Wagering options for your Kentucky Derby party

September 1st, 2020

Offering friendly wagering options at your Kentucky Derby party brings the betting windows to your home and gives your guests an opportunity to become more invested in the race. I offer two ventures at my gathering: a $5 draw and a Calcutta.

What is a $5 draw?

The $5 draw is simple and accessible to people without extensive racing knowledge. Write the name of each contender on a slip of paper, and party attendees can draw a name blindly out of a hat for $5. Based on a 20-horse field, the payout is $50 for first, $30 for second, and $20 for third.

What is a Calcutta?

The Calcutta is a livelier betting option and involves more intellectual engagement. Each horse is auctioned off individually, and enthusiasts have the opportunity to bid on the horse they believe will win the Derby. The highest bidder "owns" the horse. We begin with the horse with the longest odds and work up to the morning line favorite.

I create a poster with the entries and the Kentucky Derby morning line odds and include space to write in the highest bidder and the amount he or she paid for the horse. I also provide a program for guests to use as they follow along.

All of the wagered money is put in a pot. At the end of the race, it is paid to the winning horse owners based on a predetermined amount. Typically, horses with longer odds can be bought cheaply, while the favorites go for more money. However, our Calcutta offers an incentive for taking a chance on long shots by also paying last place. 

How is the pot divided?

Our Calcutta pot is divided like this:

  • 1st place = 50%
  • 2nd place = 25%
  • 3rd place = 15%
  • Last place = 10%

How did the Calcutta get its name?

This gambling format was first used in Calcutta, India, by the colonial British when wagering on cricket. Calcuttas are also popular at golf tournaments and in March Madness pools, and can be used in any single-elimination tournament or contest with multiple entrants.