliberation I came to the conclusion that Athollblair Boy was near banker material to hit frame. Which gave me a dilemma - a traditional each-way bet, a lump in the place only market, or go win-only.
On reflection an each-way bet was the sensible play with an unraced juvenile making the market, and with nothing more than fair value of around 1.9 offered in the place market. After all, there's nothing worse (well, I suppose there is) than having a nice place bet only to see it hose up. Which is exactly what it did.
I was happy throughout the race that I had made the correct play, only towards the end feeling a twinge of regret at not having something on to win. But this is not about the result, it's about looking at the thinking process behind doing what we do, and finding ways to improve.
* As it happens, the internet connection at Ripon is notoriously poor in places and while trying to get £300 on in the place market the line was contracting and with the wifi playing up I was only matched to £110, copping me about £90 on the race. Even more reason to leave me wishing I'd had something like a ton each-way with the bookies!
The second bet was on Belle Travers in the mile handicap. With eight runners heading to post I was keen to find some each-way value particularly as I wanted to take on the hot favourite Ajaadat, whom I had not taken to at Thirsk the time before last. The only issue would be the price.
Belle Travers had been 8/1 all day but was down to 6s by the time I hit the ring, and at that price I was a bit reluctant. However, one layer who clearly didn't have her in the book went 7/1 even though she was only 7.8 on Betfair. Value!
Again I was very happy to have made the bet (she returned 5s) and would have been even happier if T Hamilton had kicked on two out, possibly resulting in a different outcome!
I can give you another example of each-way betting that drives you a little bit mad. There were three occasions I can recall in the winter when I backed 9/2 chances each-way even though I fancied them very strongly. (The reason I remember the bets so well is because they did all win.)
I was probably calmer during those races knowing I had some insurance, if you like, even though part of me was screaming that I should have had more on to win as I was sure each of the horses would go very close. But I felt that at odds of 9-8 or 9-10 the place element was tremendous value.
I suppose the bottom line is that we all have our comfort levels and we each need to set our own parameters regarding place betting.
Personally, I feel I need to be better at maximising profits so unless there are races that offer great value in terms of each-way or place betting (and there will be) I'll be looking to concentrate more on the win side of things. In the long run I fancy my chances.
Food for thought anyway. If you'd like to add your views please do use the comments box.