Exacta vs. quinella vs. Omni/Swinger: Which should you bet?

June 29th, 2022

Fans of international horse racing know there are three similar but distinct exotic wagers found on a typical betting menu: the exacta, the quinella, and the Omni/Swinger.

All three bets require playing a minimum of two horses, but the requirements for winning are different. Each wager offers pros and cons, so let’s define the three types and explore when you should bet the exacta, quinella, or Omni/Swinger:


How it works: The Omni/Swinger is a bit complicated to explain, but easy to play. At its most basic level, you select two horses, and you win if they both finish in the top three. But you’re not restricted to betting only two horses; you can include three, four, five, etc. to boost your chances of winning, though your return on investment will naturally shrink (perhaps even below the break-even mark).

Pros: The Omni/Swinger is easy for beginning bettors to hit. In fact, you don’t even necessarily have to select the winning horse. Since the bet pays out if you can select two of the top three finishers, your ticket pays off whether your horses run 1-2, 1-3, or 2-3. If you select three or more horses and they run 1-2-3, you can even win the Omni/Swinger three times on a single bet.

Cons: Because the Omni/Swinger is perhaps the easiest exotic wager to hit, payoff can be small, particularly if favorites dominate in a small field. It’s also not the best bet to play if you have a confident win choice, because betting one horse with precision in the Omni/Swinger isn’t really possible.

Betting strategies: In order to boost the payoffs, focusing on live longshots can be a smart way to bet the Omni/Swinger. For more information, check out our introduction to Omni/Swinger bets.


How it works: The quinella is a lot like the Omni/Swinger in that the precise order of finish is unimportant in determining winning tickets. However, the two (or more) horses you select must sweep the top two finishing positions in order for you to cash.

Pros: Payoffs for the quinella tend to be higher than for the Omni/Swinger since it’s a harder wager to hit, but in the scheme of exotic wagers, the quinella is still relatively straightforward. It can be a good choice for inexperienced bettors seeking bigger payoffs without tackling the challenge of an exacta. It’s also a good choice if you’re confident two horses in a race rank a cut above their rivals, but you’re not certain which will finish first.

Cons: Playing the quinella requires more precision and confidence than the Omni/Swinger. Selecting the winner is a necessity; you can’t get by with having the second- and third-place finishers on your tickets. But the quinella still isn’t as precise as the exacta for occasions when you believe one particular horse is almost certain to win.

Betting strategies: There are many ways to play the quinella; we cover some of the strategies in our guide to betting quinellas.


How it works: An exacta requires bettors to select the first two finishers in the correct order. As with the Omni/Swinger and quinella, you can play more than two horses to achieve this goal.

Pros: Since the exacta requires more precision than the Omni/Swinger and quinella, it tends to be the highest-paying of the three wagers. Back when Hollywood Park in California was open and offered both exacta and quinella wagering, a $2 exacta often returned about twice as much as a $2 quinella.

The precision betting offered by the exacta is one of its strengths. If you’re certain “Horse #1” will win, and you can narrow second place down to one or two other horses, the exacta is a great bet to play. Unlike with the Omni/Swinger and quinella, if Horse #1 wins, you won’t have to split the payout with bettors who believed Horse #1 would finish second or third.

Cons: The exacta is harder to hit than the Omni/Swinger or quinella, so if you’re a new bettor looking for the thrill of a score, the exacta can be a trickier place to start.

Betting strategies: There are many viable strategies for betting exactas, depending on how you feel about a given race. Our step-by-step guide to building an exacta ticket steers you through some of the possibilities.

Now that you’re up to speed on exacta, quinella, and Omni/Swinger bets, here’s hoping your next day of betting on international horse racing is a winning one!