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A Beginner's Guide to Betting on Horse Races

Betting on horse races is one of the most popular and widespread forms of gambling. The odds of winning depend on the bet that the bettor makes.

A bettor can place his bet through parimutuel (mutual betting) pools or through bookmakers who take the bets personally. The parimutuel wagers the pay off at prices determined by support in the wagering pools, whereas the bookmakers pay off either at the odds offered at the time of accepting the bet or at the average odds offered by the track bookmakers at the time that the race started.

In the United States and Canada, the following are some common types of bet on horse races are:

Win - the bettor picks a horse of his choice

Place - the bettor picks a horse which will either finish first or second

Show - the bettor picks a horse which will either finish first, second or third

Exacta, perfecta or exactor - the bettor picks two horses leading the race and he needs to identify which will finish first Quinella or quiniela - the bettor picks two horses which are leading the race, no need for him to identify which horse will win first

Trifecta or trifactor - the bettor picks three horses which are leading the race, and he needs to identify which horse will finish first, second and third

Superfecta - the bettor picks four horses which are leading the race, and he needs to identify which horse will finish first, second, third and fourth

Double - the bettor picks two horses of two consecutive races of the day

Triple - the bettor picks three horses of three consecutive races of the day

Sweep - the bettor picks four or more horses of the successive races; commonly termed as pick four and pick six in the US, were bettors get consolation prizes for winning five out of six races

The first three types of bet are classified as straight bets and the rest are classified as exotic bets were bettors usually make multiple wagers for greater odds. Bettors making straight bets increase their chances by betting equal sums on the horse to win, place and show.

In the US and Canada, bettors place exotic bets on horses running on the same track on the same program while in the UK, the bookmakers offer exotic bets on horses at different tracks. Other strategies used by bettors to increase their chances of winning includes: the Yankee, were the bettor tries to pick four race winners; the Trixie, were the bettor tries to pick three; and the Canadian or Super Yankee, were the bettor tries to pick five. The term nap identifies the best bet of the day.

The term parlay (US) or accumulator (UK), is a series of bets in which a bettor stakes his winnings from one race to the next until either he loses or the series completes successfully.

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