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, keep reading.

Let’s change the order of finish slightly by switching the top two horses #8 and #2.

Win Place Show2

The former payouts are shown on the left for comparison, and the new payouts are shown on the right.

Since #2 is now the winner, his payout line is switched to the top of the chart. He pays $12 for a win ticket because his odds are 5-1. Formula (5 x $2) + $2.

Notice that the #8 place price stayed exactly the same ($7), as did the #2 place price ($6). That is because the same two horses finished in the top two positions, just in reverse order.

Now let’s change the order of finish again by pushing the #8 horse back to 3rd place and moving the #6 horse up to 2nd place.

Win Place Show3

Since #2 remains the winner, his Win price ($12) does not change. However, notice that his place price decreased from $6 to $5. Why? Because more total money was bet on #6 (the new 2nd place horse) to place than on #8 (the former 2nd place horse). This is reasonable, considering that the Win odds on #6 are 3-1, while the Win odds on #8 are 7-1.

Generally the amount of money bet on a horse is proportionate between the Win, Place, and Show pools. The simple reason why the payout is less for Place and Show wagers (compared to Win) is that the payout pool is being divided by two horses for Place and three horses for Show.

You can conclude from this information that your best return from a Place or Show wager generally happens when the favorite(s) does not finish “In The Money” (The Top Three Spots). Unless of course you bet on the favorite, which is another story!

There are a lot of opinions on whether or not it’s even wise to make Place and Show bets, as opposed to just Win bets, but we’ll save that topic for a future article.

Select “Get Started” from the menu above for a complete list of articles about Handicapping and Wagering. For example, Racing 101 has several articles about the basics of Horse Racing. And Meet The People has interviews with trainers (e.g. Christophe Clement), Jockeys (e.g. Gary Stevens), and on-track personnel (e.g. Maggie Wolfendale).

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


32 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

  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
  6. I placed a $10 bet for a horse with 7/1 odds to win, place, or show. The horse placed (Audible in the Kentucky Derby).
    I cannot figure out how much I won! (I’m thinking $70?)

    Cheryl Columber on
    • Did you bet $10 WPS for a total of $30 or just $10 to show ,which pays if the horse finishes in the top three? What does your ticket say? Either way, since he finished 3rd, you only collect on the show price, $5.80. Assuming you have a $10 show ticket, you would receive $29 (5 X $5.80). The 7-1 odds only apply if he had won AND you have a win ticket.

    • Your win ticket would return around $33, $30 (3 X 10-1) + $3 ticket cost. Place and show pools are separate from win, so I can’t tell you what those payouts would be. Depends on field size and the odds of the other horses that finish in the money.

    • $19 for your place ticket. That’s $7.60 X 2.5. And $12 for your show ticket. That’s $4.80 X 2.5. So your total return is $31. The payouts are shown based on a $2 wager.

  7. I’m trying to find a calculator that takes 3 horses with odds of 4/1,1/5,6/1and tells me what amount I would have to bet on each horse(betting to win) to profit $20.00. many years ago there was one available Any thoughts

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