How to Place a Bet on the Kentucky Derby in 2019
The Kentucky Derby is one of the very few days that casual sports fans acknowledge that horse racing exists. A lot of bettors only bet on the sport one or two days per year. Horse racing is a unique betting challenge and is different in many ways than betting on other sports. It's not so different that you have to be intimidated or avoid betting on the ponies. But you do need to have strategies that can maximize your chances for success - just because you don't bet on horse racing often doesn't mean you have to bet on it poorly. Here are four factors to ponder as you try to figure out how to place a bet on the Kentucky Derby:
Start with how much: This might seem backwards, but when betting on a big race like the Derby you want to start by looking at how big your bankroll is. How much you are looking to bet on a race will have a major impact on how you bet that race. If you have a relatively small amount to bet, then you don't need to spend a lot of time looking at exotic bets because you won't be able to afford them - especially the more complicated, expensive ones. The more money you are looking to invest, though, the more creative you can get, and the more ways you can tackle the race in your search for profits. The big thing you have to remember here, though, is that you can't bet money that you can't lose. Betting on racing is volatile and challenging at any point, and especially so in a race as big and hard to win as the Derby is. There is no such thing as a sure profit, and even the best handicappers out there lose on far more Derby days than they win.
Small profit or serious score?: Some people are content at the end of the day with a profit. If they wind up with 10 percent more money than they started with then their day will have been a big success. It's just about coming out on top. For others, though, that would feel like a failure. To them it's all about the big score. They would rather lose it all then win a little, and they dream of going big. Those attitudes would lead to very different types of bet selection. The conservative bettor might use multiple win bets, perhaps some place bets as well, and maybe an exacta bet or two along the way. They would place a few bets with smaller potential return, and hitting one would likely be enough to come out on top. Those seeking a big score, though, would be drawn to bigger, more expensive bets - like the superfecta or the pick four or pick six. To bet them properly would require a big investment, and there would be a whole lot of ways for it to go wrong. But if they get it right, it's a day they won't forget.
All in on one option, or many possibilities?: Some people want to be able to say that they had the race solved. They want to spend their time handicapping until one horse stands out, and then they want to bet on that horse to win. To them it's all about that chase - the challenge of figuring things out. That is a fine way to approach things, but it isn't the only way. In a race with as many horses as the Derby, the win prices are often big enough that you can bet on several horses to win and still come out on top. And if you bet exotics, then you are able to bet on many different combinations of horses, and you only need one to be right for you to win. Basically, it comes down to whether you care about being exactly right or just profitable.
Where are you betting?: There are all sorts of different options for where you bet on the race - online, at a track, in a casino, and so on. There is one decision that really matters, though - sportsbook or pari mutuel. Most horse racing is pari mutuel betting, which means that the odds fall when more money is bet on a horse. The odds are not locked in when you make your bet - you get the price that is at post time. That makes it tougher to predict what returns you are looking at. When you bet on futures at a sportsbook, you are locking in your price. That leads to more certainty, but it means you lose out on upside if a horse isn't as popular leading up to the race as you thought it might be. And betting at a sportsbook limits your options for more creative bets as well - it's all about the win. Both options work well, and sportsbook betting might be easier for regular sports bettors.
Types of bets - a refresher: Part of what scares people off from betting on horses is the number of different bets that you have to choose from. It's not as bad as it sounds, though. Here are the most common types:
Win: This is where you bet on a horse to win the race. If it finishes first, you get paid. If it finishes anywhere other than first, then you get nothing. You can bet a minimum of $2 on a horse to win, or any other full dollar amount above that.
Place: This is the same as a win bet, but you get paid if the horse finishes first or second. Obviously, the payoff is lower than a win bet because the risk is lower. The minimum cost is the same.
Show: This is just like a place bet, but your horse can finish in the top three, and your payoff is low - often really low.
Exacta: You have to pick the top two finishers in the race, and you have to pick them in the correct order.
Quinella: You have to pick the top two horses, but they can finish in any order.
Trifecta: This is like an exacta, except you have to pick the top three finishers in the correct order.
Superfecta: This is just like a trifecta, except you have to pick the top four horses in the correct order.
Daily Double: You have to pick the winner of two races in a row. On Derby weekend you can also bet the Derby-Oaks double, where you have to pick the winner of the Derby and Friday's main event, the Kentucky Oaks.
Pick three: This is just like the daily double, but you pick winners of three straight races. You have to get all three correct to make any money.
Pick four: You have to pick the winners of four straight races. You have to get all four right to be paid.
Pick six: You have to pick the winner of six races in a row. A $1 million dollar payoff is possible in this bet at times. Unlike the bets that involve fewer races, you can get a payoff on the pick six even if you don't get all of the races correct.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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