Tokyo Racecourse in Tokyo, Japan.
One of the most widespread forms of gambling involves betting on horse races, most commonly on races between thoroughbreds or between standardbreds.
Wagering may take place through parimutuel pools; or bookmakers may take bets personally. Parimutuel wagers pay off at prices determined by support in the wagering pools, while bookmakers pay off either at the odds offered at the time of accepting the bet; or at the median odds offered by track bookmakers at the time the race started.
In Canada and the United States, the most common types of bet on horse races include:
- win – to succeed the bettor must pick the horse which wins the race.
- place – the bettor must pick a horse which finishes either first or second.
- show – the bettor must pick a horse which finishes first, second, or third.
- exacta, perfecta, or exactor –the bettor must pick the two horses which finish first and second and specify which will finish first
- quinella or quiniela – the bettor must pick the two horses which finish first and second, but need not specify which will finish first.
- trifecta or triactor – the bettor must pick the three horses which finish first, second, and third and specify which will finish first, second and third.
- superfecta – the bettor must pick the four horses which finish first, second, third and fourth, and specify which will finish first, second, third and fourth.
- double – the bettor must pick the winners of two successive races; most race tracks in Canada and the United States take double wagers on the first two races on the program (the daily double) and on the last two (the late double).
- triple – the bettor must pick the winners of three successive races; many tracks offer rolling triples, or triples on any three successive races on the program. Also called pick three or more commonly, a treble
- sweep – the bettor must pick the winners of four or more successive races. In the US, this is usually called pick four and pick six, with the latter paying out a consolation return to bettors correctly selecting five winners out of six races, and with “rollover” jackpots accumulating each day until one or more bettors correctly picks all six winners.
Win, place and show wagers class as straight bets, and the remaining wagers as exotic bets. Bettors usually make multiple wagers on exotic bets. A box consists of a multiple wager in which punters bet all possible combinations of a group of horses in the same race. A key involves making a multiple wager with a single horse in one race bet in one position with all possible combinations of other selected horses in a single race. A wheel consists of betting all horses in one race of a bet involving two or more races. For example a 1-all daily double wheel bets the 1-horse in the first race with every horse in the second.
People making straight bets commonly employ the strategy of an ‘each way’ bet. Here the bettor picks a horse and bets it will win, and makes an additional bet that it will show, so that theoretically if the horse runs third it will at least pay back the two bets. The Canadian and American equivalent is the bet across (short for across the board): the bettor bets equal sums on the horse to win, place, and show.
In Canada and the United States punters make exotic wagers on horses running at the same track on the same program. In the United Kingdom bookmakers offer exotic wagers on horses at different tracks. Probably the Yankee occurs most commonly: in this the bettor tries to pick the winner of four races. This bet also includes subsidiary wagers on smaller combinations of the chosen horses; for example, if only two of the four horses win, the bettor still collects for their double. A Trixie requires trying to pick three winners, and a Canadian or Super Yankee trying to pick five; these also include subsidiary bets. The term nap identifies the best bet of the day.
A parlay (US) or accumulator (UK) consists of a series of bets in which bettors stake the winnings from one race on the next in order until either the bettor loses or the series completes successfully.
Similarly, greyhound racing offers a popular betting alternative to horse racing in many countries.