Odds Lines: Why You’ve Struggled To Make Them Profitable

If you’ve got an odds line then you’re going to be a bettor that’s looking for value.

Which is kinda awesome, because when you find value, you also find regular betting profits.

But, you’ve probably also noticed that when you make an odds line there’s still a huge amount of decisions you have to make.

The theory goes that if your odds line is any good, simply betting any horse which has better odds available than your odds line suggests it should have will make you a long term profit.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that.

I call this the Odds Line Conundrum, and just by reaching this point you should give your self a round of applause.

The Odds Line Conundrum

If you’ve ever made, or used, an odds line (also known as a tissue) then you’ll know that you have a lot of options when it comes to deciding which horse/s to bet on.

  • All horses with odds higher than your odds line
  • All horses with odds higher than X% of your odds line
  • All horses that are the favourite on your odds line and favourite in the market and show value
  • All outsiders that are showing value
  • Non-favourites below X odds which are offering value

The possibilities are, literally, endless, and can be defeating.

That’s because an odds line is showing you the odds you think a horse should be, and allows you to see whether the market is offering value or not.

It’s not a selection method within itself.

Why An Odds Line Is NOT A Selection Method

There’s a dream which goes something like this…

Whether you make your own odds line or use someone else’s, you start using an odds line and you can now see which horses in every race are value bets.

All you need to do is place bets on every horse that offers value and you’ll walk away rich.

It’s a wonderful dream. Unfortunately it’s only a dream, and here’s the reasons why:

  1. Most of the time you will be finding value on higher odds horses
  2. Odds lines are not 100% accurate

Most of the time you will be finding value on higher odds horses

Generally value is easier to find in higher odds, kinda like this…

Odds Lines Uncovered

When you place bets on high odds horses regularly, your bankroll requirement and the need to cope with extremely long losing streaks and downswings, increases exponentially.

If your average betting odds are 9/1, you’re only going to be winning 10% of your selections, and you’ll be losing 90% of them.

This means in the long-term (one year assuming three or four bets per day), you can expect to hit a losing streak of 66 losing bets in a row. Add that into a downswing, and you could easily get a six month downswing and still end up in profit.

And that’s just at odds of 9/1.

If you’re betting on horses at 15/1, 20/1, 30/1 and higher, your average odds are going to be even higher. Higher odds means a lower strike rate, which means longer losing runs, downswings and bigger bankrolls.

Ask yourself… could you keep faith, and keep betting, selections from a method which had a losing streak of 66, or that had been in a downswing for five months?

Most of us couldn’t.

Which is why simply betting all horse’s offering value isn’t going to work.

Odds lines are not 100% accurate

Yup I said it. Odds lines are not accurate. Like ratings, they’re an estimate of a horse’s chance of winning, and it’s an assumption based over a very large number of horses.

Because the assumption is only based over a very large number of horses it only works over the same large number.

This is true for the live market odds as well.

If you take all even chance horses, out of 50 runners it’s unlikely 25 are going to win. Over 100 runners it’s unlikely 50 will win.

But… over 10,000 runners you’ll see around 5000 win.

The larger the number of selections, the closer you get to the accuracy of the assumption.

That’s why simply betting any horse offering value doesn’t work, because sometimes you will have got the odds line wrong. To ensure that you have value you need to be only looking at situations where the horse has more than a certain amount of value.

Even better, merge your odds line with the live market odds so you can reduce the times when you’re wrong.

Which is exactly what we do at the Race Advisor with our PR Odds line.

So if odds lines aren’t a way of finding selections, how do we find selections with them?

Good question, I’m pleased you asked ?

The Quickest Way To Finding Selections From Odds Lines

What I’m about to share with you I learned from US bettor Dave Schwarz many years ago. It’s always worked for me, and I know it will work for you.

Start by splitting the field into Contenders, Potentials and Eliminations.

You do this by:

  • Marking the top three horses in your odds line as Contenders
  • Marking any in the 50% + 1 in the field as Potentials
  • Marking the remaining horses as Eliminations

Here’s what it looks like.

That’s how Dave taught me to split a race very quickly, and it works a treat.

You now know exactly which three horses are your strongest, and which have the potential to beat that horse.

You also know which horse’s you’re going to avoid.

But I have a couple of my own rules…

  1. Any Eliminations which are in the top three of the market become Potentials
  2. Any horse which has odds of more than 29/1 becomes an Elimination

From here I like to look for weaknesses in the Contenders from races with similar race conditions.

Each weakness I find for a horse I put a mark next to it. I consider a major weakness to be a regular issue with the ground condition or distance, and this immediately puts a large question mark over whether the horse should be bet or not.

For Potentials that are not Contenders, I look for any strengths using the same process.

This leaves me with any Contenders that have a weak point marked, and any Potentials that have a strong point marked.

I can also see the potential value in the odds, which is highlighted in green in RA Pro race cards.

This should leave you with between two and four horses. If there are more than four horses then I pass on the race.

With between three and four selections I tend to place dutch bets, with between two and three selections I usually go for 80/20 bets, and with one selection I will choose between Back, Place and 80/20 depending on the odds and my confidence.

What Do You Do?

I’d love to know if you use odds lines, if it’s something you’ve been wanting to try, or if they just seem too complicated to bother with.

Please leave me a comment to let me know.

To see all of the Race Advisor’s tools and strategies, you can create your free account here.

Michael Wilding

Michael started the Race Advisor in 2009 to help bettors become long-term profitable. After writing hundreds of articles I started to build software that contained my personal ratings. The Race Advisor has more factors for UK horse racing than any other site, and we pride ourselves on creating tools and strategies that are unique, and allow you to make a long-term profit without the need for tipsters. You can also check out my personal blog or my personal Instagram account.


  1. I’ve created my own figures for spread betting on horse racing and form my own prices for a certain market so I guess you could call this odds lines.In just over three years of using this form of betting I have returned just over 900 point profit.I have now created various other odds lines on some other markets and only bet on horse racing via the spread betting markets.

    1. Superb results, congratulations. The spreads are very interesting. I’ve never had a huge amount to do with them, but would be very interested to hear your insights.

  2. I start off by going through the bookmakers and exchange prices for the favourite of the race and then convert them into my own spread points value,I use between 20-30 different firms prices.So for instance if there were four different prices for the favourite in one race say 9/4,5/2,3/1 and 100/30 I would convert them into my spread figures add them up and divide by four and that gives me my starting point for that race.I then go through the form of the favourite and form my own opinion of its chances and then would either add on or minus to the original figure depending on my views.Now on the spreads the favourites score points as follows 25pts for winner,10pts for second and 5pts for third.So for instance on them four prices I quoted my score for that race would be 9.31 just on the prices now I feel in my opinion the favourite has a good chance and will finish in the first three so I will top that figure upto 10.5 or 11 for the race.I do this for each race then add up all the scores for my total at that meeting and say it would come too 72.11 for all seven races,I then check the spread betting quotes for that meeting.If the quote is say 65-69 for the meeting I would buy at 69.

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