Apr 9 2013

Win, Place, Show – How To Bet On Horses

WIN (W) bets require that a horse finishes in 1st place.

PLACE (P) bets require that a horse finishes in 1st or 2nd place.

SHOW (S) bets require that a horse finishes in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place.

I’m going to use the diagram (of the finish of a race) below to answer some common questions on the Win, Place, Show bets.  The Tote-Board Win odds are above each horse in parenthesis.

Win Place Show1

How do you calculate the expected payout for a Win Bet?

  • Win payouts are based on a $2 wager. Multiply the Tote-Board odds times $2 and then add the $2 wager back.

    For example, #8 is (7-1), so 7 x $2 = $14, Add $2 = $16 payout.

  • To calculate prices for odds other than X-1, simply convert the (fractional) odds to a decimal equivalent and do the same calculation.

    For example, odds of (8-5) equals 1.6 x $2 = $3.20, Add $2 = $5.20 payout.

  • I always do this mental conversion to decimal equivalents for clarity in my own mind. In fact when I jot down the Tote-Board odds on my sheet they are always in decimal format. For Example:
Tote-Board Decimal Payout
(9-2) 4.5 $11.00
(7-2) 3.5 $9.00
(5-2) 2.5 $7.00
(9-5) 1.8 $5.60
(7-5) 1.4 $4.80
(4-5) 0.8 $3.60

What does it mean to bet a horse “Across the Board?”

This is just a shorthand way for making a Win, Place, and Show bet in equal amounts.  For example, if you bet #8 for $2 Across the Board in the above race, your bets would be $2 to Win, $2 to Place, and $2 to Show for a total of $6 wagered.

In this example, a $2 WPS wager on #8 returned $28 ($16w + $7p + $5s).

To continue with the example, the same $2 WPS bet on #6 would have cost $6, but only returned $3 since the Show ticket is the only one cashed.

What happens if I bet a horse to Place and he wins the race?

You get the Place price only.  So $2 to Place on #8 returns $7.

Can you calculate the expected Place price based upon the Win odds?

Win, Place, and Show wagers are all placed into separate Pools.  So the anticipated Place price cannot be directly calculated based on the Win odds.  In addition to that, the Place price is dependent on exactly who the 1st and 2nd place finishers are in the race.  For further explanation on this point, and more, see Part 2 of this article.

Click here for a list of other articles on Basic Wagering Topics.

Click here for a list of articles on more Advanced Wagering Topics.


Neal Headshot2
By Neal Benoit



22 comments on “Win, Place, Show – How To Bet On Horses

    • Generally this situation occurs when a heavily favored horse has a disproportionate amount of money bet in the Show pool and then he does not finish in the top three, allowing the top three finishers to share all that cash. Usually this is caused by a very large wager from someone hoping to pick up the minimum payout of $2.10 for a show payout. These types of bettors are sometimes referred to as bridge-jumpers. Because that’s what they might do if they lose the bet!

  1. According to some %thg I found is Using you 1,6 x Odds is good- -The AVg Race the Favorite wil place 55% of the time, I bet #20, on 9 races in one day At – -say Santa Anita I should spend /Bet $$180.00 {9 x 20 = $180.00 I should 55% of about $630.00 or $346.00 Out of that I profit $176,00 Does this make sense ???
    Course I understand This will vary some…on a Day to day basis Thanks

  2. Many years ago I went to the Kentucky Derby and made a $2 bet on a horse to show. That horse, which had 30-1 odds, ended up winning. I never cashed the ticket, but how much would it have been worth?

    • It’s hard to say. The show pool is separate from the win pool and the payoff is affected by the horses that finished 1st and 2nd. See part 2 of this article for further explanation of that point.

  3. What if I place a $2 bet to win, place, or show for every horse in the Kentucky Derby? Based on the present odds what would be the worst case scenario? 4 to 1 odds win, place , and show. $26 in winnings for $120 bet?

    • I could only tell you for certain the win bet. For the five dollar win you would receive 2.5 times $11. The article above explains where the $11 came from. The place and show prices are unknown to me so I can’t tell you what your payout would be for that. See part two of this article for an explanation of place prices.

  4. Thanks for the information wonderful to use last Kentucky derby my 2 place horse made more money than the first one think about that same amount bet 5 dollar

    KEITH VANDERMEIR on
  5. If I did $2 across-the-board yesterday on classic Empire and he placed what is my payout going to be going to be

    Christopher bivona on

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