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.
Horse Racing Betting Explained