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Betting on Horse Racing 101

Betting on Horse Racing 101

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and begin betting on horse racing, but you don’t know how or where (or maybe even why). Don’t worry – we have you covered with everything you need to know to get started!


Despite its moniker of being the “Sport of Kings,” horse racing attracts people from all socioeconomic backgrounds because it’s still one of the cheapest – and quickest – gambling and entertainment opportunities around. These days, a family trip to a major league sporting event can easily top $400 just between parking, admission, and concessions. How many people can afford to make that trip more than once a year?

A trip to the race track is just the opposite. Admission and parking are often free, and the minimum amount needed to bet a horse to win is $2. By the time you’ve left the track, you’ve spent the day outside, watching magnificent animals perform at their peak abilities, and possibly even turned a profit.


Gambling at the track is self-explanatory and many offer both live-teller and self-service counters. Even if you don’t live anywhere near a race track, you can still wager online in almost every jurisdiction.

Several Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) websites offer bonuses for first-time account holders. Check out our top recommendations here. We also encourage you to shop around and try out several ADWs to find the one that best suits your needs and style.


Now that you’ve decided why and where to spend your hard-earned entertainment dollars, it’s time to figure out how to bet on horse racing. The minimum bet amounts range from $0.10 to $2, depending on what bets you make. Once you know how to bet, use our PREMIUM PRODUCTS to begin building your bankroll!

Learn how to make money using our premium picks!

We’ll start with the basics:

Win: The simplest bet to make and understand. Pick a horse, bet to Win, then call it home. The odds on the toteboard reflect the predicted profits for Win bets. If a horse wins at 4/1 odds, then the profit is $4 for every $1 bet, so a $2 Win bet returns $10 (the original $2 bet plus the $8 profit). The actual profit might be slightly higher because toteboards round down to the nearest whole number.

Place: Less profitable but also less risky than a Win bet, this will cash if your horse runs first OR second. The payout doesn’t change whether or not your horse wins, but it IS directly affected by the other top-two finisher. Longshots running first and second will pay much better to Place than two heavy favorites. Betting to Place is smart if you feel confident that a horse will finish in the top two, but you aren’t certain that it will be victorious.

Show: The least risky bet that you can make on a race, this will pay if your horse finishes anywhere in the top three. Understandably, the payout is substantially lower than a Win or Place bet, but you can still turn a nice profit if you nail the correct longshot.

An example from our PREMIUM PRODUCTS (click the image for more information)

Across the Board: This term means betting an equal amount on a horse to Win, Place, and Show. The idea is that you give yourself insurance in case your horse doesn’t Win but does hit the board (finish in the top three), as the Place and/or Show payouts would hopefully recoup the amount lost on the Win bet. The term comes from when you make the bet with a live teller; rather than saying, “$5 to Win, $5 to Place, and $5 to Show on #4,” you say, “$5 across the board on #4.”

We don’t recommend making this bet on a horse at lower than 5/1 odds because if it loses, then the Place and/or Show payouts won’t be enough to make up for the lost Win bet. If you think that a favored horse is a lock, then just make a Win bet.

An example of an “Across the Board” bet, using two horses (#4 and #10) 

Next, we’ll explain “single-race exotics,” a series of bets made using multiple horses in one race. These bets can be made in one of two ways – straight or boxed – and can include as many horses as you want:

Exacta: The simplest single-race exotic, Exacta bets try to correctly predict the top two finishers – in order. Because it’s more difficult than a Win bet, the Exacta pays more. The minimum bet amount for an Exacta at most tracks is $1.

A straight Exacta means that your horses must come across in the specific order that you bet. If you make a straight Exacta bet with #3 in first and #5 in second, then you only cash if #3 wins and #5 is second. A boxed exacta means that your horses must finish in the top two, but in no determined order. A boxed Exacta bet using #3 and #5 cashes no matter which one wins. However, because a boxed Exacta is essentially multiple straight Exacta bets, it costs more, so for maximum profit, you’re cheering for the horse with the higher odds to win.

An example from our PREMIUM PRODUCTS (click the image for more information)

Trifecta: Similar to an Exacta, the Trifecta bet aims to predict the top three finishers in order, but most tracks have a minimum Trifecta bet amount of $0.50. It’s much more difficult to hit than an Exacta, so a Trifecta payout is higher to reward those who correctly hit it.

An example from our PREMIUM PRODUCTS (click the image for more information)

Superfecta: The hardest single-race bet to hit at any track, a winning Superfecta wager must correctly predict the top four finishers in order. Due to the high degree of difficulty, the minimum bet amount is $0.10.

Many successful exotics bettors use multiple horses in most – if not all – positions in order to maximize chances of success. You may think that only horses #1 and #2 can potentially win, but that horses #1, #2, #3, and #4 can finish second or third. Your $0.50 Trifecta bet would look like this:

We often recommend boxing single-race exotics in our PREMIUM PRODUCTS because favorites historically lose at a 70% rate, so this is a great way to find value while also maximizing your chances of winning. Just keep in mind that every potential combination costs money, so don’t go overboard or else you won’t profit, even if you do hit the bet. If you’d like to play around with this concept, we recommend using this website:

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Finally, let’s look at “multi-race exotics,” a series of bets that need to correctly predict only the winner of each race (or “leg) in a given sequence. The sequence can be as short as two races or as long as six, with each added race increasing the difficulty of finding success. Much like single-race exotics, you can also use as many horses in each leg as you want, but again, the more horses that you use, the more expensive your bet becomes.

Daily Double: The simplest of the multi-race exotics, Daily Doubles require bettors to predict the winners of two consecutive legs. While it varies by location, most tracks have a $2 minimum Daily Double bet amount.

Pick 3s, Pick 4s, & Pick 5s: The names of these multi-race exotics reflect the number of consecutive legs that must be correctly predicted. Most tracks have a minimum bet amount of either $0.50 or $1 and become more difficult to hit with each added leg.

An example from our PREMIUM PRODUCTS (click the image for more information)

Pick 6s: The single hardest wager to hit in the entire sport is the Pick 6 sequence, which handsomely rewards anyone who correctly predicts the winners of six straight legs. Pick 6 payouts are often extremely high and extremely difficult to earn, so if nobody hits a Pick 6 sequence on a given day, then the entire pool of money bet is carried over to the next race day. At major tracks, these pools can exceed $10 million before getting paid out.

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Multi-race exotics are the bread and butter for bettors who are great at finding winners but can’t pick a second-place horse to save their lives. Our own Mike “Somobomb” Somich is the first to tell you that he’s profitable with multi-race exotics but is an historic loser with other bet types. It’s all about discovering your strengths and weaknesses as a bettor. Don’t be afraid to try something new or to drop a wager that you just can’t seem to figure out.

To learn more about Mike Somich’s winning multi-race exotics bets, check out his Somo Bombs product here!

There you have it! You are now ready to place your bets and hopefully profit. Good luck, have fun, and above all else, never bet more than you can afford to lose. Stick to a predetermined bankroll that you are comfortable risking. Chasing bad money with good is a very easy way to go broke.


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