There is perhaps nothing more exciting than the thrill of a horse race,
especially when the magnificent equine athletes make a mad dash for the finish
line. Perhaps the only thing that can add to that excitement is when you have
some money on one of those horses making that furious run. Gambling and horse
racing are inseparable, as people for hundreds of years have taken their chances
on their favorite horses to come out in front.
If you’ve never been to a horse race before, you can become somewhat confused
by all of the numbers on the board and the unfamiliar terminology. You might
even find that you are intimidated by all of the people standing in line waiting
to make their bets, especially if you don’t know what to say when you get to the
window. As a result, you should learn a little about the types of bets you can
make, the intricacies of the odds, where you can wager, and the protocol when
you go up to bet at the track.
Horse racing is indeed one of the most thrilling spectator sports. With some
tips on how to bet, you might find it fast becoming one of your favorite
Types of Bets on Horse Racing
The specifics of each individual bet on horse racing can be found on this page if
you really want to dive into how to do it like an expert. But for a beginner, it
is important just to get a handle on some of the major choices you have among
bets. The main reason is that each bet has a different expectation in terms of
the chances you have of actually winning it and the expectations of payouts for
Win, Place, and Show
These three bets are the most basic way of betting on horse races, especially
in American Thoroughbred racing. A win bet is just as it sounds, as you will be
betting on a horse to win the race. If you bet on a horse to place, you will win
your wager if the horse comes in first or second. Finally, show bets are won if
your horse comes in first, second, or third.
Keep in mind that you are not restricted to simply a single bet on a race. As
a result, you might bet on one horse to place and another to show. You could
conceivably bet on five different horses to win. And you might bet on the same
horse to win, place, and show, which is known as a bet across the board.
These are the wagers that depend on different combinations of horses in a
single race. The most popular of these are the exacta, the trifecta, and the
superfecta. In these races, you are trying to pick the first two, the first
three, and the first four horses in the order of finish, respectively. You can
attempt to hit these orders in the exact order, or you can box them, which means
you just pick a number of horses and hope that they finish in the top two,
three, or four, no matter the order.
You can also participate in exotic wagers that require you to pick horses in
multiple races. The most common of these is the daily double. A daily double
generally requires you to pick the winner of two consecutive races. Again, you
don’t have to contain your bet to just a single horse in each race in an attempt
to win a daily double, but the more horses you play, the more money you have to
Spreading out from the daily double, tracks offer different multiple-race
exotic wagers. They often give them names which are tailored to the track, but
the concept is that you would have to pick winners in several consecutive races.
The daily racing program that you receive at each track will show you which
wagers are available to you on any given day.
Odds and Win Expectations
When horse racing first began, the betting was, for the most part, in the
hands of bookies. They would determine the odds and collect the money from
bettors, paying it out when people won. Unfortunately, many of these bookies
were somewhat shady characters and couldn’t be counted on to be on the level in
their dealings. In addition, they also could very easily make side deals with
the jockeys and owners of horses to skew the results in their favors.
The advent of pari-mutuel wagering in the early 20th century pretty much put
an end to that, at least on a widespread level. Pari-mutuel wagering depends on
pools of money for each bet on each horse. From these pools comes the money that
is paid out to people who win the bets, based on the mathematics of the
It’s a simple equation, really. If a lot of people are making the same kind
of bet, the resulting payout if that bet comes to fruition will be relatively
small. By contrast, if there is very little money placed on a certain wager and
it should actually come to pass, the payouts will be high.
Playing the Odds
When you are watching horse racing, you will see some numbers near the name
or the number of each horse, either on the tote board of the track or on the
screen if you’re watching on television. These numbers represent the odds to win
on each horse. It is important to understand that these odds only govern the win
payouts, but they do give a good indication of who are the most popular choices
in any given race.
Imagine that you bet on a horse, and its odds are 5-1. That means that for
every dollar you bet, you will receive five dollars in return if the horse comes
home a winner. The more money you bet, the return will go up exponentially. For
example, a $10 wager will bring you a tidy $50 payout (plus you’ll get your
original $10 back).
