One of the great things about betting on football is that there’s no such thing as a dead heat – your pick either wins, draws or loses. It’s as simple as that.
The same can be said in horse racing – dead heats in races are as rare as hen’s teeth, so again your selection will usually either win, place or lose.
But there are scenarios in sports betting where dead heats are a factor for consideration.
In golf betting, for example, you might have backed a player to win each way with seven places. What happens if they finish joint-sixth on the leaderboard with five others? What happens if they finish tied-seventh? Does your bet win or not?
That’s why an appreciation of the bookies’ rules on dead heats is useful – it can certainly save you the frustration of thinking you’ve secured a full payout on your bet when, in reality, you might only get a fraction of that.
What is a Dead Heat in Betting?
When two or more participants in an event cannot be separated, that is known as a ‘dead heat’.
It can very occasionally happen in horse racing, where two or more horses go to the photo finish and simply cannot be separated.
But, as mentioned, a dead heat tends to be a weekly occurrence on the various golf tours, with two or more players tied on the same score on the leader board.
In this scenario, your bookmaker will revise your payout accordingly using the calculation described in the section below.
How to Calculate Dead Heat Winnings
If you’re something of a maths buff, you can work out your adjusted return by carrying out a calculation that would make Pythagoras himself scratch his head in wonderment.
For win only bets with two runners tied, the dead heat calculation is: [(stake/2) x (odds – 1)] – (stake/2).
And for each way bets and the place part, the dead heat calculation becomes: [(stake x no. of places) / no. of tied runners x (odds – 1)] – [stake x (no. of tied runners – no. of payouts) / no. of tied runners].
If all that puts your head in a spin and brings back unhappy memories of maths classes at school, the good news is that a Google search for ‘dead heat betting calculator’ brings up plenty of results that will do the hard yards for you.
Typing out the equation didn’t half make us feel clever though.
Dead Heats in Horse Racing
If you don’t want the faff of trying to work out your dead heat winnings, imagine it like this: the prize fund is split equally between the number of horses that have won.
So, if two horses are in a dead heat, you’d win half the pot. If three horses are tied, you’d win a third and so on.
So if your pick is in a dead heat with another horse, then effectively half your stake would be a winner.
Let’s say you’ve backed them for £10 on the nose at 6/1 – in a dead heat situation, you’d be a half winner so £5 of your stake would be paid at 6/1 for winnings of £30, rather than the £60 you’d get for an outright victory.
If your horse finishes in the places in a dead heat, you’ll need to do some of the maths outlined in the next section.
Dead Heats in Golf
When you place win only bets on the golf, the good news is that you don’t have to worry about dead heats – your player either wins or they don’t. Even when a tournament goes to a play-off, winning bets are settled on the champion while the player that loses is considered to have placed instead.
The challenge comes when you back players each way and they finish in the places, albeit tied with a handful of others.
How do you calculate your winnings?
To work it out, you need to know four things:
- The odds you took
- The number of places paid
- The each way terms (e.g. 1/5 odds)
- The number of players tied
Now you can plug the numbers into a formula. If you bet £5 each way, remember that your win part has lost – so you only have £5 live in this calculation.
Let’s say you’ve backed Rory McIlroy to win, each way, at 10/1 with 1/5 odds place terms. There’s five places paid, and Rory has finished tied with another player in fifth place.
Your £5 stake will be divided by two (the number of dead heat participants) to become £2.50. The 10/1 odds will be divided by the each way terms – these were 1/5, so your place payout is at 2/1.
Now we multiply our revised dead heat stake of £2.50 by the place terms of 2/1, which leads to an each way payout of £7.50.
Again, if you don’t fancy the rigmarole of the mathematical gymnastics, there are tools online that will do the hard work for you.
And remember, this dead heat calculation for each way bets is applicable to any sport, so if your horse finishes in a dead heat in the places then you can plug your numbers into the formula above and figure out what your return will be.
Dead Heats in Football
Although we suggested that dead heats are non-existent in football betting, there is one example we can think of; the top goal scorer market.
There’s no tie-breaker in this situation, so if you back Mo Salah to be top goal scorer and he finishes tied with Marcus Rashford on 20 goals but behind Erling Haaland on 25, you will need to apply the same calculation above to work out your each way return.
This market generally pays four places at 1/4 each way terms, so if we backed Salah £5 each way at 8/1 we know that £5 of our bet (the win part) is a loss.
We carry over the £5 place part and again divide it by two (the number of dead heat participants, i.e. Salah and Rashford) to get £2.50.
The 8/1 odds are divided by the 1/4 place terms, so our revised term is 2/1. Therefore, our return is £7.50.