Why Go to a Horse Race?
Before we get into the art of betting, let’s talk about why you’d want to visit a horse racetrack anyway. Perhaps you’re thinking, “That’s something my grandpa liked to do, but I’m not interested.”
Watching horse racing at the higher levels of the sport is a wonderful experience. I’m really not much for any other forms of gambling, and personally don’t see the fun in losing my shorts in some dark, smoky casino. But horse racing I like; it feels like entertainment, an experience, an outing. I like that I’m outside. I like that there’s a lot of history and tradition behind it. All in all, whether I win or lose money, I still have a great time.
These days if you want to take the family to a pro basketball or football game, the tickets and food can easily run you $400. Admission to a racetrack is often free, the minimum bet on each horse race is just $2, and you can sometimes bring your own food and drinks. You get to spend all afternoon and evening outside, watching beautiful animals perform at their peak ability. And all this can run you less than a trip to the movies.
And if you’re looking for an affordable, unique date, where you won’t run out of things to talk about, look no further!
Types of Horse Racing Bets
You have two categories of wagers to choose from when you bet on the ponies: straight wagers and exotic wagers. For a beginner, I recommend sticking with straight wagers. They’re simple and cheap. You simply pick one horse to come in first, second, or third. The minimum bet at most tracks for a straight wager is just $2.
Exotic wagers allow you to make multiple bets on multiple horses in a single wager. Exotic wagers are generally much more difficult to win than straight wagers, require an advanced degree of skill and knowledge in horse picking, and are more expensive. However, the payoffs on exotic wagers are much greater than straight ones.
Remember with a straight wager, you only bet on one horse.
- WIN- You’re betting that your horse will come in first place. If your horse finishes in first, you get to collect.
- PLACE- When you bet on your horse to “place,” you’re betting that he will come in first OR second. If your horse finishes in first or second, you get to collect. Payout for a place bet is less than a win wager, but you do have the security of being able to cash in if your horse finishes in the top two spots.
- SHOW- You’re betting that your horse will come in first, second, OR third. Since you’re hedging your bets, you have a higher chance of winning, but the payout for a show bet is substantially less than a win or place wager.
- ACROSS THE BOARD- When you bet across the board, you’re betting your horse to win, place, AND show. An across-the -board bet is what’s called a “combo straight wager” because it’s three different bets (win, place, AND show) in one. Because it’s three bets in one, an across-the-board bet is more expensive than a simple win/place/show wager. For example, a $2 across-the-board wager will cost you $6, because you’re making three $2 bets. If your horse comes in first, you get the win, place, and show money. If your horse finishes second, you get place and show money. If your horse comes in third, you just get the show money. Across-the-board bets aren’t usually a good wager because they’re expensive and have less profit potential.
- WIN/PLACE, PLACE/SHOW- Similar to an across-the-board bet in that you’re making multiple straight wagers in a single bet. In a win/place bet, you’re betting your horse to win AND place. If he wins, you collect both the win and place money. If he finishes second, you collect just the place money. In a place/show bet, you’re betting that your horse will place and show. If your horse finishes second, you collect the place and show money; if he finishes third, you just get the show money. Because you’re placing multiple wagers on your horse in a single bet, a win/place and place/show is more expensive. A $2 win/place bet will cost you $4 because you’re betting $2 that your horse wins and $2 that your horse places.