Again, you must keep in mind that the win odds only govern the win bets. For
example, a horse might be a 2-1 favorite in a race, but it could have, for
whatever reason, very little money bet on it to show. That means that the show
payoff could conceivably be higher than the win pay, even though it is much more
difficult to win the race than it is to show.
What Each Type of Bet Can Bring You
With the knowledge that each type of bet’s payoff is determined by specific
pools on that day, you can still go in having a reasonable expectation of what
each will bring. In terms of the win, place, and show wagers, these are the
safest plays. It means that you have the best chance of walking away a winner,
but it also means that you generally have to wager a little bit more to win a
lot of money, unless you are really choosing long shots (horses with poor odds).
On the other hand, an exotic wager is something like a lottery ticket for
horse players. The possibility that you can pick the first four horses in the
order of finish (for a superfecta) or the winners of six consecutive races (for
a Pick 6) seems somewhat remote. As a result, you can win a lot of money,
sometimes hundreds of dollars or even more, for a small wager of a couple bucks
if you hit an exotic.
In the end, your choices for the types of bets you prefer will be determined
by what you are looking for from your experience at the track. If you’d like to
win a lot of money without wagering too much, the exotics are for you. By
contrast, those looking to walk away with something for their money should stick
to the straight wagers. Many hard-core horse players will often indulge in a
combination of both for each and every race on the card for multiple tracks
around the country.
Where to Bet
Now that you have a handle on all of these different wagers, you can get
ready to put your money down. But first, you need to know the best places to do
this. Here are the most obvious choices for you.
Most people have some sort of race track somewhere in the vicinity of where
they live. It could be a Thoroughbred track (the most popular form of racing
around the world) or even a harness racing track (a style of racing popular in
America where the horses pull bikes with drivers in them). This is the obvious
location that you’ll want to visit to bet on horses.
Keep in mind that most tracks only race certain days or nights per week and
often only at certain times of the year. You should check the schedule before
you arrive. Even if the track isn’t featuring live racing on the night that you
visit, you should be able to watch and wager on other tracks via their simulcast
These locations aren’t as popular as they once were, as the internet has
largely overtaken them in terms of bettors wanting to wager without actually
being at the track. But there are many still in existence. Essentially,
off-track facilities are equipped with betting tellers and televisions showing
different tracks, and they allow you to make remote wagers on the tracks being
Internet Horse Racing Wagering
As it has with just about every other aspect of society, the internet has
revolutionized the way that people bet on horses. By simply finding a site that
takes wagers on tracks throughout the country and world, bettors can sit at home
and have all of these tracks at their fingertips. In general, these sites
require you to put some money into an account so that any wagers can be taken
from it and winnings put back into it.
Most race tracks have a proprietary website that will allow you to wager on
them specifically. There are also hub sites that will allow you to wager on any
number of tracks. Because the internet is largely unregulated, it’s a good idea
to do your homework and make sure these sites are given the stamp of approval of
the horse racing industry before going ahead and giving them your money.
How to Place Your Bet at the Track
As mentioned above, the prospect of going to a race track and wagering for
the first time can be tricky. Luckily, tracks are generally friendly and will
help you along with any questions you might have. After all, they rely on your
money to firm up their business.
In terms of betting on each race, you generally have to provide certain
information to the tellers at the betting windows. You have to tell them which
horse you want to bet, for how much money, and what kind of wager. The tellers
will assume that you are betting on the track you are at and on the current
race, so if you are deviating from that in any way, you should let them know.
You should also realize that the tellers will not know the names of the
specific horses in each race, so you can’t place your wager using that name.
Each horse is assigned a number based on their post position in the race. That
is the number you will tell them when you go to wager on a specific race.
In terms of choosing which horses to bet, you can find excellent
strategy ideas if you know where to look. The racing program, which can
admittedly be hard to understand at first glance, will give you information on
the horses in each race and their past performances. Barring that, you can just
pick the horse that has the best name or even the one that looks the best on the
No matter which method you choose, you’ll find that wagering truly makes
horse racing an even more exciting event than it is without it. Place your bets,
as they say, and you’ll likely be hooked on this sport for life.
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