Novice's guide to betting

Preakness Day Picks

Special Pullout Guide To Betting

May 18, 2002

At the races, there are two categories of bets -- straight bets that involve only one horse, and exotic bets that involve two or more horses.

The standard bet for all wagers is $2. You can bet any amount, starting with $1, but the payoff prices shown on the infield tote board and TVs around the track are always based on a $2 wager.

That means if you bet $1, you will get half of the amount shown on the tote board. If you bet $4, you get twice the amount shown.

STRAIGHT BETS

Straight bets include:

WIN: You win if the horse you bet finishes first.

PLACE: You win if the horse you bet finishes first or second.

SHOW: You win if the horse you bet finishes first, second or third.

When you go to the betting window, you need to be prepared to give the teller all the specific details of your bet -- the number of the race, the name of the racetrack, the amount of the bet, the type of bet, and the number of the horse, listed in the track program.

How to say it: "In the first race at Pimlico, I'd like $2 to win on the 4."

EXOTIC BETS

The most popular exotic bets are exactas and trifectas.

EXACTA: This bet involves picking the horses that will finish first AND second -- in the right order. If you bet an exacta of 5 and 4, you win only if the 5 finishes first and the 4 finishes second. At the betting window, let the teller know which race you are betting, which track, the amount of the bet, that you want an exacta, and the numbers of the two horses you are playing. Make sure to name the horses in the right order.

How to say it: "In the first race at Pimlico, I'd like a $2 exacta of 5, 4."

EXACTA BOX: An exacta also can be played as a "box," which costs more but gives you more chances to win. When you box an exacta, any 1-2 order of finish involving the horses you have bet is a winner. You can include as many horses in the box as you want, although if you use more than three there's a good chance the bet will cost you more than it pays. An exacta box of two horses costs $4. An exacta box of three horses costs $12. An exacta box of four horses costs $24. At the betting window let the teller know which race you are betting, which track, the amount of your bet, that you want an exacta box and the numbers of the horses you are including. In this case, you need not worry about the order in which you name the horses.

How to say it: "In the first race at Pimlico, I'd like a $2 exacta box of 3, 4 and 5." Remember, this bet costs $12.

TRIFECTA: This bet, commonly known as the triple, involves picking the horses that will finish first, second AND third -- in the right order. If you bet a trifecta of the 4, 3 and 5 horses, you win only if the 4 finishes first, the 3 finishes second and the 5 finishes third. At the betting window, let the teller know which race you are betting, which track, the amount of your bet, that you want a trifecta, and the numbers of the horses you are playing. Make sure to name the horses in the right order.

How to say it: "In the first race at Pimlico, I'd like a $2 trifecta of 4, 3, 5."

TRIFECTA BOX: As with exactas, trifectas can be "boxed" -- allowing you to win with any 1-2-3 order of finish involving the horses you have bet. A $2 triple box of three horses costs $12. A $2 triple box of 4 horses costs $24. A $2 triple box of five horses costs $48. As with exactas, if you use too many horses the bet may cost more than it pays. At the betting window, let the teller know which race you are betting, which track, the amount of your bet, that you want a trifecta box, and the numbers of the horses you are including. In this case, you need not worry about the order in which you name the horses.

How to say it: "In the first race at Pimlico, I'd like a $2 trifecta box of 3, 4, 5." Remember, this bet costs $12.

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