Betting on horse racing can seem like a whole different world because it uses an entirely different terminology than typical sports wagering. However, it’s much simpler than you might think.

The first thing you need to know about betting on horse racing is that the action is standardized at $2. This means that most wagers will cost you that much, unless you choose to wager more. Payouts for winners are listed on a $2 grade. So when you see that a winning horse paid out $5.30, that is based on a wager of $2.0. If you were to bet $4 and win, you doubled your bet so you double your winnings to $10.60 and so on.

Now that we have that out of the way, these are the types of wagers that you can make at the track or online. Horse betting is broken up in to two types: straight bets and exotic bets.


One of the best parts about betting on horses is that you don’t just have to bet on the outright winner. Instead, you can bet on a horse to finish anywhere in the top-three and place your bet accordingly.

Win – The horse must finish 1st.

Place – The horse must finish 1st or 2nd.

Show – The horse must finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd.

The payout for the win bet is the highest of the three, while a show bet has the lowest. This is due to the obvious odds involved with all of the bet types. The odds are greater for any horse to finish 1st, 2nd, or 3rd than for the same horse to win the race outright.


Combination straight bets are simply a streamlined way of making multiple straight bets. There are two types of combination straight bets, and these are classic favorites of horse players everywhere.

“Across the Board” – This is a combination bet on a horse to win, place and show. As such, it is three separate bets placed together. If the horse wins, then you will win all three bets. If he finishes second, you will win two bets. If he place third, you will win the “show” part of that bet. A $2 Across The Board bet costs $6 ($2 to win + $2 to show + $2 to place = $6).

Win/Place or Place/Show – This a combination play on the two listed outcomes. Since it is two bets wrapped in one, a $2 bet costs $4.

Why wouldn’t you just place separate bets? Because combination bets are an easier method to lay down your action when interacting at a ticket window or online.


Exotic horse betting is the sport’s version of parlays, where you tie multiple outcomes together. Exotics require you wagering on multiple horses either in the same race or different races. Generally speaking, the higher the payout for an exotic bet, the riskier it is as a wager.

Below are some of the basic exotic bets you can make on single races.

Exacta – Betting on the top two finishers in exact order.
Triacta – Betting on the top three finishers in exact order.
Superfecta – Betting on the top four finishers in exact order.

Box Bet – You can take any of the above bets and box them. An example would be a “triacta box” where you are betting on the top three finishers in any order. This simply allows you to reduce the risk you take.


Very rarely will a track only host a single race. There can be up to 12 races on any given race day. Multiple race exotic bets are usually listed on your program. Online vendors tend not to offer this type of wager as it is usually a track special. Betting on multiple races online tends to be a much simpler ordeal.

Double – Pick two winners in two different races.

Pick 3/4/5/6 – The pick bets basically mean that are you betting on the winners of “x” amount of races. Tracks will usually indicate which races are eligible for a pick bet by marking the first leg.

Place Pick All – This is one of the rarest bets to find of all, but also provides one of the the largest payouts. It is a place bet on every single race on a given card, and each horse you wager on must finish in the top two.


The easiest bets to lay are the straight bets, and the most popular one is the “place bet” because it has a bit of a cushion. Once you start to get a handle on these bets, you can start using the exotics.

The “exatca box” is a favorite for new and experienced horse players because it allows you to bet on the top two finishers in any order. By contrast, the exacta can be a lot more difficult to hit.

Start with straight bets and box bets, and then you can grow your betting arsenal and tailor your style to fit your liking. As you grow more familiar with the terminology, payouts and the sport itself, you’ll quickly discover why this sport has been a gambling mainstay for well over a century.