Cost of Wagers & Approximate Payouts
Level: Beginner
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

How much does it cost and what will it pay? Two things we all want to know!

An easy rule of thumb to remember for determining the cost of exotic wagers is to multiply the number of horses in each leg of the wager by the cost of the wager. Some simple examples…

A $2 exacta of two horses over 4 horses:
2 (two horses on top) x 4 (two horses on bottom) x 2 (cost of wager) = $16

A $2 trifecta with one horse on top and two in the second and third leg:
1 (top horse) x 2 (two horses in leg 2) x 2 (two horses in leg three) x $2 (cost of wager) = $8

You’ll get the hang of it! And what do those odds pay? Ernie gives you a rule of thumb in his “What’s the Morning Line?” video, but here’s a quickie chart for your reference.

If you’re interested in big day payouts, be sure to check out Kentucky Derby payouts since 1990 and Average Breeders’ Cup Pick 4 Payouts. And you can learn more about pool size and exotic wager payout here.

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  • Here is a site for an exotic wagering calculator that includes the dime superfecta as well as other exotics.

  • What about the payoffs for a $2 place and show bet.

  • Hi Ryan,

    Check our post on Longshots Across the Board, there’s a bit about figure place and show payouts there. It’s not as straightforward as win payouts as they payout is dependent on how much money is in the pool:

    Also, a quick Google turned up this, which has a bit more information:

  • I have another question. The mininmum wager amount for win, place, and show are $2. Let’s say that I bet $5 on a horse to show and that horse finished second. The show payout was $2.10. That would be the payout for a $2 show bet. If I wagered $5 to show on that horse, then what would the payout be?

  • It would be $2.10 x 2.5 ($5.25). A good rule of thumb is to divide the amount of your wager by 2 to determine what amount to multiple with the $2 payout.

    So, if you had played $10 show you would’ve gotten $10.50 ($2.10 x 5), $20 to show would’ve gotten you $21 ($2.10 x 10), etc.

  • Do I do the same for win and place wagers?

  • Yes! For any wagers where the payouts are listed for $2. It varies by track but payouts are usually listed by minimum wager, so in some cases you’ll see payouts for exactas and trifectas posted for $1 wagers or even $.50 wagers.

    Let’s say you bet $5 on a winning exacta that payed $25 for a $.50 wager. In this case your payout would be $250 as you would multiply the amount you wagered by 2 (basically each dollar = double the listed payout amount).

    The math looks like this: $5 (your wager) x 2 = 10 x $25 (the listed payout) = $250 (your winnings). It takes some practice to think like this but it will come naturally soon enough!

  • Thanks Dana you’re the best!

  • You’re welcome Ryan, glad to help!

  • G’day, I live in Sydney Australia and will be attending the 2013 Kentucky Oaks and Derby. I only bet on the tote. Can you tell me please, if I want to back a horse to run 1st and 2nd and 3rd and the minimum bet is $2, will that bet cost me $6 ? Here in Sydney, I can have what is called a ” flexi ” trifecta. This allows me to, say, take 2 or more horses for 1st and 2nd and the field for 3rd, but I can nominate how much I want to spend, say $20. It then gives me a percentage of the winning dividend. Will Churchill Downs have that type of bet please ? Lastly, I follow a ratings system that is in the racebook, called Techform. Each horse in each race is rated out of 100. I back all the 100 rated horse and there maybe more than one in a race. Do American racebooks contain a rating ? Thank you.

  • G’day Norm!

    You are correct that playing a single horse for $2 to win, place and show will cost you $6. You can place it as a single wager by calling it “across the board”, for example: “$2 on #4 across the board.”

    Nothing like the flexi here, which is too bad! But, let’s say you want to play something similar and you have two horse that you want in the first and second position, you could play a trifecta structured like this: 1,2/1,2/all. Assuming that Churchill Downs keeps the minimum trifecta cost at $.50 and the field has a full 20 horses, that wager would cost $36 $18 using the $.50 minimum.

    And that might not be a bad way to go if you consider that the $.50 trifecta paid $766.40 in 2012, $988.10 in 2011, $584.35 in 2010 and a whopping $10,375.15 in 2009 (albeit with a longshot on top).

    We don’t have any ratings like that. Our sponsor,, has class ratings that might be similar. We’ll have the Brisnet Derby past performances available on our site, and the class ratings will be included. But, most ratings in American racing are speed ratings and are not based on a 100 point scale. We’ll have several posts in the next two weeks that look at different ways to factor Kentucky Derby winners, such a pedigree and various statistics. Check back for more info, and most importantly have a great time at the Derby!

  • You can access the free Brisnet past performances for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks contenders now, they update it weekly. On the first page you’ll find the class listings.

