Kentucky Derby Betting Party Ideas and Tips
The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is just a giant, almost out-of-control party that happens to have horses at it. I've been to the event twice, and both times there were multiple people around who didn't even make it to the race - or didn't remember it if they did. It's all about the party, and it is so much fun. Even if you can't make the trip to Churchill Downs, though, you can have your own party at home. And with a few good Kentucky Derby betting party ideas and tips your party will be one that people won't soon forget:
It's all about the hats: You hear about how every woman at the Derby wears fancy hats. Until you go, though, you don't realize how insanely competitive people are about having great hats. It's incredible. Invite your guests to wear the best hat - or the ugliest, or the most creative. Have a simple prize to fuel the competitive factor.
Mint juleps. Must have mint juleps: It is stunning how many mint juleps get consumed at the Derby. And these aren't weak little drinks, either - they knock your socks off. They are very easy to make at home, and as the official drink of the Derby they bring authenticity to your event. A good mint julep isn't fancy. Some fresh mint. Some simple syrup. Some ice. And a lot of bourbon. But it has to be real Kentucky bourbon. And it needs to be stiff. Some people might struggle with the first one. But by the third one they will go down very easy. Too easy.
How to make a betting pool for the Kentucky Derby
It's not a horse race if you aren't betting on it. There are, fortunately, lots of easy ways to offer fun and fair betting at home. You don't even need a math degree to pull these off.
Run your own mutuels: Thanks to the miracles of computers and the Internet, there are all sorts of good ways to offer mutuel betting at home. If you have your own betting account at an online sportsbook or an online racebook, you can place people's bets out of your account and collect their cash or get an online transfer. If you don't want to get that complicated, you can easily run your own pool. It's actually pretty easy. Let's say that you are taking win bets, and that people can bet in multiples of one dollar. And let's say that $100 in total is bet on all the horses in the race. The horse that wins has 10 $1 bets on it. The people who made those bets get their bets back. That leaves $90 in the pool. Dividing the $90 by the 10 correct ticket means that each ticket holder makes a $9 profit. You can set this up easily in a spreadsheet, or there are apps available that will help you do it. The fun really happens if a horse wins that no one has bet on. You could refund the money, but that's boring. It's more interesting if you donate it to charity, or if you have another contest of some sort to decide who gets the cash.
Auction action: If you don't want to deal with running your own mutuel betting an easier, and often more fun, way to do it is through an auction. You can offer each horse up for sale and throw all the money into a pot. The person who owns the winning horse gets all the money. The fun of this approach is that the favorites usually go for big money - Justify would have drawn some insane money last year - but you can pick up the last few horses in a few for very little money. So, in a year like 2009 when Mine That Bird shocked the world, chances are very good that whoever bought him in auctions would have paid almost nothing for him, and they would have been in for a sweet payday. If you want to get a little creative and have more fun, you can split up the field in ways other than just horse by horse. You can auction horses off by trainer - with three of the favorites in the field this year, Bob Baffert will go for a massive price. You can have a lot of fun going by the colors of the horses as listed in the program or splitting the field up by the state they ran their last race in. There is really no limit to the ways you can set up your action.
Kentucky Derby betting games ideas
If you don't feel like messing around with the options above, there are other simpler ways to allow people to have a rooting interest in the race. The advantage of these approaches is that there is no skill involved, so if your guests don't have a lot of handicapping skill this could be the way to go.
Sell envelopes: Put the name of each horse inside an envelope and seal it up. Make sure that you can't see the name through the envelope. Set a price for each envelope that works for your crowd - it's could be $5 an envelope or $100 depending on what kind of crowd you roll with. People get to pick an envelope when they pay for it, but they don't open it. After the race has been run, people take turns opening their envelope to see who has the winner's name inside. That person gets the whole pool and bragging rights for the year. People are of course free to trade, sell or barter their envelopes any time before they are opened, too.
Kentucky Derby betting square: A betting square is a fixture at any Super Bowl party. You can easily adapt it to work for the Derby. The easiest way to do it is by betting the exacta. There are 20 horses in the field. On one side of the square you list each of those numbers. That's the win side. On the opposite side you again list all those numbers, and that is the horse that finishes second. You have to cross out the squares where the same numbers meet - a horse can't finish both first and second in the race. But that leaves 380 possible squares, and only one will be correct. You can set a price that is reasonable for each square - low enough that people can afford to buy several, but high enough that the pot gets up to a good size. Whoever buys the winning square gets the pot.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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