So you want to partake in some pari-mutuel wagering? Don’t worry, that’s a fancy term that means “betting among ourselves”. When you place a wager on a horse race you are not betting against the “house” as you would be if you were wagering at a casino in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Instead, you are betting your horse against every other bettor. Let the best man win!
Win, Place, and Show bets are commonly called straight wagers, and are the most traditional in horse racing. They are lower risk bets compared to exotic wagers like Exactas and Trifectas. These wagers are a good place for the novice horseplayer to jump in.
The three bet types:
Win: If you wager $2 to Win on your horse, you collect only if your horse finished first.
Place: If you wager $2 to Place, your horse must finish first or second for you to collect. But remember, you don’t get the Win payoff, just the Place payoff, which is generally smaller than the win payoff.
Show: If you wager $2 to Show, your horse must finish first, second, or third. But remember, you only collect the Show payoff.
Many experts consider playing a horse to Win to be the best bet in horse racing. Before placing a Win bet a horseplayer can see the odds on the tote board and then determine if those odds represent good wagering value.
After all, return on investment is really the name of the game.
A term you may hear tossed around at the track is an “Across the Board” wager. Here you are wagering on a horse to Win, Place and Show on one ticket. If your horse wins, you receive Win, Place and Show payoffs. If your horse finishes second, you receive Place and Show payoffs; and if your horse is third, you receive the Show payoff only.
These wagers would be considered “low risk” betting, at least compared to the rest of the wagering menu. There also is a lower “takeout” on these wagers. The takeout is the cut the track takes to pay purses and expenses. The “take” on Win, Place and Show wagers is generally around 17% depending on the jurisdiction. The takeout on Exactas and Trifectas can range from 19% to as much as 30% at some tracks.
Here are a couple of examples of Win payoffs bases on the odds you might see on the tote board:
2/1 pays $6.00
7/2 pays $9.00
9/2 pays $11.00
10/1 pays $22.00
(Based on a $2 win bet).