Horse Racing Betting Types

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Horse Racing Betting Types

Before you have your first horse racing bet, it helps to know what types of bets you can place.

We look at the most popular betting types in in the United States, which includes standard bets, exotic bets, and future markets.

Firstly, we look at the bets every punter needs to know in order to have a basic understanding of betting on horse racing in the USA.


A win bet means you need to pick the winner of the race. Otherwise known as “on the nose”, it’s an all-or-nothing bet, but you get better odds for the increased risk.


A place bet means your horse can finish in the first three. If the size of the field is six runners or less, you need to finish in the first two home. Due to the increased likelihood of winning compared to a win bet, you get lower odds. Some websites state that the field needs to consist of eight or more runners to pay three dividends, but fixed odds place bets need only seven runners.

Each Way

An each-way bet consists of a win and place bet. The common each-way bet is an even amount on the win and the place. For example, a $1 each-way bet is a $1 win and $1 place bet, costing a total of $2. Each way bets are typically placed by punters wanting to get the best value from a runner paying juicy odds. They are rarely placed on horses paying less than $3 for the win.

Explaining fixed odds vs tote betting

Hearing fixed odds vs tote probably doesn’t mean much for learner punters, but it’s important knowledge to know before placing your bets. Do you want to bet on the tote or bet with fixed odds? Let’s look at what both mean.


When betting on the tote, you have betting into a pool and the odds are determined by the weight of money coming for the horses. You will have a good guide to the odds you’ll get if your horse wins, but it won’t be guaranteed. Late betting moves can fluctuate markets, so that’s the risk when betting on the tote. However, odds are often better than fixed odds.

Fixed odds

The odds you back your runner at are the odds you get. The beauty of fixed odds is knowing your potential profit before the race is run. It’s also good if you back a runner at $4 and the fixed odds price drops to $2 at race time. However, it works both ways; you could back a runner at $4 and it drifts to $10. You will get $4 and other punters could have secured more value by backing on the tote or waiting for a better fixed odds price.

Top Fluc

When Top Fluc (Top Fluctuation) first came out, it was all the rage. However, it has since tapered off in popularity. It gives you the best price from all official on-course bookmakers as determined by the Bookmakers Pricing Service. It’s good for busy metropolitan meetings in Sydney and Melbourne, where there are heaps of bookies, but bad for quiet meetings. We wouldn’t recommend using Top Fluc.

Best Odds Given

Some bookmakers, like bet365, offer Best Odds Given. If your runner drifts in the starting price market, you get the best odds it drifted out to. For example, you back a runner at $2 and it’s starting price drifts to $2.80, that’s the odds you get. Not every bookmakers offers this, so check with your bookmaker.

Horse racing exotic bets

Win, place, and each-way bets are fun to place, but exotic bets are where the big money can be made from a small investment.


You need to pick the first two runners home. They can finish in any order and you can have more than two runners on your ticket. Dividends are dependent on the size of the betting pool and the odds of your two runners.


An exacta is similar to a quinella, except you need to pick the correct order. It’s harder than a quinella, so punters get better odds.


There are different types of trifecta, but we’ll stick with the boxed trifecta. A trifecta is picking the first three runners home in any order. Your ticket can have a minimum of three horses and there is no maximum. The more runners you select, the higher the cost of bet.

First Four

Much like a trifecta, except you need to correctly pick the first four runners home. They pay handsomely if you’re lucky enough to strike one.


A popular bet among new punters. You need to correctly pick the winner of four consecutive races. The four races selected are typically the last four races of the card. There have been big quaddie payouts in the past and the bigger the pools, the bigger the payout.

The Quaddie is determined by dividing the total prize pool among the winning combinations.


A futures bet is backing a runner to win a race before acceptances close. You typically get better odds, but if your horse doesn’t end up running, you don’t get a refund. The most popular futures’ bets are for the Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate.

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About Daryl Curnow

After graduating from the University of Auckland (BA - English), Daryl was thrown into the world of sports and horse racing journalism. Having worked as a racing journalist for two years, he decided to move into the online world of horse racing and sports writing. Coupled with his love of US sport, Daryl's picks have been featured on various websites around the world and viewed by millions of readers. After years of honing his craft, Daryl became a professional punter in 2009 - with a focus on horse racing, NBA, NFL, and college sports. When he's not working, Daryl tries to avoid making bogeys on the golf course.