Types of Wagers & Pools
Level: Beginner
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

As as you may well know there are many types of wagers, from the straightforward win bet to the more elaborate Pick 6. All of the money for each type of bet is kept together in a pool and sometimes you might hear folks refer to a wager as a pool.

For those of you who don’t spend all day at the track (yet!), the most likely place you’d hear the word pool being used is in your friendly neighborhood office Super Bowl pool or the Kentucky Derby Future Wagers, which are typically referred to as pool 1, pool 2 or pool 3. The tote board displays totals for pools, and in future articles in our Wagering Strategy section we’ll discuss the finer points of incorporating the amounts of money in the pools into your wagering decisions.

You can learn how to place these wagers here, but let’s first make sure you know what each of the wagers are!

The Basics:

Selecting the winner of the race. Your horse must win in order for you to cash a ticket.

If your horse wins or comes in second you cash a ticket, but you get only the place payout.

If your horse comes in first, second or third you cash a ticket, but you get only the show payout.

Stands for “win, place, show”, also known as “across the board”. This places a win, place and show bet on your selection, which is three wagers. I like to think of this as an “ease of use” wager. If your horse wins you get the win, place AND show payout. You’d say “$2 across the board on #3” to place this wager.

Exotic Bets – Single Race

Selecting the first and second place finishers in exact order.

Selecting the first and second place finishers in either order (if you select #7 & #9 you cash a ticket as long as both finish first and second).

Selecting the first, second and third place finishers in exact order.

Selecting the first, second, third and forth place finishers in exact order.

For any of the single race exotics you can “box” your wager. This means that any of your selections can finish in any order depending on the wager. For example an exacta box is similar to quinella in that as long as your selections run one and two you cash a ticket. A two horse exacta box is two wagers and therefore costs double the money. Accordingly and to your benefit, it pays more than the quinella. A $2 exacta box of two horses is $4. A $1 trifecta box of three horses is $6. You can box as many horses as you like, but it can get pricey!

Used with exactas, trifectas and superfectas, you select a single horse to win (the key) and other horses to come in second, third and fourth depending on the wager.

For example, with a trifecta, putting two horses under your key selection would be two bets. Let’s say you want to key #7 over #1 and #8. This would be one a wager of #7 over #1 over #8 (usually written as 7 /1 / 8) and another wager of #7 over #8 over #1 (7 / 8 / 1). You would say to the teller “I’d like a $2 trifecta of #7 over #1 and #8” and your wager would cost $4. Or, you could say “I’d like a $2 trifecta keying #7 over #1 and #8. There’s an easy to use formula on how to figure out the cost of your wagers in the Cost of Wagers and Approximate Payouts article.

A wheel is similar to a key, just with more horses and potentially variations in the how you position the horses. With this type of wager you’d select more than one horse in the top spot, essentially “wheeling” horses “up and down” – or placing a horse in more than one position in your wagers.

For example, you could have a trifecta that looks like this: 2,5 / 2,5,7 / 1,7,9. In this case you would need #2 or #5 to win, either of those two or #7 to come in second and #1, #7 or #9 to show. If you place a $1 wager in this configuration would cost you $18 (2 horses in first position x 3 horses in second position x 3 horses in third position).

Check out some real world examples in our Wagering Strategy Q&A with Horseplayers star Peter Rotondo Jr.

Exotic Bets – Multiple Race
Wagers involving multiple races must be placed before the first race in the sequence. Please make sure you check out Steve Crist’s contribution to the Letter to a New Horseplayer series. He’s the publisher of the Daily Racing Form and the man who literally wrote the book on exotic wagering! He provides an excellent introduction to exotic wagering, especially multi-race exotics.

Daily Double:
Selecting the winner in two consecutive races.

Pick 3:
Selecting the winner in three consecutive races.

Pick 4:
Selecting the winner in four consecutive races.

Pick 6:
Selecting the winner in six consecutive races.

Each wager type has its own minimum amount which is set by the track. For example, some tracks offer $.50 trifectas and others require a $1 minimum wager. Also, each track has it’s own rules about what wagers are offered on a race. For example if race has fewer than five horses in it, you might not be able to play a trifecta. The types of wagers offered for a race are typically listed in the program or past performance. And if any changes occurs once the day has started, they will be displayed on the tote board.

