Betting Basics for Horse Racing

Backing Winners

Everything You Need to Know to Bet Horses

All three of the big Triple Crown races – the Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs, the Belmont from Maryland, and the Belmont from here in New York City – are televised, along with the Breeders’ Cup and many of the preliminary races on the under-card each of the big days. Nothing is more exciting than watching your horse battle it out down the stretch and win at odds that bettors on two-team sporting events can only dream about. Unfortunately, many sports bettors miss out on the excitement and huge profits available betting the races because they don’t understand horse betting.

This article will explain pari-mutuel betting and the types of bets available for the novice to horse betting, and will discuss money management, as well as some fine points of placing horse bets for those who are more experienced as well those who are new to the sport.

How does pari-mutuel betting at U.S. tracks work?

The pari-mutuel system of betting, in use at all tracks and by all bookmakers and off-track betting establishments in the United States, is very different from other sports. The biggest difference between the pari-mutuel system and betting on other sports is that under the pari-mutuel system you do not lock in your odds when you bet. The odds keep changing as money comes in on the various horses. The odds are calculated by dividing the amount bet on all other horses by the amount bet on the horse whose odds are being calculated. Those odds keep changing until the race goes off, and everyone who bets on a particular horse gets the final odds based on a calculation after betting closes. Those final odds may be significantly higher or lower than the odds posted when you made your bet.

This system often causes a good deal of confusion for new bettors who expect to get paid at the odds posted when they bet. You can get a good approximation of the final odds if you wait until about 10 minutes before the time the race is scheduled to start (called “post time”) to make your bets. Once there is a large amount of money in the betting pool, the fluctuations are less drastic and the proportions bet on each horse tend not to change too drastically. If you bet with an off-shore bookmaker, however, don’t wait too long.

Bets and payouts and U.S. tracks are based on a $2 bet.. There are a few exceptions to the $2 base bet on some exotic bets at some tracks, but those exceptions won’t apply at any of the tracks at which the Triple Crown is run. The posted odds tell you your profit, but you must add the $2.00 bet to that profit to get the actual payout. For example, if you bet $2 on a horse called “Upset” and the final odds are 2-1, you can expect your profit to be about $4.00 (two times the $2.00 bet). The horse’s payout, however, would be $6.00. which represents the $4.00 profit plus the original $2.00 you bet that is returned to you when you win. The payout may be a little more than $6.00 because the pool may provide an extra 20 cents or more per $2.00, and the odds are quoted to the nearest whole numbers below the actual payout. Don’t be surprised if your 2-1 winner pays you $6.20 instead of an even $6.00 for every $2.00 bet.

You can calculate the amount you should get paid on your entire bet by dividing the horse’s payout by 2 to get the payout for every $1.00 bet, and then multiplying by the amount you bet.

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