What do Win, Place and Show Mean?

by JP Sio

What do win, place and show mean?

Sports betting dates back centuries.  It all started with small games created within households but slowly went on to more significant events like the gladiators in Rome or the horse racing events in the Chinese empire.  And horse racing really became popular the moment Great Britain started taking pride in the sport.  Not only did they enjoy the actual sport, but maybe more so did they enjoy wagering on their favorite horse.  Nowadays, horse racing is done throughout the entire world.  In the United States, one famous race is the annual Kentucky Derby.

With every horse race, there are multiple bets that you could make.  Without getting too complicated right away, we want to shed some light on the win, place and show bets.  These are the most common wagers placed among horse racing bets.  In this article, we'll show you everything you need to know to get started with horse racing bets.

Win, place and show betting in horse racing

Before we dive into the bet types, you should be aware of the basics of horse racing.  Usually (but not always), a horse race will have 10 to 12 horses in the field.  On top of the horses, there are jockeys:  the men responsible for speeding up their horses at the right moment.  Now, the moment the brackets open up and the race starts, it's time for the jockeys to perform.  It's all about picking the right moment to put your horse to work.  If you wait too long, you might fall behind, or if you're too early, your horse might not have the endurance to stay ahead for the remainder of the race.  With the right research, you'll be aware of which horse and which jockey to bet on to cash a ticket.

Now, before we get into the exotic wagers, let's see what the most common bet types are.  These are the win, place and show bets, also referred to as the straight bets in horse racing.

What is the win bet in horse racing?
The win bet can be compared to a moneyline bet.  It's simple:  you are wagering on your horse to finish in first place.  No result other than winning matters for your wager.  This is the most straightforward bet horse betting has to offer.

What is the place bet in horse racing?
To reduce your risk a little bit, but with that reducing your payout a little bit as well, you can go for a place bet.  That means you pick a horse that you think will finish either in second place or first place.  With this bet, the payout doesn't change regardless of whether your horse finishes in first or second.

What is the show bet in horse racing?
The third common bet type is the show bet.  It's a form of wagering that has even less risk than the win bet or the place bet.  With a show bet, the bettor chooses a horse to finish anywhere in the top three positions.  That means, if your horse finishes in first, second or third place, your bet wins.  Show wagers are a perfect starter for novice bettors who are still getting used to horse betting.  Similar to the place bet, it doesn't matter if your horse wins, ends up in second, or finishes in third -- the odds remain the same.  Thus, your payout is equal with any of those outcomes.

Calculating your payout with win, place and show betting

To calculate the bettor's payout, you should learn two terms that are common among horseplayers:  a pool (the total amount wagered on a bet), and the payout (the price paid out to a winning bettor).  With horse racing, you have a giant tote board that displays the total amount that bettors are wagering on each specific horse.  Then, you also see what the total win pool, the total place pool, and the total show pool are.

Calculating a win payout isn't that hard.  You have a look at the tote board and scan for your horse and check the winning odds.  Take your initial stake, and you can calculate your win payout.

To calculate your place payouts, you can follow these steps:

  1. Take the amount in the place pool and subtract 15% for the takeout - that's the percentage the sportsbook or host track withholds from the betting pool.
  2. Now, subtract the total place money that was wagered on your horse and on the other horse which finished among the top two.  The remaining amount of money is the profit in the place pool.
  3. Divide this amount equally between the two pools of bettors for the two winning horses at the end of the race.
  4. Finally, take the amount in step 3, reserved for the pool of bettors on your horse, and divide it by the amount of money in the place pool that was bet on your horse.  The resultant amount is the profit per $1 wagered.  But horse tracks report payouts based on a $2 wager.  So, double that amount, and then add $2 (which represents the stake), and you have your estimated place price.

This might sound complicated and difficult to digest, but a little practice will take you a long way.  To determine your show payoffs, you go the same route, but in step 2, instead of subtracting the pool money on the top two horses, subtract the pool money on the top three horses.  Then, in step 3, divide your profits equally among the three pools of bettors for the top three finishing horses, not two.

Different bet types in horse racing

All of the above are quite simple bets.  But the real advanced bettors in sports betting take it up a notch.  That's where the complicated bet types come into play.  We can divide the exotic wagers into two types:  bets on single races, and parlay bets.

