If you're partial to an occasional flutter, then you probably already have your eye on this year's Grand National runners. A lot of RIFT clients put the odd bet down with their refunds, some more seriously than others. We don't recommend you follow the example of the adventurous soul who told us he was flying to Las Vegas to put it all on red. However, if your ambitions run a little saner and more cautious, we do have a couple of pointers to consider.

Understanding the odds

If you're thinking of putting a bet down on the Grand National, then you need to speak the language. You don't need to be some magical maths genius to get your head around it, but a basic grounding in betting odds is essential.

You'll probably hear a lot of confusing terms if you're new to the game, but at the end of the day it's the numbers that matter.

A 10/1 bet, for instance, means a £10 stake gets you £110 if you win. You might also see that written as 11.00, which is called "decimal odds". Either way, it breaks down as your original tenner back, plus ten times that much for the win.

Of course, if the odds are that high it means that win looks pretty unlikely to the bookmakers.

You can make a win more likely with what's called an each-way bet. This is basically 2 bets in 1. You're betting that the horse will either win, or will "place" by coming in the first few positions. You'll get less back if the horse places, of course, plus you'll have to shell out for both stakes. It's still a popular way to bet, though.

There's a lot more to it, of course, with exciting terms like "Tricast" and "Super Yankee" floating around. For the most part, though, you're probably best off keeping things simple unless you already know what you're doing.

Staying safe

Now let's take a quick look at some tips for keeping your shirt. Some of these are pretty obvious, but they're still worth spelling out. A lot of people get in trouble gambling, but going in with the right mindset will do a lot to keep you from serious danger.

The first rule to understand is that the money you're betting stops being yours the moment the bet is made.

From that point on, the cash you put down is the price you've paid to have a stake in the race outcome. You're buying excitement and entertainment, and there's nothing wrong with that. What you're not doing, however, is making a smart business investment. Betting might turn into an occasionally rewarding hobby, but you can't treat it like a job.

That leads us to the second rule: never bet money that you can't afford to lose.

A lot of people let their minds trick them into making bad decisions. For instance, they reason that a string of losses means that they're "due for a win".

Equally, they might think that a streak of wins means that their luck is "hot" and they need to capitalise before it swings the other way. These are both aspects of the "Gambler's Fallacy". In other words, your "luck" doesn't have a memory.

Why working out the odds is hard

Don't feel bad if you occasionally fall for one of these fallacies. Some of the greatest minds in mathematics have done the exact same thing.

There's a famous brain teaser called the Monty Hall Problem that still causes arguments to this day.

You'll have probably seen some version of it in the final round of a game show. In fact it was invented for an American programme where the winning contestant is presented with 3 doors and they have to choose which one they think holds the prize.

Behind one is the jackpot, usually a car, while the others hide goats (yes, really).

The contestant has to pick one door as theirs. The host then opens one of the doors they didn't pick to reveal a goat - so they are relieved that one of the chances of getting the goat has been removed.

Now the contestant knows that the car is either behind their door or the other unopened one.

The host gives them the choice to switch their selection to the other door if they want to.

Because of the maths behind all this, the contestant actually DOUBLES their chance of winning by switching doors. If you ever find yourself with some time to kill, see if you can work out why. If you just want to know the answer then this video by Jeremy Jones explains it:


It's completely the opposite of what you think - and why it's perfect for a game show that doesn't really want contestants to walk off with the car every week.

Make a safe bet with RIFT

The one place you should never gamble is with HMRC! You've probably heard the phrase "the house always wins" and that's never more true than if you try to cheat the taxman!

The best bet you can make is the one where you have nothing to lose - and as you can find out for free if you're due a tax refund using our tax refund calculator or by calling us on 01233 628648.

It's quicker to find out than it is to place a bet, and if you travel to temporary work places and have been paying for it yourself then it's pretty certain you'll come up a winner - just like William did.

We take all the guesswork and risk out of claiming, and your money's completely protected by the RIFT Guarantee (terms and conditions apply).

What's more, if you think it's a pretty safe bet that a mate would be due a refund then send our way and we give you £50 if they make a claim with us. You'll get the £50 every time you recommend someone who uses us to get a refund, and each time 5 of them claims we'll send you an extra £150 bonus. Find out more about our Refer a Friend scheme and how to get started.

Whatever you're planning to do with your tax refund cash, claiming it through RIFT is the safest bet you'll ever make - and you know we'll never gamble with your money!

RIFT is a family run business and have been claiming tax rebates and filing tax return experts since 1999. We know HMRC rules like the back of our hand so you can rest assured you're in safe hands.