Our Quick Horse Racing Betting Guide for Beginners
Horse Racing and gambling go hand in hand, and great sums of money are placed on each and every horse race in the US. In the following guide you’ll see how the betting works, including a practical guide to placing a bet. At the end of the page you’ll find a summary of the different bet types available.
When you place a bet on a horse race, you are betting in a pari-mutuel environment, in that all of the money wagered for your bet type will go into a pool. The pool operator will then take a percentage to cover their running costs and the rest of the money will be paid out evenly to all the winning tickets. The more winning tickets there are, the lower the payout, if you have the only winning ticket, then you would win the entire pool.
The most popular bet size is $2 and because of this all odds will be expressed in terms of this stake. As an example, if the winner returns $10, this means that if you had backed it for $2, you would receive $10. If you had backed it for $5, then you would receive a pro rata share of $25.
The Different Types of Horse Bets
There are three extremely common bet types on each race, and these are win, place and show bets.
- Win – This is by far the most popular bet in horse racing and the simplest. You place a bet, and you only win if the horse wins.
- Place – A place bet is for a horse to finish first or second. As the betting pool has to pay out on two winning horses, the odds will be lower than on the win market.
- Show – This bet is for a horse to finish either first, second or third. This bet offers a lower payout than both the win and the place, but gives you more chance of winning.
As well as the straightforward win, place and show bets, there are a variety of more “exotic” bets available on each race.
- Exacta – You have to pick the horse that comes first and the horse that comes second in the right order – a higher payout bet than you would see in the straight win market.
- Quinella – Very similar to the Exacta, however in this bet, the first two horses can finish in either order.
- Trifecta – Pick the first three horses to cross the line in the right order.
- Superfecta – Pick the first four horses to cross the line in the right order – this is the trickiest bet there is on a single race, and therefore the payouts are the largest you can have on one race.
All of the above bets are for individual races, however there are a variety of bets that involve making selections for more than just the one race.
- The Daily Double – This requires the bettor to pick the winners of two consecutive races, normally the first two races of the day. Some tracks will offer a late daily double on the last two races, and some will offer a rolling daily double throughout the day.
- Pick 3 – This works the same way as a daily double, except you have to pick three winners instead of two. These are allowed on designated successive races, although some tracks will offer a rolling pick 3.
- Pick 6 – The most exotic bet of all offering huge payouts – you win by picking six consecutive winners at a meeting. Because of the difficulty of this, there are many occasions when the bet is not won, and the prize pool will roll over to the next meeting, meaning even bigger win pools.
Placing a Racing Bet
There are generally five pieces of information you need to convey when placing a bet at the betting window:
- Racetrack – Many tracks will offer simulcast racing from other tracks around the country, so it is a good habit to include the name of the racetrack when placing a bet, even though it might seem obvious to you that you want to place a bet at the track where you actually are.
- Race Number – Each race on the card has a number, state this when placing a bet to avoid confusion.
- Dollar Amount – How much stake you want to place on your bet.
- Bet Type – There are a variety of bet types on each race, which will be explained below.
- Horse Number – The number of the horse(s) you have picked for the race. So in practice you would actually say something along the lines of “At Santa Anita, Race Two, I’d like $2 to win on number 5”.
- Horse Racing Bets at Online Racebooks – Many offshore Sportsbooks give you the opportunity to bet on horses online. Some have detailed lists of every US race – for example the popular BetOnline. Other books only feature the classics such as the Triple Crown races or Breeders Cup. Not only will you get the benefit of great odds and a wide selection of bets at these Sportsbooks – there are some big bonus offers waiting for new players too.