While it can be easy to start off safe, don’t be afraid to try new things. If you like two horses, try an exacta box. Our Wagering Strategy section will have articles on the many ways you might determine how to wager. Until then, have fun… and good luck!


  • I purchased a Tri Box ticket for $48 with 4 horses for this years Preakness and 3 of my horses came in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. How much did I win?

  • Hi Cindy, a $48 tri box of four horses is a $2 trifecta, for the 2012 Preakness that paid $70.80.

    We have all the 2012 Preakness payouts listed here:


  • i boxed a exacta for kentucky derby 16-8-3 for 12 dollars does it pay anything getting two out of three horses?

  • Hi Cat,

    If Revolutionary (#3) would have run second you would have cashed the ticket. For the exacta box two of your picks would’ve needed to run 1-2 and two of your picks finished first and third. Here’s more info on the 2013 Kentucky Derby payouts:


    Good luck tomorrow, I hope you cash some tickets!

  • Question. I bet $50 on a horse to win that was running at 9-1 odds. The horse won and paid $20. Why did I only receive $450 from the track (i.e., 9 x $50) instead of $2000 (i.e, $50 x $20)? Thanks

  • Hi Doug, nice pegging a 9-1 winner! I’m going to refer your question to our resident math and wagering pool expert, please check back! I’m not sure if he can answer today but we’ll have an answer for you this week.

  • Hi, Doug,
    That $20 payout was for a $2 bet. Since you bet $50, you get 25 times more than the $2 payout ($2 * 25 = $50).

    Another way to think of it is in terms of the win odds of 9-to-1. For ever $1 you bet, you get $9 plus your bet back. So $1 gets you $10, $5 gets you $50, and $50 gets you $500 ($450 profit plus your $50 bet.

    Nice score!

  • so the 2017 Belmont has a pick 3 with a guaranteed $250k . If you bet all the horses on all 3 races the wager is $896.00 Why wouldnt everyone do that ? Is it that the pool would be split among so many people your wouldnt get your stake back ? Help I am new to this

  • Hi Kirk, you essentially answered your own question. The most likely outcome is that you would be splitting the payout with many tickets. The other factor is that you would need each or most of the three races to be won by longshots in order to make any money with a ticket like that. Additional money in pool is always good, but the odds of the winners in each race of the sequence are big drivers for payouts.

    Taking a look at last year’s Pick 3 that ended with the Belmont. There was $965,420 in the pool and the payout for a $2 wager was $247.50. The win odds of the three winners were as follows:
    Frosted at just over 2-1
    Flintshire at around 3-5
    Creator at 16-1

    Even with a 16-1 shot in the mix and a lot of money in the pool you see that it’s hard to make back that amount.

    The Pick 3 is a great multi-race bet to get your feet wet, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it. My advice would be to look at the sequence and see who you like. If you like any longshots, try to a build a small ticket around those horses. Remember that the minimum wager is $.50, so you can put together a pretty stealthy ticket. Go play around with this wagering calculator:


    Using $.50 as the base wager here a few examples of ticket costs where the number represents the number of horses you’ve chosen in each race:

    2 x 2 x 2 = $4
    2 x 3 x 3 = $9
    2 x 2 x 6 = $12
    1 x 4 x 6 = $12

    Here are a couple of posts we have on wagering strategy of mult-race exotics. Good luck, and we hope you cash some tickets!


  • Sharon Galuszka

    On the Belmont 2019:
    I bet $36.00 exacta and all 4 horses came in including first and second. How is it paid out?
    Thank you,

  • Reading the program at Ruidoso Downs Race Track it tells you what bets can be placed , i.e. Exacta , Trifecta , .10 Superfecta . And my question is the pay out if you won the Super , if the tote board showed $688.30 . Do you receive $68.83 or do you receive the $688.30 . I been told two different ways for the pay out . Thanks for our time .

  • In show pool; how is payoff for each winning horse calculated?

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