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, see Part 2 of this post.

If you have any questions related to WPS, please leave a comment below. I will either reply directly on the comments or address them in a future post.


5 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!

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