What is an Exacta Bet?

by JP Sio

What is an exacta bet?

Imagine yourself walking into a giant park with all eyes pointed in the same direction.  The center of the grounds, where the magic is happening.  At the gate, 12 horses line up, ready to give their all to secure the win.  In the foreground, you can see the tote board:  the board that lists the betting odds.  Beyond that, the stands are abuzz with excitement, as tens of thousands of bettors can't wait to watch the race to see if their horse gets into the winner’s circle.

Horse racing has been around for ages.  It's one of the oldest sports and, logically, horse race betting developed soon thereafter.  Early on, the bets weren't that complicated.  You placed your wager on the order of finish, especially which horse came in first place.  Of course, technology was a lot simpler back then, too.

These days, there's a whole line of exotic wagers that are a part of horse racing.  In this article, we'll dive into the exacta bet, and also look at what other exotic wagers are available.  And we’ll provide some practical tips to get you started the right way.

<h2>How to get started with exotic horse racing wagers<h2>

First and foremost, you should know that there are many different exotic wagers.  Horse racing might seem like a simple sport but, based on the fact there can be more than 10 contenders, there are a lot of possible combinations as to the order of finish.  Then, there are also multiple horse races at the race track each day.  That makes for even more possible bet types.  Now, let's list the most common exotic wagers besides the exacta wager:

  • Quinella bet -- successfully predict the horses that come in first and second place, and you have a winning quinella bet; the precise order is not required.

  • Trifecta bet -- successfully predict the horses that come in first, second, and third place, and you have a winning trifecta bet.  Here, the precise order has to be right.

  • Superfecta bet -- successfully predict the horses that come in first, second, third, and fourth place.  You have to select each horse in the exact order; otherwise, your bet fails.  This is the riskiest bet you could make on one single race and surely is a long shot.

We've taken a look at some alternatives, but what this article is all about is the exacta wager.   What does it take to have a winning ticket when wagering the exacta bet?  Let's dive right in!

How to bet the exacta wager

The exacta wager is also referred to as the perfecta, the exactor, or a dual forecast.  Don't get distracted by these other names as the bet is the same.  The exacta bet itself isn't the most difficult.  You have a winning ticket if you successfully predict which horse finishes in first place, and which horse finishes in second place.  The critical part, different than a quinella bet, is that you have to pick the exact order.  That's where the name of the bet came from.

To illustrate the way this bet works, let's have a look at an example.  Let's take the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, one of the most iconic race tracks in the United States.  Each year, three-year-old horses compete for millions of dollars in prize money.  Usually, there are 18-20 starting horses, but to make this simple, we'll reduce the field to six different horses:

  1. Anothertwistafate
  2. Game Winner
  3. Long Range Teddy
  4. Plus Que Parfait
  5. Roadster
  6. Maximum Security

The gates open, and the jockeys start pushing their horses.  Roadster (5) moves up to first place, but as bad luck strikes, he trips and falls.  The race now has only five active participants.  In the end, Maximum Security (6) finishes in first place, while Game Winner (2) takes second place.  You only have a winning ticket if you picked the exact order of the first two horses finishing.  Thus, if you picked Maximum Security number one, and Game Winner number two, you just won your exacta wager.

How to calculate the payout of your exacta bet

Since the bet is not difficult to understand, you might wonder, where does it get tricky?  Well, once we start discussing the way your payout is calculated, you might blink twice.  Usually, in regular sports betting, there's the bookmaker who offers the odds based on his calculations.  With horse racing, there's a tote board which displays the total amount invested in each race and each horse.  At a certain point, the betting pool closes, and the final odds come in.  This system is called pari-mutuel betting.  It merely means there are no exact fixed odds.  Thus, calculating your payout before the betting pools close is quite hard.

Nevertheless, we can draw up a scenario which is common across various exacta wagers.  Let's imagine in the above Kentucky Derby example, bettors wagered a total of 5,000 exacta tickets, each exactly at $2 per ticket.

  • 5,000 x $2 = $10,000 in the exacta prize pool

Of these 5,000 tickets, 250 people picked the exact order of the top-two finishing horses.  That brings the following formula:

  • $10,000 / 250 = $40

In reality, the horse tracks, bookmakers or betting sites take a small portion of that $40 as their administrative fee (and for government taxes).  As it's common to bet $2 on any race at Churchill Downs, the payout is calculated based on a $2 wager.  If you wager more or less than $2, your payout will increase (or decrease) based on the amount of your wager.  On average, the payouts on exacta bets are excellent.  But sometimes, they are enormous.  In the 2005 Kentucky Derby, the exacta payout was over $9,000 if you bet just $2.  If that isn't a bet you're interested in, then I don't know whether sports betting is the right thing for you.

