Horse Betting Guide

Table of contents:

How To Bet Horses - Straight Wagers ( WIN, PLACE, SHOW )

One of the most intimidating experiences for a new fan is learning how to place their first wager and how much they must invest. Below are the types of wagers offered on certain races as well as how much they will cost. We hope this step-by-step guide makes your trip to the races a winning experience.

Of course, the higher the payoff the more one's attention is attracted. While most newcomers don't realize, the higher the payoff, the harder it is to select the winning combination.

A "WIN" bet is just what it sounds like: betting that the horse you pick will win the race. You win if the horse wins.

For a horse to "PLACE" it must finish the race either first or second. Obviously this bet is a little less risky so the return will not be as great.

For a horse to "SHOW" it must finish the race either first, second or third. This is a conservative bet but still can be profitable if you pick your spots.

This is a quick and easy way to say that I want to play my horse in all three positions. ($2 Across The Board = $2 to win, $2 to place, and $2 to show). If the horse wins you collect all three bets. If the horse finishes 2nd then you collect the place and show bets. If the horse finishes 3rd then you will only collect the show bet.

Now that you know what type of bets you will be making you must decide how much you want to risk for the whole day. It is suggested that you separate the money you want to play with from the money you want to take home. This way, win or lose you can find the enjoyment that makes thoroughbred horse racing one of the most popular spectator sports in the world!

How To Bet Horses - Exotic Wagers

Examples of these are the Exacta, Quinella Trifecta, Daily Double, Superfecta and Daily Triple/Pick 3. Needless to say, these wagers are all more difficult than WIN, PLACE or SHOW because they require multiple selections to finish in the proper order.

Daily Double
The daily double involves picking the winning horse in two consecutive races. All tracks offer the early daily double which involves races #1 and #2. Most tracks also offer a late daily double which is the last two races of the day. Some tracks also offer a rolling daily double which is on any two consecutive races. To win a daily double you must pick the winning horse in each of the two races. Multiple combinations can be used when playing the double. Wheeling and keying horses in any leg of the daily is accepted.

In the Quinella, you must pick the horses that finish first and second. Either one can be first and the other one second. This bet is exactly the same as the "Exacta Box". Although the Quinella has the same function as the "Exacta Box" the payoff can vary substantially. You must remember that there is no such wager of an exacta box, it is really two separate bets on one ticket. The Quinella wagers are entered into their own pool separate from the exacta pool. Not all tracks offer the Quinella wager, but to the best of my knowledge all tracks accept the term exacta box where ever the exacta wager is offered. If both the Quinella and Exacta wagers are offered it is wise to check the tote board before making a Quinella or Exact Box wager to see which one offers the greater payoff.

With this bet you must pick the first two finishing horses in the order of their finish. In other words, you must pick the horse that wins and the horse that finishes second. Again a exacta can also be played using multiple combinations. Wheeling, keying and boxing horses in exacta's is a popular bet at the track.

With this bet you must pick the first three finishing horses in the order of their finish. In other words, you must pick the horse that wins, the horse that finishes second and the horse that finishes third.

With this bet you must pick the first four finishing horses in the order of their finish. In other words, you must pick the horse that wins, the horse that finishes second, third, and fourth.

Pick 3
In order to win a Pick 3 bet you are required to select the winning horse in three consecutive races. Many tracks offer the pick 3 and most even offer a rolling pick 3

Pick 4
Same as the pick 3 but you must successfully pick the winners of four consecutive races. This is a relatively new bet and not all tracks offer it.

Boxing horses in exotics
A "box" Is when you use multiple horses taking all possible combinations in that particular bet. If you have determined that two, three, or four horses are the best in the race but you are not sure which one will win, run second, third, or fourth the 'box' may be your best bet.
Example: A $1 dollar superfecta box using the 1-2-3-4-5. This means four of your five horses must finish in the top four to be a winner. Same example applies to Exacta (top two finishers) & Trifectas (top three finishers)

Keying horses in exotics
A 'key' is when you use a single horse to win, run second, or third using multiple horses in front of him or behind him.
Example: A $1 dollar pick 3, the 2 horse with the 3-4-5 with the 3-4-5-6. This means the 2 horse must win the first leg of your pick 3 either the 3-4 or 5 must win the second leg and the 3-4-5 or 6 must win the third leg to win your bet. Same concept applies to exactas, Daily doubles, trifectas, superfectas, and pick 4's.

