Straight Bets

Beginners in horse racing bets gravitate toward straight bets because these are easy to understand, which allows them to learn the art and science while also enjoying good chances at winning. Straight bets are also less risky for beginners and veterans alike because the amount of dollars wagered on a racehorse is the amount risked in the play. Punters then will not lose more than the amount they have wagered.

Straight bets come in three types, namely:

 • Win bet

In a win wager, you place your bet – and your hopes, for that matter – on your selected horse winning the race (i.e., landing in the first place). You will only win the wager when the horse finishes first at the finish line but you will lose even when it places second or third place.

But there’s an exception to the rule: When the race finishes in a dead heat, the wagers will be paid out based on the track odds. A dead heat refers to two or more horses tying for first place.

Win betting has its advantage: You can view the win odds, or the value to win, on your selected horse by looking at the tote board. For example, if the win odds are 5/2 on Horse #3, you know that the payout will be between $7 and $7.80 for every $2 bet.

• Place bet 

In a place wager, you place your bet on your selected horse coming in either first or second place. For example, if you placed your bet on Horse #3, your horse must finish either in first or second place. Your payout will be the same no matter the final finishing position of Horse #3, either first or second, but any other finish (e.g., third) will result in a loss.

As with the straight win bet, a dead heat will affect the payout.

• Show bet

In a show bet, you place your wager on a horse to finish in one of the top three positions, known as finishing in the money. As long as your selected horse finished first, or second, or third, you can collect your winnings.

For example, if you placed your bet on Horse #3, your horse come in first, or second, or third place with the payout the same in all instances. Again, the payout will depend on the track odds in the event of a dead heat.

Payout Computations

Beginners will find it easier to compute for payouts with straight bets, regardless if it’s win, place, or show. Keep in mind that the minimum wager is $2 for all types of straight bets such that the final winning prizes are based on it. For example, when you placed a $10 bet to win and $5 is the win price, your total payout is $25.

The math is easy to figure out although pen and paper may be necessary for beginners.

• Amount of bet multiplied by the winning payoff and divided by the minimum bet denomination

Thus, $10 X $5 / $2 = $25.

But the place and show pools are different than the win pool. Keep in mind that the “pool” is the total amount placed on a bet while the “payoff” is the amount returned to the winning punter. In a place pool, the winning payoffs are smaller (i.e., lower in amount) because the top two finishers will share the money. In a show pool, the winning payoffs become smaller still because all three top finishers will share it.

Like all types of bets, straight bets should be carefully studied because your chances of winning will partly depend on your skills in reading the race, so to speak.