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Cheat Sheet

Betting on Horse Racing For Dummies

People have been betting on horse races since horses have been running. Betting on the outcome of formal horse races can be fun and profitable if you know what you’re doing and can beat the odds. Betting on Horse Racing For Dummies offers lots of info to help better your odds including advice on what to pay attention to and what tools can help you at the track as well as the mechanics of placing a bet, the types of bets you can place, and your odds of winning.

How to Place a Wager on a Horse Race

Betting on horse racing isn’t a complicated procedure. Most often, you place your bet, take your ticket, and tear it up when your bet doesn’t pay off. However, if you’re lucky — or skilled — you get to take your ticket back to the window and collect your winnings. The following list spells out the betting procedure step by step:

  1. State the name of the racetrack.

  2. State what number race you’re betting.

  3. State the dollar unit of your bet.

  4. State the type of wager.

    You can bet on a single horse to win, place, or show or on a combination of horses.

  5. State the number of the horse or horses you’re using.

  6. Check your ticket before you leave the window.

Betting Tools You Need at the Horse Races

Along with your sunscreen (or umbrella!), a few items come in very handy when you’re at the racetrack betting on horses. You may want binoculars to see your favorite pass the finish line, but the tools in the following list are even more useful when it comes to actually placing your bets:

  • Racetrack program: Like a program at a baseball game, it has information on all the players. In this case, the players are the horses, jockeys, trainers, and owners. Cost is $3.

  • The Daily Racing Form (DRF): It provides the past performances of all the horses running on the day’s program and includes informative horse racing articles and handicapping by DRF staff. Cost is $4.

  • Public handicapper selections: If your racetrack or OTB (off-track betting) is covered by the local newspaper, they may pay a handicapper to make daily horse selections. Cost is 50 cents.

  • Handicapping tip sheets: These are daily selections published by handicappers at the racetrack. Cost is $2.

Odds with $2 Minimum Payoff for Horse Racing

You’re betting on horse races and want to know how much your winning bet will give you. To compute your $2 win price, take the odds of your horse and multiply the first number by 2, divide that by the second number, and then add $2 — simple as that! Following is a list of payoffs at various odds for quick reference:

Odds $2 Payoff Odds $2 Payoff Odds $2 Payoff
1/9 $2.20 8/5 $5.20 7/1 $16.00
1/5 $2.40 9/5 $5.60 8/1 $18.00
2/5 $2.80 2/1 $6.00 9/1 $20.00
1/2 $3.00 5/2 $7.00 10/1 $22.00
3/5 $3.20 3/1 $8.00 11/1 $24.00
4/5 $3.60 7/2 $9.00 12/1 $26.00
1/1 $4.00 4/1 $10.00 13/1 $28.00
6/5 $4.40 9/2 $11.00 14/1 $30.00
7/5 $4.80 5/1 $12.00 15/1 $32.00
3/2 $5.00 6/1 $14.00 16/1 $34.00

How to Make a Show Parlay Bet on Horse Races

Are you with a group of friends betting on horses at the racetrack? A fun way to bet on horse races that gets everyone in your party involved is a group show parlay. It works like this: Have each person ante up $5, and pool the money. Each person in the group picks one race and one horse to bet to show. Place the first bet, and if you win, parlay the money on the next race and horse. Your winnings can add up very quickly. For example, if four people start with $20 and each person wins a $3 show price, you’ll have $101 after only four races!

Helpful Facts for Betting on Horse Racing

When you’re at the track betting on horse races, you’re looking to put yourself in the best position for winning, right? Of course you are, and the facts and stats in the following list can help you better your odds:

  • Every racetrack has a television simulcast commentator who handicaps between the races. Listen and see if you can pick up any good tips to bet on.

  • The top ten riders in the jockey standings win about 90 percent of the races run during the meet.

  • Favorite horses win about 33 percent of the time, although at low payoffs.

  • The morning line isn’t who the racetrack oddsmaker likes in the race. It’s his prediction of how the public will bet the race. A no-brainer method of betting overlays is to play a couple bucks on horses going off at odds two to three times higher than its morning line.

Types of Horse Racing Wagers (and Your Chances of Winning)

When it comes to betting on horse races, before you even place a bet on a horse you need to decide what type of bet to place. As the bets you can make range from a simple bet on a single horse in one race to choosing the winning horses for six consecutive races, you may need to the information in the following table to help you explore your betting options:

Bet Type Your Chances of Winning Explanation and Expectation Suggested Plays (Based upon a $100 Bankroll)
Show Very good Your horse must finish 1st, 2nd, or 3rd; modest payoffs $6 per horse
Place Good Your horse must finish 1st or 2nd; payoffs better than to show $5 per horse
Win Average Your horse must finish 1st; payoff determined by the win odds $4 per horse
Quinella Average Your horses must finish 1st and 2nd in either order; a normal play is to box three horses $2 quinella box using three horses costs $6
Exacta Hard Your horses must finish 1st and 2nd in exact order; riskier bet that can pay a little or a lot, depending on the horses’ odds $1 exacta box using three horses costs $6; $1 exacta box keying one horse with three horses costs $6
Trifecta Very hard Your horses must finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in exact order; can be expensive to play if you use a lot of horses $1 trifecta keying one horse to win over three horses costs $6; $1 trifecta keying two horses to win over four horses costs $12
Superfecta Extremely hard Your horses must finish 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th; hard to bet unless you have a sizeable bankroll; big payoff possible $1 superfecta keying one horse to win over four horses costs $24
Daily Double Hard Your horses must win the two consecutive races; chance for a nice payoff with mid-priced horses $2 daily double using two horses in each race costs $8; $2 daily double keying one horse to three horses costs $6
Pick 3 Very hard Your horses must win three consecutive races; it’s a daily double plus another race; $1 unit makes it affordable $1 pick 3 using two horses in each race costs $8; $1 pick 3 keying one horse with three horses in two other races costs $9
Pick 4 Extremely hard Your horses must win four consecutive races; chance for a big score for a modest amount $1 pick 4 using two horses in each race costs $16
Pick 6 Thinking man’s lottery Your horses must win six consecutive races; very expensive to play; huge payoffs possible; a home run bet $2 pick 6 using three singles with two horses each in the other three races costs $16
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