Types of Horse Racing Bets
by T.O Whenham - 01/07/2008
At first glance it seems like there are a huge number of different types of horse racing bets. Once you figure it out, though, it's really quite simple. Here's a quick look at the different types of horse racing bets available at most tracks in North America:
Win - The most obvious and simplest. You have to pick the horse that is going to win the race. You can bet any dollar amount higher than or equal to two dollars. The payout for this bet changes according to how many people bet on the horse - the more people that made the bet, the lower the payout will be.
Place - This is like a win bet, except you win if your horse finishes first or second in the race. The payout depends not only on the odds of your horse, but also the odds of the other horse that finishes in the top two. You can approximate what the place payment will be, but you can't know for sure until the race has been run.
Show - This is like above, but the horse can finish first, second or third. The chances of winning are obviously higher than the previous two bets, so the payout is lower than the other two. The show bet is mostly a domain of the casual and conservative bettor instead of something that a serious horseplayer would pursue regularly.
The rest of the bets on this list are called exotics because they involve more than one horse per bet.
Exacta - The goal here is to pick the horses that will finish first and second in the race. To win, you have to have the right horses in the correct order. The potential payouts for all of the exacta combinations are displayed on the tote board and on the TV screens around the track before the races. This be is sometimes also called the exactor or perfecta, depending upon the track.
Quinella - This is like the exacta, except the order that the horses finish in doesn't matter. Given that the risk is less, the reward is obviously less as well.
Trifecta - This is like the exacta, only you have to pick the first three horses in the race in the correct order. At most tracks you can bet just one dollar on this bet, whereas you had to bet at least two dollars on each of the previous bets. It is also called the triactor.
Superfecta - This goes one step further - you have to pick the top four horses in the correct order. Because these bets have become increasingly popular, and because most bettors like to bet several combinations in a race for a better chance to win, most tracks have now introduced a 10 cent superfecta (each combination costs a dime) so that more people will play the wager.
Daily double - The challenge here is to pick the winner of two consecutive races. You have to get both right to earn a payout. Typically this bet is offered twice on a card - on the first two races and the last two races.
Pick three - This is also called a triple or a treble depending on the track. The goal here is to pick the winners of three consecutive races. In most cases this bet is available for every combination of three consecutive races on a card. The minimum bet is usually one dollar, though for some tracks it is two dollars.
Pick four - You can probably figure out the goal here - picking four straight winners. This bet typically happens twice on a card, and four and even five figure payouts are common. Serious horseplayers will often spend hundreds of dollars buying different combination of horses in an attempt to cash in on these potentially lucrative bets. The minimum bet is usually one dollar.
Pick six - The goal here is to pick six straight winners, and it's even harder than it sounds. At most tracks it's offered once per day, and it is fairly common for it not to be won by anyone. In that case, the bulk of the pool is carried over to the next race day. Serious handicappers will pay attention to these carryovers, and will try to win the bet when the carryover is inflated at any track. It is not uncommon to see six figure payouts in the pick six, but bettors have to have a huge bankroll to safely pursue the big paydays. Some tracks offer a pick seven instead of a pick six, but most tracks have moved away from this because it was too hard to win and too expensive to play properly, so it was unattractive to bettors. The pick six is mostly for serious bettors - the minimum bet is two dollars per combination, so a ticket that includes several different horses can be very expensive.
Grand slam - This is a bet primarily available in New York. The goal here is to pick one of the top three horses in three straight races, and then the winner in the fourth race. It's much easier to hit than the pick four, but it pays much less.