A wager on a horse race is very different than many other forms of gambling. Horse racing payoffs are calculated on a "pari-mutuel" basis. Basically, this means the house (the racetrack) does not particularly care who wins a given race. The odds on each horse to win are determined by what proportion of the total money wagered is placed on that horse.
The "favorite," or the horse with the most money wagered on him to win by the public, will have the lowest odds. The "longshots" have the least amount of money wagered on them and therefore have the highest odds.
The racetrack handles the money, keeps a commission, and calculates a given horse's odds based on the public's preferences. The remaining money is then paid back to the players who hold winning tickets. To the racetrack, the result of a given race is usually insignificant. To the wagering public, however, it means everything!
A horse bet to win must cross the finish line first, with the exception of any disqualifications.
A horse bet to place must cross the finish line either first or second. This bet is less risky but also normally pays less than a winning win wager on the same horse.
Any horse bet to show must finish either first, second, or third. Again, this wager is not as risky but will usually pay less than either a win or place wager on the same horse.
The object is to choose the correct horses that will win two designated consecutive races. Take, for example, a 1-5 daily double placed in the first race. The number 1 must win the first race and the number 5 horse must win the second race.
Correctly select the winners of three designated consecutive races.
Correctly select the winners of four designated consecutive races.
The object is to correctly select the first two horses across the finish line in the exact official order. For example, if you placed a "3-4" exacta, the number 3 horse must win the race and the number 4 must finish second.
The trifecta is basically just an extension of the exacta. The object of a trifecta is to select the first three horses across the finish line in the exact official order. An example trifecta would be "4-2-7." The number 4 horse must win, number 2 must finish second, and the number 7 must finish third in that exact order.
A winning superfecta must select the first four horses across the finish line in the exact official order. Due to their probabilities, superfectas are routinely one of the most difficult wagers to hit but often pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
It's Off to the Races
Again, always check your printed ticket before you leave the betting window to make sure your bet was recorded correctly. Once you leave the window, your bet can't be changed!
One last tip! Never tear up your ticket until the race has been declared "official."
See you at the track!