Wagering: Single Races

Scenes from around the track on July 30, 2016 at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York. (Bob Mayberger/Eclipse Sportswire)

Scenes from around the track on July 30, 2016 at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York. (Bob Mayberger/Eclipse Sportswire)

Choosing which type of wager to place and placing a wager can be intimidating for the first-time horseplayer. Thankfully, becoming familiar with the types of wagers and knowing what to look for can help make the experience less overwhelming.

Here are the types of single-race wagers that are available to you:

Simple Wagers:

Simple wagers are the most common and straightforward of them all. These wagers won’t bring you as big of a payout as exotic wagers, but you are more likely to walk away from the racetrack a winner! The minimum bet for these wagers is $2 at most racetracks across the country.

Win: when choosing to place this bet, you are hoping to pick the winner of the race. This ticket will only pay out if you have chosen correctly.
Place: this is similar to the win bet, but the horse you have chosen can either finish in first or second place for this ticket to pay out. If you are confident that the horse will win, you are better off placing a win bet.
Show: this is the last of the simple wagers. With it, the horse you have chosen can finish in first, second, or third in order for the ticket to pay out. This wager is considered the safest bet, but it will pay out the least of these three options.
Across The Board: selecting this wager means you’re placing a win, place, and show bet on a single horse. This ticket will cost you $6 since you’re placing three bets on one ticket.

Exotic Wagers:

Exotic wagers mean you are selecting the outcome of a race with two or more horses on a single ticket.

When playing exotic wagers, it is a good idea to box the ticket. If the ticket has been boxed, your ticket will payout if you have the winning horses even if they are not in order. While boxing the ticket increases the cost, it also protects the ticket’s value if you have the winning horses but they do not finish in the order you thought they would. You should box each exotic ticket; think of it as insurance for your wagering investment. See below for more specific examples.

Exacta: you are selecting two horses to come first AND second in the exact order. Using a straight exacta, the horses you have selected must come in the exact order unless you have boxed the ticket.
Horses selected: A and B
Possible winning outcomes:
First- A, Second- B
First- B, Second- A
All of the above combinations will pay out if you have boxed the ticket.

Trifecta: you are selecting three horses to come in first, second, AND third in the exact order.
Horses selected: A, B, and C.
Possible winning outcomes:
First- A, Second- B, Third- C
First- B, Second- C, Third- A
First- C, Second- A, Third- B
All of the above combinations will pay out if you have boxed the ticket.

Superfecta: you are selecting four horses to come first, second, third, AND fourth in the exact order.
Horses selected: A, B, C, and D.
Possible winning outcomes:
First- A, Second- B, Third- C, Fourth- D
First- B, Second- C, Third- D, Fourth- A
First- C, Second- D, Third- A, Fourth- B
First- D, Second- A, Third- B, Fourth- C
All of the above combinations will pay out IF you have boxed the ticket.

Key wagers:

In this wager, you must select the winner, or the key horse, as well as  the second and third (and fourth for a superfecta key). The key horse must win the race, but the second, third, (and fourth, if applicable) can come in any order.
You can add additional horses to any of the exotic wagers. This will increase your chances of winning, but it will also add to the ticket price.