How to Bet on Horse Racing


Betting on horse racing is all about beating the odds-makers and making a little money doing it. It can also make watching the race that much more enjoyable. Betting on horse racing can be complex or simple depending on much money you want to make and how lucky you feel.

  • Go to a race track, off-track betting site or casino sports bar to watch the races and make bets.

  • Buy a racing form from a vendor. Vendors also sell tip sheets, which provide expert picks. Study the racing form. It will tell you how each horse did in its previous races and what its times were. Compare all the times of the horses to see which has consistently been the fastest. The form will also tell you the length of each race. Check to see how the horses did in races of a similar distance to the one you're betting on.

  • Look at the parimutuel board, the display that indicates the odds for each horse in a race. The odds are expressed as a ratio such as 2-1, which means you will get two dollars back for every dollar you bet if that horse wins. Odds are based on the number of bettors choosing a particular horse, Popular horses have low odds, are likely to win and pay smaller returns. Unpopular horses have high odds, but these "longshots" can pay off if they win.

  • Choose your horse and decide which type of bet you'd like to make. The basic bets are Win, which pays off if your horse comes in first; Place, which pays off if your horse comes in first or second; and Show, which pays off if your horse comes in first, second, or third. Bets to Win pay highest. Racing venues usually offer many other types and combinations of bets.

  • Go to the ticket window to place your bet. Tell the cashier the name of the track, the number of the race, the racing number of the horse or horses you'd like to bet, the type of bet, and the amount you are betting. Most racing venues offer preprinted betting slips you can check off and hand to the cashier.

  • Get your ticket from the cashier. Check that all information is correct before walking away from the window. Put your ticket in a safe place and watch the race. Once the race is over, no matter what happens, wait for the official results. If your horses come in according to your bet, you win. If they don't, your ticket is good scratch paper for your next bet.

  • If you won your bet, wait for the official amount of the winnings to appear on the screen and then return to the ticket window to collect your money.

Tips & Warnings

  • Racing venues offer many different types and combinations of bets. Make sure you familiarize yourself with them before betting. Some common specialty bets include the exacta, which involves picking the horses that come in first and second in that exact order, and the trifecta, which is picking which horses will come in first, second and third in that exact order. You can also box a bet, which means you don't have to pick the exact order, just the horses. A quinella is a type of box bet with two horses.
  • For the bigger races, you can usually get a racing form out of your local newspaper so you don't have to pay for it at the venue.
  • Sometimes if you are watching the races off-track, the station will have a professional tipster come on and offer predictions. These can be as accurate as and cheaper than buying a tipsheet.
  • Never tear up your ticket until you know the official race results. If you are in doubt, have the cashier check the ticket for you.
  • Gambling is addictive. If you think you might have a problem, get help immediately.

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