Today is Kentucky Derby day, and if you’d like to place a wager on the race, but you’re confused by all the betting terms gamblers throw around, you’re not alone. This post will teach you the basics of not only the classic “straight” bets — Win, Place, and Show — but also how to understand some of the more “exotic” bets — Exacta, Trifecta, and Superfecta.
The most important thing to understand about Kentucky Derby betting — or betting on any horse race, for that matter — is the concept of Pari-mutuel betting. Unlike most casino games like Blackjack, where you’re betting against the “house” (that is, the casino), in pari-mutuel bets, you’re betting completely against other players. The house takes its cut, and the rest is divvied up among the winning bettors.
The easiest and most straightforward Kentucky Derby bets will be the classic Win, Place, and Show bets, according to Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies. A “Win” bet is just that — you bet on the first horse to cross the finish line, and the only way you win is if he or she wins. A “Place” bet is a wager that your horse will cross the finish line either first or second; you win slightly more if he or she finishes first, and slightly less if he or she finishes second. A “Show” bet is a bet that your horse will finish first, second, or third.
For example, let’s take a look at this screen shot of the results from the 2011 Kentucky Derby, courtesy of SB Nation.
Bettors who bet on #16, Animal Kingdom, to Win won $43.80 for every $2 they bet. Bettors who bet on #16 to Place won $19.60, and bettors who bet on #16 to Show won $13. Bettors who bet on #19, Nehro, to Place won $8.80 for every $2 bet, and bettors who bet on him to Show won $6.40. Bettors who bet on #13, Mucho Mucho Man, to Show won $7.00.
Notice the words “Exacta,” “Trifecta,” and “Superfecta” down there at the bottom? Those are the payouts on the so-called “exotic” bets.
An Exacta bet is a $2 bet on the first two horses to cross the finish line, in that exact (get it?) order. Bettors who bet on #16 and #19 to be first and second, in that order, won $329.80. Most race tracks offer bettors the option of a $1 bet called a “Box,” where you bet on the outcome in either order. So in other words, if you had bet a $1 Exacta box on 16-19, you would have won $164.90 if the first two horses to cross the finish line were 16 and 19, in either order.
A Trifecta bet, then, is the same thing as an Exacta bet, only you’re betting on the first three horses to cross the finish line instead of the first two, for more money. Again, most tracks will allow you to place a $1 “Box” bet on the Trifecta ($6 bet on the first three horses to cross the finish line, in any order, according to Turn ‘N’ Sport), and a Superfecta bet is a bet on the first four horses to cross the finish line (and you can place a $1 Superfecta Box bet for $24).
Remember, race tracks list all their payouts based on $2 bets, so if you bet a $1 box, expect to win half the advertised payout, since you only bet $1 instead of $2.
Obviously, the big money is in the Exotics, but like all gambling bets with big payouts, the odds are long and you’re likely to lose.
If you’d like to place a bet on the Kentucky Derby today, head to an off-track betting parlor (OTB) near you, or make a bet (legally) at Twinspires.com.
[Image courtesy of: Getty Images/Mario Tama]