Guide to Pool Betting in Horse Racing

Pool betting in horse racing is a form of gambling where bettors place their wagers into a common pool, and the payout for each winning bet is determined by the total amount wagered in that pool. This is in contrast to fixed-odds betting, where the odds are set at the time the bet is placed. Pool betting is popular in many countries and can offer the potential for larger payouts, especially when there are fewer winning bets.

Pool betting is often referred to as the pari-mutuel system. This system ensures that bettors are betting against each other rather than against the house, creating a dynamic and potentially lucrative betting environment.

As a beginner, you may find it a little bit complicated at first but once you learn the basics, things become pretty easy to understand. Therefore, let’s start with this short guide:

Understanding the Basics

Understanding the basics of pool betting in horse racing is crucial before you start placing your bets. So, let’s explain some of the most important aspects of pool betting first:

Common pool is one of the first terms to learn about. In pool betting, all bets of a particular type (e.g., win, place, show) are combined into a single pool. This pool represents the total amount of money wagered by all bettors on that specific type of bet for a particular race.

This leads us to a term called payout structure. The payouts in pool betting are not predetermined like in fixed-odds betting. Instead, they depend on the total amount of money in the pool and the number of winning bets. After deductions (taxes and operator's commission), the remaining pool is divided among the winners.

Before the payouts are calculated, a certain percentage is deducted from the total pool. This includes taxes required by the government and the operator's commission for facilitating the betting process. Once the race is over and the results are determined, the winning bets are identified based on the outcome of the race and the specific type of bet. For example, in a win bet, the horse that finishes first is the winner.

So, the next thing to learn about is payout calculation. The total pool is divided among the winning bets. The larger the pool and the fewer the winning bets, the higher the potential payout. Each winning bet receives a portion of the pool based on the amount wagered and the overall size of the pool.

When it comes to odds and dividends, pool betting odds are presented in fractional format (e.g., 3/1, 5/2, etc.). These odds represent the potential return on your bet, including your initial stake. The odds are not fixed and can change as more bets are placed.

Now let’s take a look at one payout example:

  • Let's say the total pool for the win bet is $10,000, and there are three winning bets.
  • After deductions, the pool is $9,000.
  • If you placed a $20 bet on the winning horse, your payout would be calculated based on your share of the pool. If your bet is one of the three winning bets, you'd receive a portion of the $9,000 pool, which is divided among the winners.

Of course, to enjoy pool betting, you need access to all relevant information, which leads us to tote board. The tote board displays important information for bettors, including current odds, pool sizes, and potential payouts. It helps bettors make informed decisions before placing their bets.

Understanding the basics of Pool Betting

Types of Pool Bets

Pool betting offers a variety of bet types in horse racing, each with its own set of rules and potential payouts. When choosing your bet type, consider your level of confidence, risk tolerance, and the potential payout. Keep in mind that more challenging bets often come with higher rewards but are harder to win. It's important to research and analyze the horses, jockeys, and track conditions to make informed betting decisions.

Let’s take a look at different types of pool bets:

Win Bet:

  • In a win bet, you're selecting a single horse to finish first in the race.
  • If your chosen horse wins, your bet is successful, and you receive a payout based on the pool and the number of winning bets.

Place Bet:

  • A place bet involves selecting a horse that you believe will finish in the top two (or sometimes three) positions in the race.
  • If your chosen horse finishes in the designated positions, your bet is successful, and you receive a payout based on the pool and the number of winning place bets.

Show Bet:

  • A show bet requires you to pick a horse that you think will finish in the top three positions in the race.
  • If your chosen horse finishes in any of the top three positions, your bet is successful, and you receive a payout based on the pool and the number of winning show bets.

Exacta Bet:

  • An exacta bet involves selecting two horses to finish first and second in the exact order you specify.
  • For example, if you choose Horse A to finish first and Horse B to finish second, they must finish in that specific order for your bet to win.
  • Exacta bets can offer higher payouts due to the increased difficulty of predicting the precise order of finish.

Trifecta Bet:

  • A trifecta bet requires you to pick three horses to finish first, second, and third in the exact order you specify.
  • Similar to the exacta, the horses must finish in the exact sequence you've chosen for your bet to be successful.
  • Trifecta bets are even more challenging to predict than exacta bets, so they often offer substantial payouts.

Superfecta Bet:

  • A superfecta bet involves selecting four horses to finish first, second, third, and fourth in the exact order you specify.
  • This is the most challenging type of pool bet, as you're predicting the precise order of the top four horses in the race.
  • Payouts for successful superfecta bets can be substantial due to the high level of difficulty.

Quinella Bet:

  • A quinella bet is similar to an exacta bet, but it does not require you to predict the exact order of finish for the top two horses.
  • Instead, you select two horses, and as long as they finish in the top two positions, regardless of the order, your bet is successful.
  • Quinella bets provide a bit more flexibility and are generally easier to win than exacta bets.

