Betting on Horse Racing, Explained

Gambling
There is nothing quite like watching the horse you picked win a race and cashing a ticket. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

Betting on a horse race for the first time — even the first few times — can be an intimidating endeavor.

How do I chose which horse to bet? What are all of these options?

This video that walks you through how to chose a horse using past performances and then read on for an explanation of the various betting options as well as some key betting terms to know.


The Basics

Win bet – A bet on a horse to finish first.

Place bet – A bet on a horse to finish first or second.

Show bet – A bet on a horse to finish in the money; third or better.

In the money – A horse that finishes first, second, or third.

Across the board – A bet on a horse to win, place, and show. If the horse wins, the bettor collects three ways; if second, two ways (place, show); and if third, one way, losing the win and place bets. It's actually three bets.

Morning line – The odds that the track handicapper predicts a horse will go off at.


Ready for the Next Step?

Exotic (bet) – Any bet other than win, place, or show that requires multiple combinations. Examples of exotic wagers are exacta, trifecta, Pick 6, Pick 4.

Daily Double (or Double) – Type of bet calling for the selection of winners of two consecutive races.

Exacta – A wager in which the first two finishers in a race, in exact order of finish, must be picked.

Box – A betting term denoting a combination bet whereby all possible numeric combinations are covered for certain horses.

Exacta box – A wager in which all possible combinations using a given number of horses are selected. For example, an exacta box using horses 2,4,6 would produce a winning ticket if any two of those three horses finished first and second, regardless of the order (2-6, 4-2, 6-4, etc.).

Quinella - Bet in which the first two finishers must be picked in either order.

Trifecta – A bet in which the first three finishers must be selected in exact order.

Trifecta box – A trifecta wager in which all possible combinations using a given number of horses are bet upon.

Pick (6 or other number) – A type of multi-race bet in which the winners of all the included races must be selected. Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, Pick 6 are commonly used by tracks in the United States.


Brush Up on Gambling Lingo

Bounce – A racehorse's especially poor performance on the heels of an especially good one.

Chalk – Betting favorite in a race.

Chalk player – Gambler who wagers on favorites.

Key horse – A single horse used in multiple combinations in an exotic bet.

On the board – Finishing among the first three.

On the nose – Betting a horse to win only.

Overlay – A horse whose odds are greater than its potential to win. Professional bettors target overlays, meaning they target bets that offer better than fair value odds.

Underlay – A horse whose odds are less than than his potential to win. Betting horses whose odds are worse than fair value is a poor strategy.

Parlay – A multi-race bet in which all winnings are subsequently wagered on a succeeding race.

Speed Figure – A metric that rates a horse’s performance in a race, which is determined by a combination of the horse’s performance and the level of competition he/she competed against.

Wheel – Betting all possible combinations in an exotic wager using at least one horse as the key.

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