Coming to Vegas the weekend of November 4, 2016? Looking for things to do? Well, good news! You will arrive during one of our most exciting weekends! You see, the Breeders’ Cup is this weekend at Santa Anita Park in California, and people have been reserving their hotel rooms in Vegas for months. Why? Anyone and everyone can bet on the ponies in perfect comfort in our wonderful sportsbooks!
In addition to massive viewing areas with huge screens where you can watch all of the major football games, there are separate sections set aside for horse betting. There, you get your own TV, cocktail waitresses and racing information. But what good does it do when you don’t know the first thing about horse betting? Well, why are we here after all? To give you the info you need, because we want you to enjoy our fabulous city like a pro (or at least a semi-informed guest!).
Keep reading for the lowdown on horse betting!
Horse racing is, as the name implies, a race where several horses compete for first place. There are many other things involved, of course, but since you’re here for purely recreational purposes this weekend, let’s keep things simple.
Since the horses are competing to win a race, then it follows that one will win, another one will come second, another one will come third, then a fourth horse will reach the finish line, and so on.
The easiest bets to make (again, I’m talking the action of placing the bet, not the outcome, folks!) are on which horse will come in first, second, or third. These are called win, place and show bets, and the minimum bet amount is $2. Let’s explain this in more detail:
- In a “win” bet, you are betting on a horse to win the race. That simple. The horse needs to be first to reach the finish line, or you lose your bet.
- In a “place” bet, you bet on a horse to come second, but you win if the horse you picked comes in first or second. Your winnings will be shown under “place” on the board.
- In a “show” bet, you are betting on a horse to come third, but you get paid anyway if it comes in first, second, or third place. The amount you win will be shown under “show” on the board (or TV screen), right after the race.
Your winnings are determined by the odds of the horse you picked. If it is a favorite (a 1-1, 2-1, or 5-2 horse, for example), your payout will be lower; otherwise, you might get a little bit more money.
If you haven’t bet on horses before, I recommend checking the odds on the sheet (racing forms can be found near the betting windows at all casinos) or on the TV screen in front of you and picking a horse you like with lower odds (favorite or close). Once you’ve got your horse, place a $2 on him to show. You won’t win much, but at least you’ll get your money back — plus a little extra if your horse comes in first, second, or third! So why not?
If looking at odds is not your thing, well, I’ve seen people pick by lucky numbers, names, if the horse appeared to nod as it was walking by the camera … at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. Just keep your bets small and have some fun with it.
To put the actual bet in, simply go to the window and tell the clerk that you want to place a bet at “x race track” in “x amount” for “x horse” to win/place/show, e.g. “At Del Mar racetrack, I want to bet $2 to show on horse #6.”
Exotic bets are a combination of several bets in one, such as picking the order in which the horses finish the race. You can “box” the horses, which means that you just pick the horses and they can come in any order, or you can bet them straight, meaning you indicate the exact order of finish.
In an exacta bet, you bet on the horses that will come first and second. For instance, you bet that horse #5 will win, and horse #8 will come second. That bet usually starts at $1, and the payout will depend on the odds of the horses involved (as usual, less risk, less payout).
Sometimes, you may like two or three horses, but you do not feel sure which one will win. If you are still bound and determined to bet the race anyway, then the wisest thing to do would be to bet an “exacta box,” where you pick two or three horses to come first and second, regardless of the order. This bet is a little more expensive, because it uses several combinations.
Let’s say you picked horses #1, #2 and #3 in an exacta box. The combinations (each for $1), would be as follows: #1 first and #2 second; #1 first and #3 second; #2 first and #1 second; #2 first and #3 second, etc., etc. You would end up with a total of 6 combinations, at $1 each, for a total of $6. If you are still positive that you want to bet an exacta, then I think this is the way to go. You may spend a bit more, but at least you are decreasing your risk for loss.
In the trifecta, you pick the horses that will come first, second, and third. As with exacta, you can bet the horses in the exact same order you think they will come in, or you can box the bet. Some horse tracks take $.50 trifectas, and you can box 3 horses for $3. Pretty decent, cost-wise, but still hard to hit. Please remember that.
Though it’s the hardest one to hit, it’s one of the most common bets at sportsbooks, maybe because most tracks will take 10-cent superfectas. As you have probably guessed by now, in this bet, you need to pick the horses that will come first, second, third and fourth. You can box 4 horses for $2.40. As I said, with so many horses running, these are hard to hit. Additionally, if only favorites hit the board, then the payouts will be very small. These are still a lot of fun, and pretty inexpensive to play.
Daily Doubles, Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, Pick 6
Payouts for these bets are usually pretty good because they are very hard to hit. You see, you need to pick the winner of 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 races in a row, but you have to pick and bet them at the same time before the first race. As such, you do not have time to see if the horse looks happy, smiles at you, or anything. Things like names and lucky numbers come into play, in addition to the racing sheets at the sportsbook that also offer some picks. Please bear in mind that even though some of these bets start at $.50, that price is per horse picked, so the final cost of your bet will multiply with each horse you add to the equation (pun intended? Nah!).
Believe it or not, our wonderful city really does want you to win. If you do, you’re more likely to come back, and we really want you to. Therefore, many sportsbooks offer free seminars on the Breeders’ Cup on or around the race date, with some of the best horse handicappers in the trade giving out their picks and advice, plus free pizza, donuts, or drinks. For your convenience, below is a list of the seminars on the Breeders’ Cup that are free to attend. If you don’t come up with a winner, you will still come out full of pizza, drinks, and fun, and that is what Vegas is about, right?
- Sam’s Town, Race & Sportsbook, November 4 at 12:30 p.m.
- Sunset Station race and Sportsbook, November 4 at 6 p.m.
- Palace Station, November 4 at 8 a.m.
- South Point Race Book, November 4 at 10 a.m. and November 5 at 9 a.m.
So don on your best and wildest hat, try to order a mint julep (even though this is NOT the Kentucky Derby weekend), and come join us in Vegas, the heart and soul of fun!