How and Where to Place a Wager
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder
So you’re jazzed about horse racing and you want to place a wager… there are more ways than you think to put your money where your mouth is! Let’s start with the obvious place… at the track.
When you wager with a teller, here’s how you do it starting with the most simple scenario:
You’re placing a wager for the upcoming race:
(Amount, wager type, horse number(s))
When playing an exotic wager such as an exacta or trifecta:
“$2 exacta of 3 over 1, 4 and 7” ($6 total)
“$1 trifecta box of 1, 4 and 7” ($6 total)
(Amount, wager type, horse number(s))
When placing a wager on a race that’s not next at the track you’re attending:
(Race #, amount, wager type, horse number(s))
And, when you’re playing a different track than the one you’re attending:
(Track, race #, amount, wager type, horse number(s))
The teller will give you a ticket or tickets with a print out of your wagers… CHECK THEM! In my experience if you walk away from the window and notice that the tickets aren’t right, tellers will change them as long as the race hasn’t started. One thing to note about wagering with a teller is that you can’t place dime superfectas at the window.
One important rule of racetrack etiquette, please don’t cash your winning ticket right before the next race is set to start… people are trying to place their wagers!
Another option when at the track is to use the wagering terminal, which does allow on track bettors to place dime superfectas. The machines I’ve used have followed the verbal order of wager placing: Track, Race (defaulted to the home track and next race), wager amount, wager type, horses.
If you don’t have an account with the track, you could buy paper vouchers or a plastic card (similar to a debit card) from the tellers. If you use a paper voucher, you must insert it into the wagering terminal, remember to take it with you after you place the wager, and not accidentally throw it or your winning ticket away! While the routine is relatively the same with the plastic, the cards just seem a little harder to lose particularly because the voucher tickets looks just like the wagering tickets and therefore become much easier to accidentally toss.
One potential gotcha with the wagering terminals is that when you complete your wager, the next wager will start with the wager type and not the amount. This might vary by manufacturer but I’ve accidentally put in larger wagers than intended under these conditions. For example, I started off with a $5 to win bet followed up by $2 exacta box ($4 total), but because the machine started at the wager type and not the amount (plus this user was not really paying attention), I ended up with a $5 exacta box ($10 total). I wouldn’t have minded if it had been the winning exacta, but alas it was not.
Perhaps the best advice I can give you about wagering at the track, specifically if you wager with a teller, is to NOT throw away your tickets until the race is official. You don’t want to end up like this guy…
Let’s say that you don’t live near a track, or that you want to play the ponies more often than you can get to the track. Another attractive wagering option is having an ADW account, or an online wagering account. Unlike many other things you probably do online, it’s not always easy to set yourself up with one or more online wagering accounts (yes, one or more… we’ll get to that in a moment). For example, Arizona doesn’t allow online wagering at all (but you can open an account to watch live racing without wagering) and New Jersey only allows it’s residents to wager on a state-run online platform. We suggest opening an account with TwinSpires, they’ll even give you a $100 to play with just for signing up!
Back to that “one or more accounts”… racing is highly regulated and in some cases very convoluted. A track that you like may make a deal to be carried by one ADW and not another, but all the other tracks you like to play are on the other ADW, in that case you might open two accounts.
Potential complications aside, ADW’s are fairly straightforward in their usage and kind of similar to wagering terminals. One of the huge bonuses of an ADW account is that it will provide you with detailed records and statistics on your wagering. As you get more advanced you can start to dive into improving your ROI by seeing what types of wagers are your most profitable. In some cases you can drill down to see your ROI by track, distance, type of race and jockey. You can also see how you’re doing on the year, month, quarter or to date since you’ve opened your account. If you start to get seriously interested in playing the ponies, you’ll no doubt want to open an account. Other niceties, depending on the platform, can include live racing feeds, replays and free past performances. Some platforms are more fully featured than others, so make sure you shop around!
Other locations that offer wagering opportunities are sports books, like you’d find in Las Vegas and off track wager facilities, like you find in questionable neighborhoods! OK, there are some nice ones, but there are some not so nice ones too… such is life. The wagering drill is pretty much the same at either of these types of facilities as you would find at the track. Oh, and if you’re near Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, there’s always the drive-thru wagering window!
Wondering when when one type of wager might be a better play than another? Check out our Wagering Strategy section!