There are countless ways to bet on horse racing events but they're all simple to learn. First of all, you need to find someplace to bet - and the good news is that no matter where you live there are plenty of options. Of course you can always bet at the track - and not necessarily the track that races are being run at. Most major race tracks in the US and Internationally offer simulcast wagering which allows you to bet on races from tracks all around the country and some cases from all around the world.


In addition to live and simulcast wagering at the track there are many off track betting options for horse racing enthusiasts. Some states and cities offer off track betting and there's plenty of options for horse betting in the casinos of Nevada. There's also a wide variety of betting options online from US based parimutuel outlets to offshore race books. Most of these facilities offer betting on every major race track in the United States with some booking action from as far away as Australia and Asia.


One thing that is important for the bettor to remember when playing the horses is that it's a pari-mutuel situation. In other words, you're not playing against the house, you're playing against the other bettors. The track just facilitates the betting and acts as a middleman, handling the money for a fee (15 to 25 percent of the pari-mutuel pool). Another difference is that the track odds are determined by how much money is bet on each horse. If everyone bets on one horse - whether it is the best horse, or just has the catchiest name - it will go off as the favorite. Long odds on a horse doesn't necessarily indicate a bad horse, but just one that the wagering public isn't investing in. Sometimes this can be one and the same, but not always.


Part of horse racing's historical popularity as a betting sport has been the diversity of bets available. Like sports wagers or casino games, you can either bet on simple, low odds "straight" bets or more exotic wagers with a higher potential payoff like exactas or perfectas.


The basic wagers are the "win", "place" and "show" in which you wager that a horse will finish first, second or third respectively. If you bet the horse to win, it has to finish first. A "place" bet will cash if your nag takes first or second. A "show" bet wins if your choice finishes first, second or third. Consequentially, the payoff for a win bet is higher than that for a place bet, and a place bet higher than a show bet.

These are the safest bets, but offer a low rate of return. According to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) favorites win 33% of the time, "place" 57% of the time and "show" 67% of the time. The problem here is that you'll make very little money - if any - betting favorites to show since the payoffs are so low.


Exotic bets - like their sports gambling counterpart, the parlay - offers more complex bets with a greater potential upside. There's the "exacta", which involves selecting the first two horses in order and the "trifecta", which involves picking the first three horses in order. These are by far the most popular of the exotic bets and we'll cover them in detail elsewhere.

Offering a higher rate of return are multi-race wagers like the "Daily Double" where you need to pick the winner in two races to cash your bet. More challenging - and potentially profitable - is the "pick six" where you'll need to pick the winners of six races to win.