Horse Racing Betting Odds Explained: What Do Horse Racing Odds Mean and How to Read Them?
Betting Guides > Horse Racing Betting Odds Explained
Last updated: November 22, 2023
Horse Racing Odds Explained
What Do Horse Racing Odds Mean?
If you see a horse listed at 7-2 odds for the first time, or a mutuel payoff amount of $5.00, you may not quite understand what that means if you want to place a bet. But understanding how to read horse racing odds is actually simple.
Odds are the return you can expect to get if the horse you bet on is successful. It reflects the amount of money bet on a horse; the more money that is invested, the shorter the odds.
When horse racing odds are shown in the form of 7-2, 5-1, etc, it expresses the amount of profit to the amount invested. So odds of 7-2 mean that for every $2 invested, the punter gets $7 profit in return. This means when you bet $2, the total return if the bet is successful is $9.
Similarly, if a horse is at even money (ie 1-1), it’s $2 profit for every $2 invested, or a total return of $4. Or, if a horse is 1-2, it’s $1 profit for every $2 invested, or a total return of $3.
MUTUEL PAYOFFS: Calculating Original Investment with Odds Payoff
Betting at TwinSpires.com is under the pari-mutuel system, where all bets of a particular type (such as win bets, show bets, exacta bets, etc) are placed in separate pools. A percentage of the pool is withdrawn to be reinvested into racing, and the remaining funds are paid out on the winning wagers.
The mutuel payoffs lists – so named because TwinSpires uses the pari-mutuel betting system – are another way of indicating to bettors how much money they will receive. Unlike the odds format (ie 1-2, 5-1, 7-2, as mentioned above), the listed mutuel payoff includes the original investment and not just the amount of profit.
The mutuel payoff amount for win, place and show bets in the United States is the payout for a $2 bet, the minimum amount for these bet types at TwinSpires.
When calculating the payout for a $2 bet compared to the listed horse betting odds, divide the first number in the odds by the second number, multiply that by 2, and then add the standard minimum $2 bet.
Therefore, for a horse at 7-4, divide 7 by 4 (1.75), multiply this number by 2 (3.5), and then add 2 (final payout: $5.50).
If a bettor wants to know exactly how much money will be returned to them from a successful bet, multiply the mutuel payout by the amount invested, and then divide by two. So if a bettor invested $10 to win on a horse that won at a mutuel payout of $5.50, multiply $5.50 by 10 ($55), and then divide by 2 (final payout $27.50).
EXOTIC WAGERING: Longer Odds & Bigger Payouts
In addition to betting on a single horse to win, place, or show in one race, bets which involve selecting the first two, three, or four horses are available.
Exacta: Predict the first two horses in a race in the correct order.
Trifecta: Predict the first three horses in a race in the correct order.
Superfecta: Predict the first four horses in a race in the correct order.
Betting strategies for exotic wagering vary.
Box: In a box wager, a punter selects a number of horses and covers all the finishing options available. For example, a box exacta with a $1 wagering unit involving horses 1 and 2 in a race costs $2, which means the bet will be successful if horse 1 wins and horse 2 is second, and if horse 2 wins and horse 1 is second.
Punters can include more than two horses for a box exacta to cover more options. For example, a three-horse box exacta (covering all first- and second-place options involving three selected horses) with a $1 wagering unit costs $6, a four-horse box exacta costs $12, and so on.
A box trifecta selecting just three horses, and covering all possible first, second, and third place finishes of these three horses, for a $0.50 wagering unit costs $3. Boxing four horses to include all possible combinations costs $12, and so on.
A box superfecta, in which four horses are selected and all finishing order options are covered, for a $0.10 wagering unit is $2.40. For five horses it costs $12, and for six horses it’s $36.
Wheel: In a wheel wager, a punter selects one or more horses as a banker (ie horses they are confident will figure in the relevant placings), and then includes all other horses to fill the other placings around them.
For example, in an exacta wheel in a six-horse field, a punter can select one horse to finish first, and cover any of the other runners finishing second. This bet with a $1 wagering unit will cost $5, meaning the punter gets a return provided the horse he selected to finish first is the winner of the race.
Key: In a key wager, a punter selects one or more horses as a banker, and then a number of other horses to fill in the other relevant placings.
For example, a trifecta key, where a punter banks on one horse winning and then any combination of three other horses to finish second and third, the cost for a $0.50 wager is $3 (covering the six possible options). The graph also includes costs for a superfecta key.