Wheeling horses in exotics
A wheel is when you use a single horse in a position with multiple horses finishing ahead or in some cases behind the horse your wheeling. In many cases a 'wheel' and a 'key' can be considered the same thing
Example: A $2 dollar Exacta, the 1 horse with the 2-3-4. This means the 1 horse must win the race and the 2,3,or 4 must run second to win the bet. Another example might be a $2 dollar Exacta the 2-3-4 horse with the 1 this means the 2,3,or 4 must win and the 1 must run second. The same theory applies when betting Trifectas, Superfectas and multi race exotics.

Part wheels
Part wheels are offered at a $1 minimum bet per combination -- $2 minimum total cost. Part wheels are when you use multiple horses in different positions
Example: A $1 dollar Trifecta part wheel the 1-2 horse with 1-2-3 with 1-2-3-4-5 this means the 1 or 2 must win the race the 1-2-3 must run second and the 1-2-3-4-5 must finish third for the bet to win. Same theory applies to the exacta and Superfecta. A part wheel can be used in the pick 3's and 4's but obviously the hoses used must win the race.

How To Make Your First Bet

  1. Go to the drop down box that says 'horse racing' and scroll down to the track you wish to bet.
  2. After selecting the track the next available race to bet will appear. If you wish to bet a different race click on the drop down box and scroll down to the race you want.
  3. After selecting a race the field of horses will appear complete with all the information you need.
  4. Click on 'bet type' and scroll down to the wager you wish to make
  5. Click on the necessary icons next to the horse or horses you are betting. When your selection(s) are complete put in a bet amount and click on 'submit bet'
  6. After submitting your bet a confirmation screen will appear with the details of your selection. If the information is correct click on 'finalize' if the information is incorrect click on 'back' to make the necessary changes
  7. After finalizing your bet you can wager again, print your ticket, or log off

Good Luck!

Glossary of Racing Terms


Across The Board
- (See 'Place') a bet on a horse to win, place or show. Three wagers combined in one. If the horse wins, the player wins all three wagers, if second, two, and if third, one.


- A wagering term denoting a combination bet whereby all possible numeric combinations are covered.


Chalk - Wagering favorite in a race. Dates from the days when on-track bookmakers would write current odds on a chalkboard.
Chalk Player - Bettor who wagers on favorites.


Daily Double - Type of wager calling for the selection of winners of two consecutive races, usually the first and second. See 'Late Double'
Daily Triple or Pick Three - A wager where the bettor must select the winner of three consecutive races.
Daily Racing Form - A daily newspaper containing racing information including news, past performance data and handicapping.
Dead Heat - A tie. Two or more horses finishing equal in a race.


Even Money Bet (or Evens) - A 1:1 bet. A $10 wager wins $10.
Exacta - (Also, Perfecta) A wager that picks the first two finishers in a race in the exact order of finish.
Exacta Box - A wager in which all possible combinations using a given number of horses are covered.
Exotic (wager) - Any wager other than win, place or show.


Favorite - The most popular horse in a race, which is quoted at the lowest odds because it is deemed to have the best chance of winning the race.
Field - 1) All the runners in a race. 2) Some sportsbooks or bookmakers may well group all the outsiders in a competition under the banner headline of 'Field' and put it head to head with the favorite. This is known as favorite vs the field betting and is common in horse and golf betting.
Fixed Odds - Your dividend is fixed at the odds when you placed your bet.
Futures - (Also, Ante Post) Bets placed in advance predicting the outcome of a future event.


Handicapper - The official who decides the weights to be carried in handicap events, and the grading of horses and greyhounds


In The Money - Finishing first, second or third.
Jumper - Steeplechase or hurdle horse.
Key Horse - The main expected winning horse used in multiple combinations in an exotic wager
Late Double - A second daily double offered during the latter part of the program. See 'Daily Double' above.
Lock - (As in 'Banker') US term for an almost certain winner. Easy winner.


Mare - Female horse five-years-old or older.
Morning Line - Approximate odds quoted before wagering begins.
Mutual Pool - Short for 'Pari-mutuel Pool'. Sum of the wagers on a race or event, such as the win pool, daily double pool, exacta pool, etc.
Neck - Unit of measurement about the length of a horse's neck.


Objection - Claim of foul lodged by rider, patrol judge or other official after the running of a race. If lodged by official, it is called an inquiry.
Odds - The figure or fraction by which a bookmaker or totalisator offers to multiply a bettor's stake, which the bettor is entitled to receive (plus his or her own stake) if their selection wins.
Oddsmaker - A person who sets the betting odds. (Sportsbooks or Bookies don't set the odds. Most major sportsbooks use odds set by Las Vegas oddsmakers.)
Official - Sign displayed when result is confirmed. Also racing official.
Off-Track Betting (OTB) - Wagering at legalized betting outlets.


