It is for such betting scenarios that an “each-way” bet might be the more prudent way to go. Put simply, an each-way bet gives you extra opportunities to win by backing a horse/competitor/team to finish in the top few positions to give you a winning return, but at reduced odds.
Where is each-way betting used?
This method is particularly popular in horse racing, football competitions, golf and tennis tournaments, etc, where there is a large field of competitors with plenty of outsiders that could provide a profit, even at reduced odds, just by finishing in the top few places.
For golf competitions, for example, where there can be upwards of a hundred golfers taking part, some bookmakers will offer pre-tournament each-way returns for as many as the top ten finishing positions for 1/4 or 1/5 of the published odds . So while Rory McIlroy at 5/1 to win a Major might not look too enticing, Brooks Koepka at odds of 40/1 might look much more appealing as an each-way bet, because even if you only get 1/5 of the odds, that would still equate to odds of 8/1 just for achieving a top-ten finish.
But by far most the most popular sport for each-way betting is horse racing, so that is where we will look with more detail into how this kind of sports betting works.
What is an each way bet?
Let's start by discussing exactly what an each-way bet is. Well, to be precise, it is actually one bet split into two parts, with half of the stake going on the horse to win, and the other half going on the horse to be placed.
Covering the basics of each-way betting
Before we go further, perhaps we should examine this term "placed" and find out just where your horse needs to finish to be "placed".
Well, that depends on the number of horses that start the race, and the broad rule of thumb for the size of a field is outlined below:
2-4 runners, Win only - ie. each way bets are not covered
5-7 runners, ¼ the odds for 1st and 2nd placed horses.
8-15 runners, ¼ the odds for 1st, 2nd and 3rd placed horses
16+ runners, ¼ the odds for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th placed horses.
The above can vary according to different bookmakers and different kinds of races. For example, for bigger races such as the Grand National, some bookies honour each-way bets on the first five or even six past the post, but at reduced odds of 1/5 the odds, so it is worthwhile to shop around and look for the best deals, just as you would to find the best available odds.
Using each way betting to reduce uncertainty
OK, so let's say you see a horse you fancy at odds of 20/1 and the bookmaker is offering ¼ odds for a Place finish, so you decide to put £10 each way on it. Don't forget, there are two parts to this bet so that means £10 on the Win part, and £10 on the Place part, meaning the total stake amounts to £20. With the bet split into two parts, there are therefore two ways for you to get a return (hence "each way").
1. The horse wins: If the horse wins then you will receive £210 for the Win part of the bet (20/1 x £10 [+£10 stake]), plus you will return £60 for the Place part of the bet (1/4 x 20/1 x £10 [+ £10 stake]), meaning a total return of £270 ( -£20 stake = £250 profit).
2. The horse is placed: If the horse doesn't win, but finishes in a placed position, then only the second part of the above illustration applies. You will lose the £10 stake on the Win part of the bet, but the Place part will still return £60, which equates to a profit of £40 when your original £20 stake is deducted.
So clearly there is plenty of opportunity for a healthy profitable return even when a selected horse fails to pass the winning post first. Obviously, the market price determines the amount of winnings, and for an each way bet to be profitable, then odds of at least 8/1 would be required for just the Place part of the bet to produce a profit.
Pros and Cons of each-way betting
There is divided opinion among bettors as to whether each-way betting is a worthwhile enterprise, and it certainly does offer its own pros and cons.
An each-way bet can provide a profit even if the horse is not first past the post. It can prevent the frustration of getting nothing in return from a good performance from a healthily priced selection.
Even if the each-way bet does not produce a profit, a placed selection can at least soften the blow of a loss and keep the bankroll ticking over with some kind of return.
By splitting your bet in two you are doubling your stake and only receiving full odds on half of it, reducing the overall value of your bet..
If your horse wins, your potential earnings have been reduced by the fact that you have hedged your bets on the Place part of your bet. In the above illustration, if your 20/1 shot wins, then if you have put the entire £20 stake on the win then you would have made £400 clear profit instead of the £250 you received for betting each-way.
Your personal risk tolerance
So it appears to be a case of swings and roundabouts, and basically comes down to personal preference as to whether you see value to be had in each-way betting. Some betting purists scorn it, but others appreciate the safety net plus the added interest it adds to betting selections.
As a final illustration, let's remember Leicester City's glorious Premier League winning season three years ago. The punters who took stuck a tenner on the seemingly irresistible pre-season odds of 5000/1 were rewarded handsomely, but imagine their frustration if Leicester had been pipped into second spot, reducing their winnings from £50,000 to zero. By doubling their stake to a £10 each way bet, even if Leicester had crumbled to finish second or third, that bet would still have returned a juicy £12,500 profit.
That's an extreme example, of course, but it does show the potential benefits of a well-placed each-way bet.
At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide how and where to place your money, and each-way betting is just another way of expanding your winning options.
If you tend to bet on short-priced bets, then each-way betting is probably not for you, but if you prefer a punt from lower down the betting market, then maybe it's a perfect way to keep that precious bankroll ticking over.
If you're feeling comfortable with terminology, it might be the right time to learn about the different bet types and how to use them to your advantage.