An Exacta Wager (or in some areas it is called a Perfecta) involves picking two horses that you believe will finish first and second. Because you must select two horses, this wager is generally harder to hit than a straight wager, but usually pays greater dividends when you do hit it. Let’s talk about exacta wagering.
A common way to play an Exacta would be a $2 Exacta box. If you liked the #1 and #2 horse, a $2 Exacta box would cost $4. If those two horses ran first and second in either order, you win.
If you like the #1 horse to beat the #2 horse, you can play a $2 Exacta straight #1-#2 for $2, but remember it must come in exactly as played. As you get more familiar with wagering there are a number of different ways to play exactas.
If you like the #1 to win and can’t decide between the #2,#3 or #4 horse to finish second, you can play a $2 Exacta key of #1 over #2,#3,#4. The cost of this wager would be $6. As long as the #1 wins and either the #2,#3, or #4 runs second, you have hit the Exacta!
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The Exacta Key
If you can’t decide between the #1 and #2 to win the race you can play an Exacta key using both on top of your ticket. If you also think that the #3,#4 have chances to land in the Exacta, a good way to play the race would be:
A $2 Exacta key #1,#2 over #1,#2,#3,#4. This wager would cost $12 and would hit as long as either the #1 or #2 won the race, and any of your four contenders finished in the runner-up spot.
Exacta payoffs can vary greatly. If your two contenders are the favorites in the race it could pay less than $10, or in a larger field could return $35 or more. Find a couple of longshots that both finish in the Exacta and the payoff could be over $1,000.
Most tote boards have probable payoffs, as do the television monitors at the track. Some online tote boards also show probable payoffs.
Before getting too fancy with Exacta keys and using multiple horses in the two slots, get familiar with the types of payoffs you can expect to receive if you win.
Horse Racing Betting Explained