What is exacta box betting?
There are other ways of exacta betting that require less risk than a regular (single) exacta bet.  One example is the exacta box bet.  This bet type makes it easier for a bettor to achieve that winning exacta as you reduce the risk you are taking.  Usually, with an exacta, you have to pick the top two horses in the right order.  With the exacta box bet, you create more possible combinations.

Let's imagine there are 12 starting horses at the Belmont Stakes horse race, the third jewel of the Triple Crown.  You think the horses in positions 2, 4, and 8 could all be winners.  But you’re unsure what the correct order will be since you like each of them.  What you could do here is use the exacta box bet.  The box bet then creates all possible combinations of how these three horses could create a winning exacta.  For the above example, these combinations would be:

  • 2-4
  • 2-8
  • 4-2
  • 4-8
  • 8-2
  • 8-4

As you can see, six different exacta wagers make up the exacta box bet together, when there are three horses.  In essence, these are six single exacta bets you place.  Your initial stake is higher since you're wagering on more than one outcome.  Thus your total payout will be smaller.  But, since the exacta payout can be very generous, you should still go home with a nice profit!

What is exacta wheel betting?
Another way to place an exacta bet is to use an exacta wheel, also known as an exacta key or simple 'key.'  An exacta wheel is constructed by picking your favorite horse, or favorite horses to win the race, similar to a regular exacta wager.  The difference here is that you start creating every possible combination with your favorite horse in first place.  Let's imagine six horses are competing in one race.  You predict horse number #5 to end up in first place.  To create a full wheel, your betting slip would look like this:

  • 5-1
  • 5-2
  • 5-3
  • 5-4
  • 5-6

This way, you're betting each possible combination with your horse finishing first.  Assuming you're wagering $2, your entire bet would only cost $10 -- with a huge increase in the possibility of having a winning ticket.  Now, you could go for two key horses as well.  Your exacta key would become a little bigger, but your chances increase as well.  Let's say you pick horses #2 and #5 as your favorites.  Your betting slip would then look like this:

  • 5-1 | 2-1
  • 5-2 | 2-3
  • 5-3 | 2-4
  • 5-4 | 2-5
  • 5-6 | 2-6

In this exacta wheel, you have two key horses and each possible combination.  So long as one of your two key horses win, you have a winning ticket.  You do have an increase in your costs as, with each straight exacta bet, you have to risk another $2.  So keep in mind, the more wagers you make, the more money you risk.

How to use exacta betting in your horse race betting strategy

Horse racing is an exciting sport.  At first, it was solely for entertainment purposes.  But these days, some professional bettors are wagering only on the races.  Over time, more bet types have emerged.  And, when mastered, you can laugh all the way to the bank. To get you started the right way, we want to give a couple of small tips:

Always do your research
One important matter which people tend to forget with horse racing is the research before wagering.  You can get easily seduced by the tote board which displays large sums of money, or the horses on the field with exciting names.  It's easy to wager without doing any research.  You can simply look at the odds and throw your dart.  But that's not the smartest strategy.  Instead, read up on the entrants:  analyze their breeding; review which jockeys are riding the horses; and compare their recent results. There's never too much to study about a single race.

Know what you're betting on
In horse racing, there are a lot of different options when it comes to betting.  You can go for the straight wagers -- win, place and show bets -- but that's just the start.  There are tons of different exotic bets that you will learn along the way.  Before you place your wager, make sure you know what you're betting on.  We've shown you the best way to make an exacta bet.  And there are tips and tricks for each bet, so make sure to be aware of your options.

Pick your loser
It might sound weird, but eliminating losing horses can help you to predict the right winner.  When you are confident that a particular horse will not finish among the top finishers, you can leave that horse out of your betting slip.  That'll narrow your choices for your exacta bet, your exacta box, and your exacta wheel.  You can leave out the losers and save yourself from making some unnecessary bets.
By now, you know what exacta betting is all about.  However, this is just one factor in horse race betting.  There's much more to explore and much more to discover.  We try our hardest to keep you informed, and cover the entire field of sports betting.  Everything so you can have a long and successful sports betting career!  Of course, perhaps the most important key to success is to choose your sportsbooks wisely.  Our current #1-rated sports and race book is BetAnySports, which offers 10% bonus payouts on winnings at major tracks, as well as a 9% rebate on losing tickets.  And, beyond horse race wagering, BetAnySports offers reduced juice on Football and Basketball games (-105 odds rather than -110).  Add BetAnySports to your roster of sportsbooks today!

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