It was the late, great Bill Shankly that said ‘if you are first, you are first. If you are second, you are nothing.’
It’s a mindset that punters have to adopt too when they choose to bet ‘on the nose’, rather than each way, although that’s not to say that you can’t have an all-or-nothing approach without hedging your bets into the process.
Complete newcomers to sports betting often ask variations of the same question: can I bet on more than one horse in a race? Can I bet on more than one team to win the Premier League? Can I bet on more than one player to win The Masters?
And the answer is always the same: yes, you can – and in some cases, it actually makes perfect sense to do so.
You may have heard the phrase ‘going Dutch’ before – it was used in relation to dating for a while.
For those that haven’t heard the phrase, it essentially means paying for your own part of an activity, e.g. when eating a meal at a restaurant. So on a first date, you might go Dutch as opposed to offering to foot the bill… and never see the other person ever again.
While that has nothing to do with sports betting, ‘Dutching’ does.
This is a technique that is used by punters in many different sports, and is the approach that allows you to bet on more than one horse in a race while still securing a return if any of your selections do go on to win.
If you wanted to back horses at 3/1 and 4/1, you would know that a level stake on both would net a positive return should either win – however, if your two horses are priced at 4/5 and 5/4, you will need to be savvy in how you organise your stake in order to ensure that you’re not losing out if the odds-on favourite does oblige.
To do that, you can apply some simple maths to determine how to split your overall stake…
There are plenty of tools available online that will help you to calculate how to split up your stake for the maths to show an equal return on more than one selection.
But the math isn’t too hard to do off the top of your head either.
For example, if you wanted to wager £10 on horses at 3/1 and 6/1 respectively, you know that the 3/1 would need to take up double the stake of a 6/1 chance for the payouts to be approximately the same.
Here’s a quick look that in action.
We’ll back the 3/1 horse at £6.50 and the 6/1 horse at £3.50. Let’s play it out, with the 3/1 horse winning (scenario 1) and then the 6/1 horse prevailing (scenario 2):
- Scenario 1: (£6.50 @ 3/1 = £26) – (lost stake of £3.50) = £22.50
- Scenario 2: (£3.50 @ 6/1 = £24.50) – (lost stake of £6.50) = £18
As you can see, we’ve backed two horses in a race and secured a similar return if either of them wins. Of course, if both lose then we would kiss goodbye to our £10 stake – but then that’s the nature of sports betting, anyway. By backing two horses, we increase our theoretical chance of winning as well as our risk.
If the numbers stack up right, we can even Dutch three, four or more horses together.
Let’s imagine we add a 10/1 chance to the example above, with scenario 3 imagining that this outsider goes on to win:
- Scenario 1: (£5.20 @ 3/1 = £20.80) – (lost stake of £4.80) = £16
- Scenario 2: (£2.90 @ 6/1 = £20.30) – (lost stake of £7.10) = £13.20
- Scenario 3: (£1.90 @ 10/1 = £20.90) – (lost stake of £8.10) = £12.80
As you can see, we’ve skewed our £10 stake towards the horse we most expect to win out of the three, namely, the 3/1 shot; but the 6/1 and 10/1 will still yield a positive return if they win – even accounting for the lost stakes from the losing selections.
So hopefully that answers the question of whether you can bet on more than one horse in a race or not. You can do so when the odds are long enough to make Dutching viable and when you split up your stake accordingly. In fact, in highly-competitive races like the Cheltenham Gold Cup or the Epsom Derby, backing more than one runner is a savvy option given the number of potential winners in the field.
Betting on the Mob
If you do opt to ‘go Dutch’ with your sports betting, you will be in good company – many professional punters, especially those in horse racing, will typically bet on more than one horse in competitive renewals.
When you think about it, betting Dutch can be a sensible idea – and we have a feared Mafia mobster to thank for the logic behind it.
Arthur Flegenheimer might not sound like the name of an organised crime warlord nor a sports betting mastermind, but the New Yorker had both strings to his bow in the early 1900s.
He ran a number of rackets, including bootlegging (the procurement of illegal alcohol in the age of prohibition) and the numbers game, a sort of lottery in which the house (i.e. the gang running it) only very rarely lost. He even had a stint as Al Capone’s personal accountant.
When the famed prosecutor Thomas Dewey got Flegenheimer in his crosshairs, he was forced to find alternative means of making money – using his head for numbers, he began betting on horses at the local racetrack, deploying the Dutching technique outlined in this article.
Other punters of the age began to take note of Flegenheimer’s strategy, which given his nickname of ‘Dutch Schultz’, meant that wagering on multiple selections within a single betting market would become known as ‘Dutching’.
Flegenheimer was later assassinated by a fellow mobster while eating his dinner at a restaurant. The assassin was commissioned to take out the Dutching maestro after he had disobeyed orders not to try and kill Dewey.
He only lived to see the age of 34, but in that time he created a sports betting strategy that is still going strong nearly a century later.