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Whether you’re a beginner, a veteran. Once you enter the Grandstand — the area where everybody hangs out and gambles — you’ll need to know a few things to start tapping that bankroll and making a penny or two. Here’s a basic horse-betting primer:
- The most common horse-betting increment has been $2. Sure, you can bet a crisp $100 bill, too, but we’d suggest starting with a two-spot.
- If you bet the favorite every time, you’ll have approximately a 33% chance of winning.
- You’ll be betting in a parimutuel environment, meaning all bets of a specific type are put into a pool. Winnings come out of that pool. So it’s unlike poker or blackjack, where you’re betting against the dreaded House. Here, you’re up against other horse bettors.
- Normal or “straight” horse bets come in three forms: Win – You’re betting on the horse to cross the finish line first — i.e., to win the race. Place – You’re betting on the horse to come in either first or second. Show – You’re betting on a horse to come in first, second, or third.
- Horse betting is all about the odds. If you bet $2 on a horse to Win with 2-1 odds, you’ll more than double your money to $6. In other words, multiply $2 x 2/1 + your $2 initial bet. Third-grade math skills go a long way in adult life.
- At the track, beginners should place bets at a betting window, manned by a human being. There is a level of comfort you reach standing face-to-face with a person and reading your bet to them — rather than using an electronic gambling machine or ADW.
- Horse betting follows a sequence. Let’s say it’s the 5th race and you want to bet on horse No. 4: approach the betting window and declare to the teller, “At Aqueduct, in the 5th race, I’d like to put $2 to win on the No. 4 horse”. That’s how you place a bet at any track: Racetrack, Race, Dollar Amount, Bet Type, Horse Number.
- Once your bet has been placed, the teller will hand you a ticket, which will have your exact bet on it — and, like a lottery ticket, you can exchange it for cash later if your bet is “in the money”.
Typically, it takes awhile to get good at horse betting, so don’t get down on yourself if you lose some money upfront. Being a degenerate gambler is not really about how much you make, money-wise; it’s more about the thrill of the game, being a savvy operator, and beating the odds. Here’s a primer for taking the leap into multi-wager or “exotic” betting:
- The horse-betting veteran will be looking at just about every piece of data in a horse’s past and present to try to get an edge on an upcoming race, including: the horse’s trainer, its bloodline, the day’s weather report, racetrack conditions, how fast the horse ran in his/her previous race, and even the equipment on the horse.
- You will have bought the Daily Racing Form, basically the Bible of past-performance data for horses. NOTE: For an even fresher perspective, you may have also brought the day’s paper, which has some local handicapping information in it. For example, the New York Daily News’ horse racing analyst is Jerry Bossert.
- Bets can be combined in a number of ways to maximize your winnings. They cost a little bit more to place, but the payouts can be much higher, depending on the horse’s odds. Here are the basics: Exacta – You pick the first two horses in order, the Win and the Place horses. Quinella – You pick the first two horses in either order. Trifecta – You pick the first three finishing horses in a row: Win, Place, and Show. Daily Double – You pick the winners of two consecutive races.
- At Aqueduct, besides the normal multi-pick wagers, you have the chance of picking even more winners and getting even bigger payouts. File these under “almost impossible”, but as a savvy horseplayer, it’s entirely possible that you’ll hit one or more of these a year, if you do your homework: Superfecta – Pick the first four horses in order; i.e., Win, Place, Show, 4th Horse. Grand Slam – Pick a horse to finish in the top three in three straight races, capped by the winner of the fourth race in the sequence.
- Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 6: These are as they sound — pick the winners in 3, 4, and 6 consecutive races. The races are predetermined by the track, so you can’t just pick any three races.