To the new gambler, placing a bet on horse racing may seem intimidating. Whereas other casino pastimes may take ten minutes to learn, horse racing has a whole jargon on its own, with many complicated bets. We’re here to make picking up horse racing simple. You’ll also get to appreciate this classic sport, which is both a rewarding gaming experience as well as a thrilling spectator sport.
How to Bet on Horse Racing?
The best experience is at the track, but that can be intimidating for the beginner on a whole other level. However, the 21st century gives you a new option: online betting sites and apps.
Betting on online horse racing is legal currently in 29 US states, namely: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Laws are subject to change over time, naturally. However, the burden of tracking your locale and applicable legality should be on the website, not on you.
Pick a horse racing site or app and sign up, and you’ll be able to make a deposit and place your first bet. You don’t have to agonize over what kind of bet to place on what horse, you’re doing fine the first few times if you try out a few bets and learn from there. Track minimum bets at around $2; an amount you’d wager on a slot machine just to try it out. It’s as easy as clicking the mouse or tapping your finger, albeit horse racing sites offer a newcomer’s guide anyway. You’ll then register the virtual bet slip as your wager.
Understanding the Payouts
Here is where everybody seems to get confused. Understand again, you don’t need to know the exact formula for payouts to bet. Just accept that, like any game of chance, you make your wager and if you win, you get more than you wagered back. You can leave the terminology to digest at your leisure. Now here’s the breakdown:
Each horse on the tote board or betting ticket shows a ratio-like number: “6:1, 3:5” or so. These are the odds for that horse to win or come in first place. You can find an easy calculator online to calculate your winnings using these odds.
Top Betting Tips
For the new gamer, the easiest way to bet at first is to pick the favorite. This is the one with the most money on it already or the one with the lowest odds. They pay out the lowest return but have the best chance of winning. Safe and steady!
Going beyond this requires one to actually know something about horses, jockeys, and racetracks. There are handicap sheets or better’s guides available to buy, which will help you get familiar with some of the factors. Horses are also grouped by class, color-coded on the racing sheet from dark green to yellow (high to low) plus gray for “unrated.”
Here are just a few of the variables to take into consideration in the surprisingly deep science of horse handicapping:
- Dirt vs. turf – Some horses race better on one or the other.
- Track condition – Is it raining? Some horses perform better on wet vs. dry tracks.
- Dropping classes – How did the horse fare in its last few races? A horse that underperformed its last race may be losing its edge.
- Recent exercise – A horse that hasn’t raced in 45 or more days is said to be “laid off,” because they need a few practice circuits to get back into shape.
- Jockey/trainer changes – You should look for the best jockey/horse combo, as a jockey who’s raced a particular horse before knows how to handle it better. This is a contest uniting the combined wills of man and beast.
- Ages and genders – Horses are also grouped by age brackets, with some races restricted to females only or horses of a specified age range.
Biggest Horse Races Across the US
The “Triple Crown” is the biggest horse-racing event in the US, featuring three races for thoroughbreds. The three races of the Triple Crown are Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. Other major US races are the Arlington International Festival of Racing, the Stars and Stripes Racing Festival, the Haskell Invitational Stakes, and the Travers Stakes.
Horse Race Betting Terms
- Daily Double – Pick winners in two consecutive races.
- Exacta – Pick the first and second-place finishers in the correct order.
- Pari-Mutuel – Pooled bets, with the payout based on a curve.
- Place – Pick a horse to come in first or second.
- Pick 6 – Pick the order all six horses will come in.
- Show – Pick a horse to come in first, second, or third.
- Superfecta – Pick the first four finishers in the right order.
- Trifecta – Pick the first three finishers in the right order.
- Win – Pick the first place finisher.
It’s that simple! Have fun, and enjoy this noble pastime with a rich and deep tradition.