Daily Double, Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 6:

  • These are multi-race bets where you need to select the winners of consecutive races (Daily Double), three races (Pick 3), four races (Pick 4), or six races (Pick 6).
  • The difficulty and potential payouts increase with the number of races you need to predict correctly.

Placing Bets and Claiming Wins

Placing your bet in pool betting for horse racing involves several steps to select your desired bet type, choose the horse(s) you want to bet on, determine your stake, and submit your wager. Let’s take a look at a more detailed explanation of the process:

  1. Choose the Bet Type: Decide which type of pool bet you want to place. This could be a win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, quinella, or a multi-race bet like the Daily Double, Pick 3, Pick 4, or Pick 6.
  2. Select Your Horses: For single-race bets (win, place, show, etc.), choose the horse(s) you believe will perform well in the race based on your analysis. In multi-race bets (Daily Double, Pick 3, etc.), select the winners of the designated consecutive races.
  3. Determine Your Stake: Decide how much money you want to wager on your chosen bet. The minimum and maximum stakes may vary depending on the specific bet type and the betting regulations in your jurisdiction.
  4. Place Your Bet: Go to a betting location, such as a racetrack or an off-track betting (OTB) facility, or use an online betting platform if available. Approach a betting window or use a self-service terminal (if applicable) to place your bet. Inform the operator or use the terminal interface to specify the following details:
  • The race number and track where you're placing your bet.
  • The type of bet you're making (win, place, etc.).
  • The horse's number(s) you're betting on.
  • Your stake amount.
  1. And then, double-check your selections and stake before finalizing your bet.

After placing your bet, you'll receive a printed betting ticket from the operator or the self-service terminal. The ticket will display the details of your bet, including the type of bet, horse selections, stake amount, race information, and a unique ticket number. Your betting ticket is essential for claiming your winnings. Treat it like cash and keep it in a safe place.

Claiming Your Winnings:

If your bet is successful, you can visit the same betting location where you placed your bet to claim your winnings. Present your winning ticket to the operator, who will verify the details and calculate your payout based on the pool and the number of winning bets. You'll receive your winnings in cash or, in some cases, as a credit to your betting account.

Winning Pool Betting

Understanding Odds and Calculating Payouts

Understanding odds and calculating payouts are crucial aspects of pool betting in horse racing. Odds represent the potential return on your bet, and calculating payouts involves determining the amount you'll receive if your bet is successful. Here's a more detailed explanation:

Understanding Odds:

Odds reflect the bookmakers' assessment of the probability of a particular outcome occurring. They are presented in various formats, including fractional (e.g., 3/1), decimal (e.g., 4.00), and moneyline (e.g., +300 or -200) odds.

  • Fractional Odds: The first number represents the potential profit, and the second number represents the stake. For example, with odds of 3/1, you could potentially win $3 for every $1 wagered if your bet is successful, plus you'd also receive your initial $1 stake back.
  • Decimal Odds: The decimal odds represent the total potential return, including your initial stake. For example, decimal odds of 4.00 mean you could potentially win $4 for every $1 wagered, including your original $1 stake.
  • Moneyline Odds: Positive moneyline odds (e.g., +300) indicate potential profit on a $100 stake, while negative moneyline odds (e.g., -200) indicate the amount you need to wager to win $100.

Calculating Payouts:

To calculate potential payouts, you can use the following formulas based on the odds format:

  • For fractional odds: Potential Payout = (Stake * Numerator) / Denominator + Stake
  • For decimal odds: Potential Payout = Stake * Decimal Odds
  • For moneyline odds:

 Positive Odds: Potential Payout = (Stake / 100) * Odds + Stake

 Negative Odds: Potential Profit = (100 / |Odds|) * Stake


Let's say you're placing a win bet with the following odds:

  • Fractional Odds: 5/1
  • Decimal Odds: 6.00
  • Moneyline Odds: +500

If you wager $10:

  • Fractional Odds: Potential Payout = ($10 * 5) / 1 + $10 = $60 (including initial stake)
  • Decimal Odds: Potential Payout = $10 * 6.00 = $60 (including initial stake)
  • Positive Moneyline Odds: Potential Payout = ($10 / 100) * 500 + $10 = $60 (including initial stake)

Keep in mind that these calculations are based on potential payouts and do not take into account deductions (taxes and commission) that may affect the actual payout. Additionally, the pool size and the number of winning bets in pool betting will influence the final payout.

Research and Analysis - Key to Successful Pool Betting

No betting strategy can guarantee wins, as there's always an element of uncertainty in horse racing. However, conducting thorough research and analysis increases your understanding of the races and enables you to make more educated bets. Over time, this approach can lead to more successful outcomes and a deeper appreciation for the sport.

