Wagering > Betting 101 > Types of Bets

Types of Bets

Looking forward to betting on the Kentucky Derby and other races at Churchill Downs? There’s no shortage of bet types for horse-players to choose from while crafting their wagering strategies.

Let’s explore a baker’s dozen of the most common bet types in horse racing:

Standard wagers

Classic win/place/show wagers have been around for generations, and there’s no purer form of betting on horse racing than these three standard bets. If you’re interested in betting on a single horse—your top pick—then give one of these wagers a try. The minimum bet amount is usually $2.

Win-Place-Show Bets

Betting on horse racing can be fun and easy. There are several different wagers offered each race, but these are the three most basic:

  • Win bet
    • The most straightforward wager in horse racing. If your chosen horse wins the race, you win your bet. Betting a horse to win is just as fun as it sounds – the horse must win the race in order for you to win the wager.
      • Example: 2015 Kentucky Derby payoff: $7.80, for $2
  • Place bet
    • Concerned that your top choice will lose out in a photo finish? The place bet covers for this possibility, allowing you to cash a ticket if your pick finishes in the top two. You win the wager if your horse finishes first or second.
      • Example: 2015 Kentucky Derby payoffs: $5.80 and $8.40, for $2
  • Show bet
    • The easiest wager in horse racing, a show bet pays off if your horse finishes first, second, or third. Payoffs are usually smaller than those generated by win or place bets. You win the wager if your horse finishes first, second, or third.
      • Example: 2015 Kentucky Derby payoffs: $4.20, $5.40, and $4.20, for $2

Because of the difficulty of a win wager, it will yield the highest payoff of these three wagers. A show wager will yield the lowest payoff but offers the greatest chance of winning.

The minimum bet for a win, place or show wager is only $2.

Exotic Wagers

Exotic wagers involve betting on two or more horses, either within a single race or across multiple races. They’re harder to hit than win/place/show bets, but the payoffs can be lucrative. You can play multiple tickets and combinations to increase your chances of winning, though this also increases the cost.

Exotic wagers are broken down into two categories:

  • Single-race exotics
  • Multi-race exotics
Single-race (vertical) exotics

Single-race exotic wagers, sometimes called “vertical” exotics, involve betting on the order of finish within a specific race. With each extra finishing position you attempt to select, the difficulty increases, but so too does the potential payoff.

Exacta Bet

One of the oldest exotic wagers, the exacta requires you to select the top two finishers in the correct order. The minimum wager amount varies from track to track, falling in the $1 to $2 range.

If you've mastered the art of win, place and show wagers, try an exacta. An exacta is more difficult than win, place and show wagers, but yields a higher payout. You bet an exacta by selecting a minimum two horses to finish first and second. These horses must finish first and second, in that order, for you to win the wager.

If picking two horses in order sounds too difficult, you can "box" your wager. A boxed wager will win if your horses finish 1st and 2nd, in any order, making it more likely for you to win.

Example: 2015 Kentucky Derby payoff: $36.30 for $1

Quinella Bet

A less common wager only available at certain tracks, the quinella is a simplified exacta. You’re still required to select the top two finishers, but they can cross the wire in either order.

Trifecta Bet

The trifecta adds another layer of complexity, requiring you to pick the top three finishers in the correct order. The minimum bet amount is often 50 cents.

If you've mastered the art of win, place and show wagers, try a trifecta. A trifecta is more difficult than win, place and show wagers, as well as exacta wagers, so it yields a higher payout than any of those bets. These horses must finish first, second, and third, in that exact order, for you to win the wager.

If picking three horses in order sounds too difficult you can "box" your wager. A boxed trifecta wager will win if your horses finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, in any order, making it more likely to win.

Example: 2015 Kentucky Derby payoff: $101 for $1

Superfecta Bet

Going one step further, the superfecta calls on horseplayers to accurately select the top four finishers. The superfecta is a challenging wager to hit, so the minimum wager amount at many tracks is just 10 cents, allowing bettors to play many combinations on small budgets.

Example: 2015 Kentucky Derby payoff: $634.10 for $1

Super High 5

Think you can select the top five finishers in the correct order? Then the Super High 5 is the bet for you. At some tracks, if no one manages to hit the Super High 5, the wagering pool carries over to the next race on which the Super High 5 is offered, providing a jackpot prize for the next round of winning players to split. The minimum wager amount varies.

Example: 2015 Kentucky Derby payoff: $6,658.30 for $1

Multi-race (horizontal) exotics

Multi-race exotics, often referred to as “horizontal” wagers, involve selecting the winning horses in two or more consecutive races. Multi-race wagers can be a fun way to maintain a rooting interest throughout an entire afternoon of racing.

Double

Also known as the Daily Double, this bet requires horseplayers to select the winners of back-to-back races. The minimum wager amount falls in the $1 to $2 range.

Example: 2015 Kentucky Derby payoff: $21.20 for $1

Pick 3

As its name implies, the Pick 3 asks horseplayers to pick the winners of three straight races, at a minimum cost of 50 cents to $1.

Example: 2015 Kentucky Derby payoff: $105.60 for $1

Pick 4

One of the most popular exotic wagers, the Pick 4 involves selecting a quartet of consecutive winners on a minimum budget of 50 cents.

Example: 2015 Kentucky Derby payoff: $1,054.90 for $1

Pick 5

Picking five winners in a row isn’t easy, but that’s why Pick 5 wagers frequently produce hefty payoffs, even when playing for the 50-cent minimum. Some tracks offer jackpot Pick 5 wagers, where bettors can win huge bonuses if they’re the only player to select the winning sequence on a given day.

Example: 2015 Kentucky Derby payoff: $2,452.90 for 50 cents

Pick 6

Minimum bet amounts vary widely for the Pick 6, falling as low as 20 cents, but the end goal is always the same—to pick six straight winners. As with the Pick 5, many Pick 6 wagers award a jackpot bonus to any player skilled enough to craft the only winning ticket.

Example: 2015 Kentucky Derby payoff:  $64,925.60 for $2

Good luck with your wagers!

For more guides on betting and handicapping, visit TwinSpires' betting guide library.

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