Horse Racing Exotic Bets
by Robert Ferringo - 04/23/2008
When some people think of "exotics" and "horses" they might think about a petite, blonde female and a sick, twisted, cruel video that is enough to make an Agnostic go to confession. But when people who know The Track hear about exotics and horses they think about one thing: opportunity.
Back in the Day, after the invention of the chalk board but before the Commodore 64, the only way to bet on horse racing, even horse racing's biggest events like the Kentucky Derby, was to wager on which horses will win, place, and show. However, there are now all manners of wagers to be made on the ponies with bets that aren't considered "straight" wagers - your win, place and show - falling under the umbrella of exotic horse racing bets. The appeal of these exotics is not only the complexity and the enhanced action, but also the possibility of an escalated payout.
Think about football. You can bet on teams and totals. But for some people that can lose its luster or get a bit monotonous. So you have teasers and parlays. They involve multiple winners, have a much higher rate of payout, and add a little more excitement to your weekend. Exotics serve a similar purpose. However, just like with parlays and teasers, it's a bit too easy to burn through a bulk of your bankroll for a certain event with dozens of small-risk, high-reward wagers.
"You gotta be careful with them exotics," Washington Nationals catcher and known shady track dweller Paul Lo Duca did not say in a totally imaginary interview with me that had no basis in reality. "The odds are right, and the pay is nice. But those friggin' ponies never seem to cooperate.
"Yeah, I used to sleep in a port-a-potty at the Aqueduct," Lo Duca did not say. "And I made the Mets set me up with a team near another track. The Nats are perfect because Pimlico is just up the road there. Hell, you'll see me with my shirt off and bombing beers in the infield during the Preakness. That place is a madhouse."
Exotic wagers can be good times. And if you have a read on a certain race they can help you multiply your profits very quickly. I'm a huge fan of tossing exotic bets into a "wheel", which I'll explain in detail in a future article, and I believe that exotic bets can be successfully worked into a profitable horse betting strategy. As long as they are integrated in moderation. But before you can place an exotic bet on horse racing you need to know what they are. Here is a simple, basic breakdown of some exotic horse betting plays that you can make at the track or through your online book:
Exacta - With this one the name says it all. You are trying to nail the first- and second-place horses in EXACTLY the order that they will finish. It has escalating odds - think about hitting a parlay in football - based on the overall odds of your two horses. The odds for these are usually posted beforehand. There are multiple strategies on whether or not these bets are a strong value, but I believe the money spot is to find a medium-priced horse that you can pair with one of the favorites.
Quinella - With the exacta you have to pick the No. 1 and No. 2 horses in the proper order. But with the quinella you pick two horses and as long as they finish in first and second place, in EITHER order, you win. Basically, pick your top two horses and hope that they lead the pack. These normally cost half as much as an exacta, with the payout significantly reduced as well.
Trifecta - This is the same concept as an exacta, except you have to nail the top three finishers. Yeah, it's even more difficult than it sounds. Unless you're a pro this is normally a "Why Not" bet.
Superfecta - To win this wager you need to hit the first, second, third, and fourth place finishers in their exact order. This is for people who don't want to roll down to the gas station, wait in line behind some fat lady looking for a pack of USA Golds, and buy a lotto tickets. Trifecta is the ticket you buy when you're feeling lucky. Superfecta is the ticket you buy when you are completely wasted and feeling luck.
If you weren't a seasoned horse bettor my suggestion would be to keep it simple and decide what your goals are. If you are really trying to win money at the track or on a race like the Kentucky Derby I would recommend simply playing a couple horses to win or perhaps dabbling with a quinella. If you budget the money as an entertainment expense and you really just want to take a chance at a potential payday then feel free to dabble with one of horse racing's other exotic bets.