Research and analysis are fundamental components of successful pool betting in horse racing. They involve gathering information and evaluating various factors that can influence the outcome of a race. Engaging in thorough research and analysis can significantly improve your chances of making informed betting decisions. Here's why research and analysis are so important:

  • Informed Decision-Making: Making bets based on random choices or gut feelings is unlikely to yield consistent success. Research and analysis allow you to make well-informed decisions by considering relevant information and data.
  • Understanding Horse Form: Researching a horse's recent performances, past race records, and track preferences helps you gauge its current form and potential to perform well in the upcoming race.
  • Trainer and Jockey Information: Examining the records of trainers and jockeys can provide insights into their skill levels and historical success. Some trainers excel with certain types of horses or under specific conditions.
  • Track and Conditions: Understanding how a horse performs under different track conditions (e.g., turf or dirt) and weather conditions (e.g., wet or dry) can be crucial in predicting its performance.
  • Distance and Class: Analyzing how a horse has performed at different race distances and in various class levels can give you an idea of its suitability for the current race.
  • Recent Form: Assessing a horse's performance in its most recent races helps you identify trends, improvements, or declines in its performance.
  • Speed and Pace Analysis: Analyzing a horse's speed figures and pace data can reveal its running style and whether it's likely to lead the race, stalk the leaders, or close from behind.
  • Race Strategy: Studying the expected pace of the race and the likely race scenario helps you determine how the race might unfold and which horses are positioned for success.
  • Comparative Analysis: Comparing the strengths and weaknesses of different horses in the race can help you identify potential contenders and underdogs.
  • Betting Trends: Monitoring changes in odds and pool sizes can give you insights into which horses are popular among bettors and where value might lie.
  • Risk Management: Comprehensive research and analysis enable you to make more calculated and strategic bets, reducing the risk of impulsive decisions.
  • Long-Term Profitability: Successful pool betting is not about winning every bet but about making profitable decisions over the long run. Research and analysis contribute to a more strategic and disciplined approach to betting.

Enjoy Responsibly

"Enjoy Responsibly" is a fundamental principle that applies to all forms of gambling, including pool betting in horse racing. It emphasizes the importance of approaching gambling activities in a balanced and mindful manner to ensure that they remain enjoyable, safe, and within your means. Here's why "enjoy responsibly" is crucial:

  • Preventing Problem Gambling: Responsible gambling practices help prevent the development of gambling-related problems, such as addiction, financial difficulties, and negative emotional consequences.
  • Maintaining Control: Enjoying gambling responsibly means staying in control of your betting activities. You make informed decisions and avoid impulsive behaviours that could lead to losses or negative experiences.
  • Setting Limits: Establishing limits on the amount of time and money you spend on gambling helps you avoid overspending and ensures that gambling remains a form of entertainment rather than a financial burden.
  • Budgeting: Creating a gambling budget as part of responsible play ensures that you allocate funds specifically for gambling activities and do not spend money intended for essential needs.
  • Recognizing Signs of Problem Gambling: By practising responsible gambling, you become more attuned to the early signs of problem gambling in yourself and others. This awareness allows you to seek help if needed.
  • Enjoying Entertainment: Gambling is meant to be a form of entertainment, similar to going to a movie or dining out. Responsible gambling ensures that you approach it with a healthy perspective and do not rely on it for financial gain.
  • Positive Experience: When you gamble responsibly, you can focus on enjoying the experience, learning about the sport, and engaging with the community of fellow enthusiasts without the stress and negative emotions that come with reckless behaviour.
  • Minimizing Risk: Responsible gambling reduces the risk of significant financial losses and emotional distress that can result from chasing losses or making irrational bets.
  • Accessing Resources: If you ever feel that your gambling habits are becoming problematic, practising responsible gambling allows you to recognize the issue early and seek assistance from support services and organizations that specialize in helping individuals with gambling-related concerns.
  • Promoting a Safe Environment: By practising responsible gambling, you contribute to a safer and more positive gambling environment for yourself and others. This promotes ethical and fair play within the gambling community.

All in all, "enjoy responsibly" is a guideline that encourages you to approach gambling activities, including pool betting in horse racing, with moderation, mindfulness, and self-awareness. It ensures that gambling remains a fun and entertaining pastime while minimizing the risks associated with excessive or uncontrolled behaviour. If you ever feel that your gambling habits are becoming problematic, consider seeking help and support from resources available in your region.


Pool betting is a perfect way to enjoy horse racing but it is also very important to understand all of its aspects before starting. This super-fun activity can cost you a lot if you don’t understand the basics, not just about the sport itself, but also in terms of key principles of pool betting. It’s important to understand different types of bets and to know how odds and payouts work. Furthermore, there is always the matter of responsible betting, because that’s the only right approach not just to this, but to all forms of betting.