  • G’day again Dana, thanks heaps for the info mate. Really looking forward to the Oaks and Derby, I’ll be the only turkey wearing a full morning suit with top hat and gloves at the Derby or so my friends in Louisville tell me, but it is a Deby after all. Good luck with your selections and I hope you also have a bonza time too, all the best. Regards,

  • You’re quite welcome! As it turns out I did the calculations on the cost of that wager wrong, a .50 trifecta with 2 horses in the first position and 18 horses underneath would only cost $18!

  • G’day again Dana, thanks for that. It’s very easy to work out cost when only 1 or 2 selections 1st and 2nd are done, it gets complicated when I might have, say, 3 or 4 selections 1st and 2nd and the field for 3rd. Of course there is a maths equation, but I really couldn’t be bothered working it out and also depends on the field size. That is why ” flexi ” betting on trifectas and First 4’s are great. I have to say and maybe I’m biased, but here in New South Wales, a State of Australia, we really do have the best tote betting in the world. For instance, recently in a major race, a First 4, correctly picking the first 4 horses over the line, paid over $51,000. For only about $30, you could have had 2 or 3 horses 1st and 2nd and the field for 3rd and 4th and even though it might have only given you just under 2% of the dividend, that was still almost $800. Not bad for a small outlay. Of course, everything depends on the pool size, but on major races, it is usually big. I was at Santa Anita races in 1996 and only certain races had quinellas and then there was a minimum bet amount. Our tote keeps our racing alive, with prizemoney ever increasing. Racecourse facilities are also the best and compared to overseas, reasonably cheap for the general public. Our raceclubs are also not privately owned and people can join and have superior facilities. If you haven’t been downunder, get down here. Mate, you will have the best of times. All the best and thanks again. Regards, Norm.

  • Thanks Norm, we’re fans of Australian racing here at Hello Race Fans, particular our Valerie Grash, I know she plays quite frequently. But, it would be great to come visit some day!

  • If I placed a $1 Exacta Box bet on four horses, and the payouts displayed a $2 Exacta, do I divide the payout by 2 to get the payout for a $1 Exacta?

    For example, if I placed a $1 exacta box bet on four horses, and the payout for a $2 exacta was $11.80, do I divide $11.80 by 2 to get the payout for a $1 exacta box?

  • Yes, that’s correct!

  • If a trifecta pays 900.00 what is the payout for tbe tri box?

  • Hi cbas, the payout is the same regardless if whether or not your boxed it, played it straight or keyed. The variable is cost of your wager. A few examples.

    A $2 trifecta box of 3 horses costs $12
    A $2 trifecta with 1 horse on top and 2 in the second and third position (1/2,3/2,3) costs $4
    A $2 trifecta of 3 horses straight (1-2-3) costs $2

    Assuming each of these example produced a winning ticket, the amount the ticket payed ($900 for a $2 wager) would remain the same.

    Hope this helps!

  • I want to bet the trifecta in the Preakness . Seams there are different ways to bet this. I have 50$ to bet on the horses. Let’s say I picked horse 1,2,3. I bet 50$ on the trifecta stright. Is there a better way to bet my 50$ on the trifecta than straight. I don’t understand one horse on top and 2 in second and third as it states above.

  • Hi John,

    Check out this post:

    It should give you an overview of considerations when playing trifectas (or exactas and supers). The best advice I can give you is to consider your opinion first and then try to construct wagers around it. For example, let’s say you like Nyquist, Exaggerator and think Collected, Fellowship and Lani could run well but are unlikely to win. You could play Nyquist and Exaggerator in the first two spots and put the other three in the third spot. In that case you would need Nyquist and Exaggerator to run first and second in any order and any of the other three to run third.

    Another example using the same horses: you could play Nyquist and Exaggerator in all three spots and the other three in second and third spot. In that scenario either Nyquist or Exaggerator would need to win and any of the other horses would have to run second and third.

    The minimum wager for tris on Preakness card is $.50, which means you could have a lot of flexibility with your $50. A $.50 tri of the first example would only cost a $3 (and admittedly it wouldn’t pay that much either!), but you could play it for a little more and not eat up too much of your budget. You could actually play Nyquist and Exaggerator in the first two positions with all other horses in the field for $12.

    The $.50 tri for the second example would cost $12 and has the potential to pay more if the higher priced horses run and 2nd and 3rd.

    There are plenty of ways to structure your trifectas to match your opinions, but your opinion should come first! Here’s a link to a handy wagering calculator that can help you figure out how much your tickets will cost:

    Best of luck, hope you cash a lot of tickets!

  • How do the tracks .come up with the calculations on suler high 5 ‘s.when say its at100,000?I under stand the money v. Bet.But how do they justify paying 86$ off of any bet where you pick all five?

  • I need to buy calculated. That figures out permutations for the pic3pic4pic5&6. I love permutions but don’know how to use them thank. Jules

  • What would a trifecta and a superfect box pay for a $ 5 bet.

  • I bet $5.00 for win, place and show on a horse that came in second. How much would I win?

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