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How Do Bookies Set Odds? Horse Racing & Football Odds

How Do Bookies Set Odds? Horse Racing & Football Odds

As a seasoned or a novice punter in the field of sports betting, you may have often wondered how bookmakers set odds for different sporting events, such as horse racing and football. Here at Cash Casino, we will demystify this topic and provide an in-depth understanding of this complex process. 

How Do Bookies Set Their Odds?

The Role of Odds Compilers

The calculation of betting odds is a complex procedure that involves both statistical analysis and expert judgement. The individuals responsible for this task are known as 'odds compilers'. They scrutinise a myriad of variables, ranging from past performances, current form, injuries, and direct competition. The odds compilers then estimate the likelihood of each possible outcome and convert these probabilities into betting odds. 

Factors Considered in Football and Horse Racing

When it comes to football betting, odds compilers evaluate a host of factors such as recent team performances, historical outcomes against opponents, player health, and even external factors like weather and location. For horse racing, the focus shifts to analysing race histories, horse's health, jockey expertise, and specifics of the race environment. 

The Influence of Market Dynamics

Once the preliminary odds are set, they are subject to adjustment based on market dynamics. A surge in bets on a specific outcome may prompt bookies to modify the odds to minimise potential losses. This balancing act aims to secure bookmaker profit irrespective of the event outcome. 

How Accurate Are Betting Odds?

Though bookmaker odds serve as a credible gauge for outcome probabilities, they are not without inaccuracies. The main reason for this is the 'over-round' or bookmaker's margin. This margin ensures bookmaker profitability, which results in odds slightly skewed from the true probability. 

Therefore, while they can act as a fair indicator, they are not reflective of the true odds or probability of an outcome. 

Can Bookies Change Their Odds?

Yes, bookmakers have the liberty to modify the odds up until the start of the event. Such adjustments are in response to significant developments or shifts in market sentiment. For instance, if a key player sustains an injury before a match or if a horse falls ill before a race, bookmakers may adjust the odds accordingly. 

Can Bookies Ever Lose Money?

Despite having sophisticated systems in place to ensure profit, bookmakers do face the risk of losses. For example, if the underdog triumphs in heavily bet events, the bookies might encounter substantial losses. This is just part of the unpredictable nature of sports betting; anything can happen on the day. 

Can Bookies Refuse To Pay Out?

While bookies are legally bound to honour winning bets, there are occasions when they may refuse to pay out. Instances of suspected fraudulent behaviour or rule violations can lead to withheld payouts. If a punter violates the agreed terms and conditions, the bookies might also refuse to pay out. 

However, in cases where the bet was won fairly, there is no reason for bookies to refuse to pay out. 

How Often Do Bookies Get It Right?

Specialising in outcome prediction, bookmakers generally offer odds that closely mirror event probabilities, with slight differences to account for their margin. Yet, the unpredictable nature of sports means outcomes can deviate from expectations. 

Unforeseen events, which can disrupt even the most sophisticated probability calculations, add to the fairness of the sports betting landscape. 

Can You Bet On Anything At The Bookies?

Bettors can wager on a broad array of event aspects, extending beyond mere outcomes to specifics like score margins or in-game events. However, betting possibilities are unique to each bookmaker's offerings. There are also legal stipulations that may affect the available bets. 

Some bookmakers have a 'request a bet' feature, where punters can submit an event they would like to bet on, and the bookies will get their experts to look into it and offer odds on the bet. However, not all bookies offer this feature, so check the terms and conditions of a bookmaker before placing a bet. 


In conclusion, understanding the mechanisms of odds setting can lead to a better understanding of the industry. It's crucial, however, to approach betting responsibly, focusing on enjoyment and entertainment rather than purely financial gain. Remember, anything can happen on the day of the match or the race, so winning is never guaranteed.