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Betting on the Horses: Racetrack How-Tos

Wondering how to wager on the horses?

Horse racing wagers are based on a pari-mutuel system. Basically, this means winning payouts are proportionate to the total amount bet on a given horse race.

Each racehorse is given statistical odds of placing first in the race, and those odds determine the amount of the possible payouts winners might receive. A racehorse’s odds may change right up until the starting gun goes off, when bets are closed.

Horse racing spectators can select the racehorses on which they wish to bet, based on research, personal preferences and even hunches.

Choose Your Favorites

At the track and off-track betting centers, printed racing forms and other information may be available to help spectators determine how they wish to bet. Contents may include each horse’s breeding data, pedigrees, past race performance evaluations and more. Usually, this data may also be accessible online.

Many horse racing enthusiasts choose to bet on the favorites, those racehorses who seem statistically likely to win. However, when I used to play the horses, I preferred to pick longshots, with high odds. If my chosen horse came in first in his race, I won big. (This doesn’t happen often, but I nearly always returned from the horse racing track with more cash than I had before.)

Mark Your Boundaries

Horse racing wagers can be fun to make. Winning is exciting. Still, horror stories abound. All too often, racetrack spectators place bets beyond their means. Gambling debts can cause all sorts of personal and financial problems.

You can avoid this danger, if you determine exactly how much money you plan to play with, before you place your first bet. Make a firm commitment to stick to your resolve and stay within that total.

If you win at the racetrack, you can put your own money away and just play with your winnings. Anything you win after that point is a bonus. If you lose, you still leave with your own cash.

This strategy will protect you from overspending and gambling debt at the racetrack.

Place Your Wagers

Wagers can be made at the racetrack and at off-track betting locations. Several betting options are generally offered.

WIN: You bet for a specific horse to win. If he comes in first, you collect. For example, suppose you bet $5 on a given horse to win, and his odds are 3-1. If he wins, you will receive $15. If he loses, you get nothing.

PLACE: You bet for a specific horse to come in second. If he comes in second, you collect winnings.

SHOW: You bet for a specific horse to come in third. If he comes in third, you collect winnings.

WIN, PLACE, OR SHOW: You pick a horse for a given race. If he finishes first, second, or third, you collect winnings.

PICK 3: You can bet on the winners of three consecutive races. If you pick correctly, you can win a higher ratio.

PICK 6: You can pick the winners of six consecutive races. This is hard to do, but can spell big winnings.

DAILY DOUBLE: You can pick the winners of the first two races of the day. Wagers must be completed before the first race starts.

QUINELLA: You can pick the first and second place finishers in a race, in any order. If your two horses finish first and second, or second and first, you win.

QUINELLA BOX: This is just like a quinella, except you are picking the top three horses in a race.

PERFECTA: You pick the first and second place finishers in a race, in order.

STRAIGHT PERFECTA: You pick the top three finishers in a race, in order.

SUPERFECTA: You pick the top four horses in a race, in order.

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