To bet on a horse race at a track, simply walk up to the wagering window and tell the employee there what wager you’d like to place. This requires you to state how much money you’re betting and the type of bet you want on your desired horse, usually by using the horse’s program number. Something along the lines of, “I’d $5 on number 4 to win the fourth race,” will do well. Always check the ticket you receive to make sure it lists your correct bet. You’re stuck with the wrong bet if you don’t notice the error before the race starts. Just as important is keeping your safe, because you’ll need it to collect your winnings. You don’t want to drop your ticket and let someone collect on the bet you made!
The most common minimum bet at a racetrack is $2. Payouts are determined by the odds at the start of the race, because odds change depending on how much money is collectively bet on each horse.
Some Exotic Bets of Horse Racing
Beyond the basic win, place and show bets, there are exotic bets. A bet on the first two horses to win a race is called an exacta or perfecta. An exacta wins if you pick the two horses in their correct finish order. You can bet on more than two horses, though, if you like three or four horses by buying an exacta box ticket. This ticket covers every possible combination for those horses winning.
For example, you like horses 1, 2, and 3. This gives you six ways to win an exacta: 1 wins and 2 or 3 comes second, 2 wins and 1 or 3 comes second, or 3 wins and 1 or 2 comes second. Buying an exacta box ticket on three horses costs the same as six individual tickets, however. There’s no distinct advantage to boxing horses beyond making multiple bets at once. You can box 2 and 4 horses, as well, covering 2 and 12 combinations respectively.
Wheeling your favorite horses with the most likely second-place finishers is another exacta option. This costs the same as individual tickets as well, but you can bet on combination like horses 1 and 2, 1 and 3, or 1 and 4 to win if you’re not sure whether horse 2, 3, or 4 will come in second after horse 1 takes first place. Both box tickets and wheel tickets have the same potential payoffs as individual bets.
A quinella bet allows you to make a wager on two horses to win without specifying their finishing order. Quinella bets go into a separate pool from exacta bets if both are offered by the racetrack.
You may also have the chance to bet on a trifecta. This lets you pick the first three horses to win, and their order, similar to an exacta bet.
Wagering on Multiple Races
A daily-double bet is a bet in which you pick the winners of two consecutive races—usually the first two races of the days. The official program will tell you whether a daily-double bet is offered at the top of the page.
Some racetracks also offer a triple, or a “pick three,” which gives you the opportunity to pick the winners of three consecutive races rather than just two.
Like the daily-double and triple, you may even be able to find a pick-six wager. Pick-sixes let you attempt to pick the winners of six consecutive races, and if no one manages to pick all six winners, the pool is split among the bettors that picked the most winners in the races. Occasionally a portion of the pick-six will be carried over to the next day if nobody picks all six winners.