Pari-mutuel(s) - A form of wagering originated in 1865 by Frenchman Pierre Oller in which all money bet is divided up among those who have winning tickets, after taxes, takeout and other deductions are made. Oller called his system 'Parier Mutuel' meaning 'Mutual Stake' or 'betting among ourselves'. As this wagering method was adopted in England it became known as 'Paris Mutuals', and soon after 'Parimutuels'.
Parlay - (Also, Accumulator) A multiple bet. A kind of 'let-it-ride' bet. Making simultaneous selections on two or more races with the intent of pressing the winnings of the first win on the bet of the following race selected, and so on. All the selections made must win for you to win the parlay.
Part Wheel - Using a key horse or horses in different, but not all possible, exotic wagering combinations.
Photo Finish - A photo is automatically taken as the horses pass the winning line and when the race is too close to be judged the photo is used to determine the order of finish.
Pick Six (or more) - A type of wager in which the winners of all the included races must be selected.
Place - Finish in the top two, top three, top four and sometimes also top five in a competition or event. A Place bet will win if the selection you bet on is among those placed. Usually, a horse runs a place if it finishes in the first three in fields of eight or more horses. If there are only six or seven runners the horse must finish first or second to place. Different sportsbooks have different Place terms and you should check their rules before placing a bet. (See 'Each Way' UK.)
Post Time - Designated time for a race to start.
Price - The odds
Punter - Bettor or investor.


Quiniela (Quinella) - Wager in which the first two finishers must be picked in either order. Payoff is made no matter which of the two wins and which runs second. ('Reverse Forecast' in the UK. See Wagers for Quiniela variants.)
Racecard - A program for the day's racing.


Scratch - To be taken out of a race before it starts. Trainers usually scratch horses due to adverse track conditions or a horse's adverse health. A veterinarian can scratch a horse at any time.
Show - Third position at the finish.
Show Bet - Wager on a horse to finish in the money; third or better.
Sportsbook - The person, shop or website who accepts bets.
Sprint - Short race, less than one mile.
Superfecta - A bet placed on four horses to cross the finish line in exact chosen order.


Thoroughbred - A Thoroughbred is a horse whose parentage traces back to any of the three 'Founding Sires' the Darley Arabian, Byerly Turk and Godolphin Barb, and who has satisfied the rules and requirements of The Jockey Club and is registered in 'The American Stud Book' or in a foreign stud book recognized by The Jockey Club and the International Stud Book Committee. Any other horse, no matter what its parentage, is not considered a Thoroughbred for racing and/or breeding purposes.
Ticket - The betting slip or ticket which is received by the bettor from the bookmaker or totalisator, as proof of his or her wager. The ticket is necessary to collect the dividends.
Tote Board - The (usually) electronic totalizator display in the infield which reflects up-to-the-minute odds. It may also show the amounts wagered in each mutuel pool as well as information such as jockey and equipment changes, etc. Also known as the 'Board'.
Trifecta - A wager picking the first three finishers in exact order. Called a 'Triactor' in Canada and a 'Triple' in some parts of the U.S. ('Tricast' in the UK.)
Trifecta Box - A trifecta wager in which all possible combinations using a given number of horses are bet upon. The total number of combinations can be calculated according to the formula (x3)-(3x2)+(2x), where x equals the amount of horses in the box. The sum of the formula is then multiplied by the amount wagered on each combination.
Triple - (Also 'Treble') See 'Trifecta' above.
Trotting - A term for harness racing in general. It also describes the specific gait of a trotter.


Underlay - A horse racing at shorter odds than seems warranted by its past performances.
Wager - Another term for bet.
Wheel - Betting all possible combinations in an exotic wager using at least one horse as the key. See 'Part Wheel'
Win Bet - Wager on a horse to finish first.
Yielding - Condition of a turf course with a great deal of moisture. Horses sink into it noticeably.

How To Bet Horses - Additional Information

Approximate Payoff For A $2 Win Ticket

Odds Pays Odds Pays Odds Pays
1-9 $2.20 6-5 $4.40 3-1 $8.00
1-5 $2.40 7-5 $4.80 7-2 $9.00
2-5 $2.80 3-2 $5.00 4-1 $10.00
1-2 $3.00 8-5 $5.20 9-2 $11.00
3-5 $3.20 9-5 $5.60 5-1 $12.00
4-5 $3.60 2-1 $6.00 6-1 $14.00
1-1 $4.00 5-2 $7.00 7-1 $16.00

Cost For Multiple Horse Boxes

If you wish to box 3 or more horses in an Exacta or Big Triple here's what it would cost:

Number Horses Exacta Big Triple
3 horses $12.00 $12.00
4 horses $24.00 $48.00
5 horses $40.00 $120.00
6 horses $60.00 $240.00
7 horses $84.00 $420.00
8 horses $112.00 $672.00