Introduction to pari-mutuel wagering
When you place a bet you are not betting against the track, but against everyone who is making that type of wager in a particular race. For example, if you bet a horse to win, your bet goes into the win pool. Based on how much is wagered on each horse to win, their odds will change accordingly.
This is called pari-mutuel wagering, from the French term meaning “amongst ourselves.” In this method of wagering, the public is betting against each other, not against the racetrack. In effect, the track has no interest in the results of a race. The track simply deducts a percentage from each dollar wagered for payment of purses, state directed equine programs, and expenses. The remainder of the pool (83% of the win, place, and show bets) is returned proportionately to the winners.
Win: You win if your horse finishes first.
Place: You win if your horse finishes first or second.
Show: You win if your horse finishes first, second, or third.
How to Bet
When you visit a mutuel window, state the following information:
1. Say the race number
2. Say the dollar amount and type of wager
3. Say the number of the horse(s) you pick
Example: Race 3, $5 to show on #4
If you are making an advanced wager, which would be a race after the upcoming one, make sure to state the race number before the wager.
The minimum wager is $2, except for some multiple combination bets with a $1 minimum, which will be described later.
The morning line odds in the program are set by an oddsmaker before the betting begins. This is an educated guess on how the public will bet on each horse. The odds change as money enters the pool.
Win odds are posted on television monitors and the infield tote board. These odds are updated every 45-90 seconds. Note that these odds will fluctuate from the time you wager until the betting ends. When you win, your payoff is determined by the closing odds.
A coupled entry in a race is when two or more horses belonging to the same owner, and/or conditioned by the same trainer, are deemed coupled. Therefore, the coupled entry is comprised of two or more horses which are a single betting interest.
Example: In a race with a 1 and 1A entry, a bet on #1 is a bet on #1 and #1A.”
At the track, different bets have different difficulty levels.
Win: You win if your horse finishes first
Place: You win if your horse finishes first or second
Show: You win if you horse finishes first, second or third
As you can see, it is much easier to successfully bet a horse to show than it would be to cash a win bet. In pari-mutuel wagering, the riskier the bet, the higher the potential payoff.
If Silver Charm goes off at 5/1 and wins, you get a $12 return on your $2 win ticket. Depending on where the money was bet in the place and show pools, you may only get a $5 return for your $2 place ticket, and a $3 return on your $2 show ticket.
The bottom line: If you would like to win more races, bet horses to place or show. If you want to go for a big payoff, bet on a horse to win – or venture into the exotics.
Exacta: Picking two horses to finish first and second in exact order.
Trifecta: Picking three horses to finish first, second, and third in exact order.
Superfecta: Picking four horses to finish first, second, third, and fourth in exact order.
Just like the traditional wagers, exotics have their own difficulty levels:
(Once again, each bet type will be compared to forecasting the weather.)
Exacta: What will the weather be like tomorrow?
Trifecta: Five day forecast
Superfecta: What will the weather be on New Year’s eve, 2010?
Because the trifecta and superfecta require more advanced handicapping and good amount of luck to win, they are not recommended for newbies who are just learning the game.