Horse Race Betting Explained on Win, Place, or Show

Posted by Alex Murphy on May 14, 2015 in

At the horse track, the terms “win,” “place” and “show” refer to the first three horses that cross the line when the race is over. These are the so-called “straight bets” that you can place at the horse track. You can also combine these into the so-called exotic bets in horse race betting, but looking at these 3 places is a good beginning for people who are new to pari-mutuel betting on horse racing.

If you bet on a horse to win, you expect that horse to come in first. Betting to place means that you’re betting on the horse to finish first or second. Betting to show means that you’re betting on the horse coming in first, second or third. Obviously, betting on a horse to win has a higher payout than betting on a horse to show, because betting to win only pays off with one result. There are many different outcomes that can lead to a winning ticket in that instance.

Horse Race Betting Explained on Win, Place, or Show

Is Horse Betting for You?

If you want to aggregate your bets into one, you can choose a trifecta. In this sort of bet, you choose the first, second and third place horses, and you ask for a trifecta bet instead of a win, place or show bet. Your payout is higher because of the reduced probability of a win. If you want to go a step further and pick the top four horses in order, you’ll ask for a superfecta.

One way to hedge against losses is to make an “each way” bet. In this instance, the bettor wagers on one particular horse to win. Then he makes a separate bet on that horse to show. That way, even if the horse doesn’t win outright, as long as he finishes in the top three, the bettor gets a power.

The system that organizes all of the bets, including determining how much they cost and pay out, is called the parimutuel system. It dates back to 1867, when Catalan impresario Joseph Oller devised it. Because these calculations were so labor-intensive, the “tote board” was invented by George Alfred Julius, an Australian engineer. Also known as the totalisator, this machine automatically determined values for each type of bet.

One reason why betting on horses is so popular is that the bettor is not in competition with the house, which always has an advantage. Instead, the gambler is competing with other gamblers. An entire science of predicting race finishes has sprung up, called handicapping. Over time, people who are skilled at handicapping horse races and predicting the winning finishes can make money, although taxes and track commissions can eat away at profits over time. Bettors have higher profits if they deal with off-track bookmakers, who take a smaller cut of the winnings, or online rebate shops, which send a small percentage of the bet back to the bettor. Because these online bookmakers have almost zero overhead, they can still make a sizable profit.