A Primer for Racebook Betting

With all the additional buzz about legal sports betting, racebooks are also getting more traffic, especially in states without it. Here is a primer I posted almost three years ago.  Enjoy “A Primer for Racebook Betting.”



When you first visit a racebook, you soon find it’s a different world.  Not only are the bets are different from tables games, the atmosphere varies from quiet to electric. Not to mention that some racebooks are away from the rest of the casino.  In all, it exemplifies the differences in casino offerings and the bettors that take part.

Getting Started

Racebook betting takes many forms. The recreational gambler often bets without a logical reason. Some people play their favorite numbers. Similarly, some play their home address or a birthday. Likewise, bettors may pick a name that they like, or the animal’s color. Others enjoy the challenge of handicapping.  In this case, handicapping is the art of analyzing the past performances to determine which runner will win. This information is contained in the programs that are available at the program stand. In general, with a little time and effort, you can learn how to read the past performances and grasp the fundamentals of handicapping.

Type of Wagers

WIN (moderate)With this wager, the horse must come in first.
PLACE (easy)The horse must come in first or second for you to collect.
SHOW (easiest)The horse can come in first, second or third. This is the most conservative
wager in racing and your safest chance at cashing a ticket.

Combination Bets

Quinella (least difficult)Your horses must finish first and second – in any order – for you to collect.
For example, if you bet a 1-2 quinella, you win if the finish is 1-2 or 2-1.You would make the wager by saying: $2.00 quinella 1-2.
Exacta or perfecta (tough)The two runners you select must finish first and second – in exact order – for you to collect. For example, if you select horse #3 to run first and horse #8 to finish second,
they must finish in that order. Make the wager by saying: $2.00 exacta 3-8.
Trifecta (tougher)The runners you select must finish one, two, three in the exact order.
Make the wager by saying: $2.00 trifecta 6-8-10.
Superfecta (toughest)Your horses must finish first, second, third and fourth in order to collect.
The superfecta is the ultimate thrill-seeking wager for a single race.

Pre-Race Picks

Daily Double (tough) You must correctly select the winner in each of the two designated races.
Most tracks have an early daily double in races one and two, but some offer additional daily double wagering throughout the card. In order to bet the daily double, you must pick the winner of race one and the winner of race two. For example, if you like the 2 horse in the first race and the 8 horse in the second race, you would say to the teller: $2.00 Daily Double
2 – 8. If the 2 wins the first race and the 8 wins the second race, you collect!
Pick Three (tougher) You must correctly select the winners of three consecutive races. All three
must win in order for you to collect. In fact, the Pick 3 is much tougher than the daily double, but the payoffs typically make up for it.
Pick Four & Pick Six (toughest)This wager is similar to the Pick 3, except you must pick the winners of four (Pick 4)or six (Pick 6) consecutive races. For this reason, the Pick 6 is the ultimate jackpot wager in the racing industry with lotto-like payouts because all six must win for you to collect.

Wagering Possibilities – The Box 

Boxing runners gives you more opportunities to cash a bet. Most
horseplayers utilize the box when it comes to playing exactas, trifectas
and superfectas. By boxing horses, they can run in any order, so long as you
have the right numbers. For instance, if you like #1 and #2 for an exacta, if you
“box” the exacta, you will collect if your horses finish 1-2 or 2-1. It’s not necessary
to box two runners in a quinella, because your picks can come in either order. But
you can make a three runner quinella box. For example, if you box the 1, 2 and 3
in a quinella, you win if the result comes in 1-2, 2-1, 1-3, 3-1, 2-3 or 3-2. A $2.00
quinella box will cost the same as a $1.00 exacta box.

The Cost of EXacta Box Wagers

2 horses costs $2.00
3 horses $6.00 (3×2)
4 horses $12.00 (4×3)
5 horses $20.00 (5×4)
6 horses $30.00 (6×5)

The Cost of Trifecta Box Wagers

3 horses costs $6.00 (3x2x1)
4 horses $24.00 (4x3x2)
5 horses $60.00 (5x4x30)
6 horses $120.00 (6x5x4)

The Cost of Superfecta Box Wagers

4 horses costs $24.00 (4x3x2x1)
5 horses $120.00 (5x4x3x2)
6 horses $360.00 (6x5x4x3)

Wagering Possibilities – The Key 

The box is a great wager when you want to put more than one
horse on top, but if you absolutely, positively love a horse to win
a race, then you might want to “key” him. Let’s say you like #3 to win.
To use him on top of three other horses in an exacta, you would
say “$1.00 exacta key 3 with 5, 7, 8.” The total bet would be $3.00.
(Three bets: 3-5, 3-7, 3-8)

Trifecta Key

In trifecta wagering, if you like #3 to win, you may key him on top
of three or more horses. For example, a $1.00 trifecta key 3 with 5,
7, 8 will collect if #3 wins the race and any two of the three other
runners come in second and third. This is a $6.00 wager. You can
put four horses behind the 3. Accordingly, you increase your chances by another
runner because two of the four horses have to come in second
and third. This ticket costs $12.00. A $1.00 wager will give you
half the pay-off.

Trifecta key $1.00 combination

3 runners behind the winner: 1 with 2-3-4 = $6.00
4 runners behind the winner: 1 with 2-3-4-5 = $12.00
5 runners behind the winner: 1 with 2-3-4-5-6 = $20.00
6 runners behind the winner: 1 with 2-3-4-5-6-7 = $30.00
7 runners behind the winner: 1 with 2-3-4-5-6-7-8 = $42.00

How to say your wager to the teller

You’re expected to give your bet at the betting window concisely, and quickly.  Consequently, this is how  you phrase it, Track / Amount / Type of Wager / Number(s)

Example: “Belmont: $2.00 to win on number 5”


“Pensacola Greyhound Track, $6.00 Box on the 1,4,5″

That’s all for now!