Wagering Terms

One of the most intimidating experiences for a new fan is understanding the different types of wagers, learning how to place their first wager and how much they must wager. Below are the types of wagers offered at most tracks. We hope this terminology guide makes your first trip to the wagering windows a winning experience. Of course, the higher the payoff the more one’s attention is attracted. While most newcomers don’t realize, the higher the payoff, the harder it is to select the winning combination.

WIN: Win wager is just what it sounds like. You are wagering that the horse you selected will win the race. If the horse wins, you win.

PLACE: You are wagering that your selected horse either wins or runs second.  This type of wager provides you a better chance of cashing your ticket. This wager by removing some risk also provides lower payout than a Win wager.

SHOW: Your wagering that the horse you selected will finish the race either first, second or third. This is a very conservative wager as compared to the Win and Place wager. This wager by removing some risk also provides lower payout than a Win or Place wager. Show wagering can be profitable if you pick your spots and is a great wager to parlay, which is wagering your winning on a horse to show in each race.

ACROSS THE BOARD: This is a quick and easy way to say that I want to wager on a specific horse in all three positions.  You are wagering the same amount on the horse to win, place and show. If your selected horse wins you collect on all three wagers. If your horse finishes second, then you collect only on the place and show wagers. If the horse finishes third, then you collect only on the show wager.


Exotic Wagers are all more difficult than Win, Place or Show because they require multiple selections to finish in the proper order. As with any wager, the higher the risk the higher the payout.

Daily Double: The daily double involves picking the winning horse in two consecutive races. All tracks offer the early daily double which involves the first two race on the card. To win a daily double you must pick the winning horse in each of the two races. Multiple combinations can be used when playing the double. Wheeling, wagering a horse in one race and selecting with all the horse in the other race, and keying horses, selecting only few horses in both races, either of the two types of wager allow you a better chance of cashing a ticket.

Quinella: You must pick the horses that finish first and second. Either one can be first and the other one second. This wager is the same as the “Exacta Box”. Although the Quinella has the same function as the “Exacta Box” the payoff can vary substantially. You must remember that there is no such wager of an exacta box, it is really two separate wagers on one ticket. The Quinella wagers are entered into their own pool separate from the exacta pool. Not all tracks offer the Quinella wager, but to the best of my knowledge all tracks accept the term exacta box where ever the exacta wager is offered. If both the Quinella and Exacta wagers are offered it is wise to check the tote board before making a Quinella or Exact Box wager to see which one offers the greater payoff.

Exacta: With this wager you must pick the first two finishing horses in the order of their finish. In other words, you must pick the horse that wins and the horse that finishes second. Again, an exacta can also be played using multiple combinations. Wheeling, keying and boxing horses is a popular wager.

Trifecta: With this wager you must pick the first three finishing horses in the order of their finish. In other words, you must pick the horse that wins, the horse that finishes second and the horse that finishes third.

Superfecta: With this wager you must pick the first four finishing horses in the order of their finish. In other words, you must pick the horse that wins, the horse that finishes second, third, and fourth.

Pick 3 To win a Pick 3 wager you are required to select the winning horse in three consecutive races.

Pick 4: To win a Pick 4 wager, you must successfully pick the winners of four consecutive races.

Pick 6: To win a Pick 6 wager, you must successfully pick the winners of six consecutive races.


Some Exotic Wagering Terms:

Boxing horses: Is when you use multiple horses taking all possible combinations for that wager. If you have determined that two, three, or four horses are the best in one race, but you are not sure which one will win, run second, third, or fourth, then the “box” may be your best wager. Example: a $1-dollar Superfecta box using the 1-2-3-4-5. This means four of your five horses must finish in the top four to be a winner. This explanation can be used for Exacta boxes (top two finishers) and Trifectas boxed (top three finishers).

Keying horses:  Is when you use a single horse to win, run second, or third using multiple horses in different races.  Example: A $1 dollar Pick 3, you select the number 2 horse with the numbers 3.4,and 5 and with numbers 3,4,5, and 6. This means the number 2 horse must win the first leg of your Pick 3 either the number 3,4 or 5 horses must win the second leg and number  3,4,5 or 6 horses must win the third leg to win your wager. Same concept applies to exactas, Daily doubles, Trifectas, Superfectas, Pick 4’s and Pick 6’s.

Wheeling horses: Is when you use a single horse in a position with multiple horses finishing ahead or in some cases behind the horse your wheeling. In many cases a “wheel” and a “key” can be considered the same thing. Example: A $2-dollar Exacta, you select number 1 horse with the number 2, 3, and 4 horses This means the number 1 horse must win the race and the number 2, 3, or 4 horse must run second to win the wager. The same wager method applies when wagering Trifectas and Superfectas.

Now that you know the different types of wagers, the most important step is deciding how much you want to risk for the whole day. We suggest, never wager more than you can afford to lose, always separate the money you can afford to risk from the money you want to take home. This way, win or lose you can find the enjoyment that makes thoroughbred horse racing one of the most popular spectator sports in the world!

If you need more information on wagering, Twin Spires has an excellent article for beginners on wagering.

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