Single race exotic wagering
A lot can happen in a single race. A multitude of horses are in a constant battle on the race track, to see which finishes first.  Nevertheless, you, as a bettor, have lots of different plays.  In a single race you could take on these exotic wagers:

Exacta - Perfecta - Exactor
The exacta wager (also referred to as a perfecta or exactor) looks a lot like the place bet, but it's a bit more difficult.  With a place bet, it doesn't matter in which order the first two finishers end, plus you are only wagering on a single horse.  With an exacta, you bet on two horses and the exact order matters.  You have a winning ticket when you successfully predict the horse which comes in first, and also the horse which comes in second.

The quinella bet is similar to an exacta bet as you have to predict the top two horses, but it doesn't require you to predict the exact order.  The bettor only has to select the top two finishers, regardless of which horse finishes first.  As the risk is smaller than with an exacta, the payout is smaller.

Trifecta - Triactor
The trifecta (also referred to as a triactor) takes the exacta up a notch.  Instead of predicting the top two finishing horses, you have to predict the top three horses.  That means you only have a winning ticket when you successfully predict the first, second and third place finishers in the exact order.

This is the most tricky bet of all the bets you could make on a single race.  The more risks you take, the higher your payout could be.  With a superfecta, you have to predict the top four finishing horses successfully.  That means you have a winning ticket when you pick the horses ending up in first, second, third and fourth place, in the exact order.

Multiple race exotic wagering
We all know people who just can't take enough risk in their life.  The same goes for some sports bettors.  They're seduced by the extreme payouts that came along with the high risks you take.  Predicting the four winning horses in a single race is hard, but imagine you took that in a parlay with multiple races -- that's where the real longshots come in.  You should know that these bet types are against the house, instead of against the pari-mutuel betting pool among other bettors.

Without further ado, let's dive right into the multiple race exotic wagers that are available:

Daily double
This bet type is usually available at any race track or sportsbook.  It allows you to bet on two consecutive races, usually either the early double (the first and second race of the day) or the late double (the last two races on the card).

Pick 3 / Pick 4 or Pick 6
This is similar to a double bet, but it's simply larger in terms of consecutive races you are wagering on and the number of horses you predict.  The pick 3, up through pick 6, are not available at all horse tracks or sportsbooks, but usually you can see these available on your betting card.  This is a longshot bet which is difficult to hit, thus the payout is extremely large.

How to incorporate win, place and show betting in your strategy

Horse racing is enjoyable, and the adrenaline rush of going to the track to see your horse outperform the others is priceless.  But if you're in this for the long run and want to take your sports betting career to the next level, you have to get comfortable with some tips and tricks.  To get you started the right way, or to adjust your current strategy, you can follow these tips:

Never underestimate the value of research
Most of us who have gone to the race tracks know how exciting things can get, and with the adrenaline rushing through your veins, you can act spontaneously.  Unfortunately, making decisions based on your gut feeling doesn't deliver you that many winning tickets.  Instead, the smart move is to do your research to determine which horses have the best capabilities, and which jockeys are the best riders.  And that is what handicapping is all about.

Use boxes to reduce your risk
When you're into exacta and trifecta betting, you have lots of different possibilities.  You have to predict the right order, but you also have to make sure you don't lose your entire bankroll straightaway.  To reduce your risk, you can make use of boxes.  The exacta box, as it’s called, places every single combination of your chosen horses into your exacta ticket.  The trifecta box does the same for a trifecta bet.  That means if your chosen horses finish in any order in the number of spots needed for your bet, you're guaranteed a payout.  But do make sure you keep an eye on the costs as they increase per extra wager you make.

Certainly, horse racing is a completely different type of sports betting than the typical NFL or MLB matchup, but it's not any less thrilling.  In fact, with the right knowledge and the right means of research, there's a great chance you will make a lot of money along the way.  It also helps to bet with the best race book.  Our #1-rated sportsbook is BetAnySports, which offers 10% bonus payouts on winnings at major tracks, as well as a 9% rebate on losing tickets.  It doesn’t get any better than that, so join BetAnySports today.  You now know the ins-and-outs of horse betting, so have fun!

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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