Exacta betting gives bettors a different way to approach a horse race rather than just betting on a single horse to win, place or show. In an exacta bet, you’ll win if you can predict the first two horses in the official order of finish. If you can do that, you can often count on bigger payoffs than if you were wagering on just a single horse in a race.
One of the reasons people associate horse racing and wagering so closely is because there are so many different ways to approach your horse racing betting. Exacta betting represents just one of the most popular methods of wagering on horse races for real money. It’s still a relatively simple concept, but winning the bet can be occasionally very lucrative if the right horses are involved.
In the following article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the well-known horse racing bet known as the exacta. We’ll go into how exacta horse racing betting works, how to bet an exacta bet, and how payback and odds are determined. On top of that, we’ll talk about the different ways you can adjust the exacta bets on horse races to improve your chances of winning big.
What Is an Exacta Bet?
First of all, it’s important to understand that exacta horse betting fall into a category of horse racing bets known as “exotic wagers.” In an exotic wager, you will always be picking more than one horse as part of your ticket. This could occur in a single race or over a period of multiple races.
This is an opposition to straight bets such as win, place and show, where you’ll be predicting the outcome of a single horse in a singe race. Here are the most popular exotic bets:
- Exacta: First two horses in a race
- Trifecta: First three horses in a race
- Superfecta: First four horses in a race
- Daily Double: Winners of two races in a row
- Pick 3, Pick 4, and so on: Winners of several races in a row
Basic Exacta Bets
As you can see above, betting an exacta requires you to pick the exact order of finish in terms of who finishes first and who finishes second in a race. For example, in an eight-horse field, you might choose to play a 1-5 exacta.
If that’s the case, you will win the bet if the #1 finishes first and the #5 finishes second. Any other outcome will cause you to lose the wager.
That exacta betting is based on the official order of finish. In most cases, that will sync up with the first two horses in the order of finish. But there may be times when officials at the race track will change that order if some sort of violation has occurred in the race. That’s why you should never give up on your bet (or tear up your betting ticket) until you see the word “official” next to the order.
How to Make an Exacta Bet
If you’re making an exacta wager at the race track where the race is taking place, or at an off-track wagering facility simulcasting the race, you should know how to approach a teller. They’ll usually help you out if you’re confused, but you might want to have a long conversation with them without people waiting behind you in line.
For that reason, you should be prepared to have the following information:
Which track? If you’re betting a race at the track where you’re located, you can usually leave this out and the teller will assume. But if you’re planning on betting an “away” track, you should lead with that information.
Which race? Again, if you’re at the track and are betting on the upcoming race, you won’t need to disclose this. But it’s always a good idea to mention the race number to avoid any confusion.
How much do you want to bet? Most tracks have a minimum $2 wager. But there might be times when you want to go above that amount.
Which bet? Obviously, here, you would tell the teller that you’d be taking an exacta.
Which horses? Remember, you will be giving the teller the number of the horses involved. The teller, who has to deal with races from all over the world, won’t know the identity of every horse in every race, but will instead rely on you to tell them the number.
How to Bet an Exacta Bet Online
When it comes to horse racing wagering online at sports betting websites, it’s a relatively easy process. And the good news is that you can do it at your own pace. You can take your time navigating through the different information for track, race number, size of bet, type of bet, and number of horses by clicking your way through it.
One thing that is the same in online exacta horse racing betting as it is in in person is that you should double-check your information. Make sure to take a good look once you’ve completed the process to see if all of the information is what you wanted. Once the race begins, it will be too late to change anything.
Exacta Odds and Payback
When you see the odds listed for horses in a race, these are usually the win odds. In other words, if a horse is listed at 4 to 1, it means you’ll win $4 for every one that you bet if you bet that horse to win. Exacta odds are completely independent of those listed win odds.
Like all horse racing wagering, exacta betting odds are part of the pari-mutuel wagering system. With this system, your final odds are based on all the bets on the that race. This is opposed to fixed-odds wagers in other sports, where you lock down the odds at the time of the bet and they won’t change for you no matter what other bets are placed.
All of the exacta single race are placed in a pool separate from all other wagers. The track will then calculate their takeout, which is a predetermined percentage that they take for a profit. At that point, the large pool is separated into smaller pools based on the different Exacta combinations.
Let’s say that you wagered on a 2-3 exacta in a particular race. There was a total of $20 wagered on that particular exacta, out of $2,000 in the total Exacta pool.
The odds for the 2-3 exacta then would be 100 to 1, since 2,000 divided by 20 is 100. If you bet $2 on this exacta, you would win $200 in return.
Finding Your Exacta Betting Odds
Obviously, doing all this math can be a bit much every time you want to see your exacta odds. Luckily, exacta horse betting is popular enough that most tracks will provide indication of exacta odds during their broadcast. You just have to know what to look for when you see it.
At some point before a race, you might see a screen that looks something like this:
This is a table meant to reveal your exacta odds. The column furthest to the left represents the horse who finishes first in the race. And the row at the top shows the possible second-place finishers.
To find out your exacta betting odds, simply combine the rows and columns. For example, if you bet on a 6-2 exacta, you would follow the “6 and” row over to the “2” column and see the number 30. That means your odds for that particular exacta are 30-1.
You have to remember that these would be the Exacta odds only at that moment. As more people bet into the pools on specific combinations, the odds will keep changing. Only once the race goes off are Exacta odds final.
Different Exacta Horse Racing Betting Strategies
Up to this point, we have stuck with the simplest exacta wagers, which is two horses on a ticket—one meant to finish first, the other meant to finish second. But there are many ways to change up your real money exacta bets in order to change to odds and improve your chances. Here are just a few.
With an exacta box, you’ll still be picking the first two horses in the order of finish. But you’ll be able to win the wager if the two horses come in first and second in any order.
For example, if you bet a 4-6 exacta on a particular race at a horse racing betting site, you would win the wager with either of the following results:
The box for exacta horse betting actually gives you access to two combinations. As a result, it’s essentially two bets. In order to bet a full exacta box, it will cost you at least $4 (two $2 bets).
Many tracks have what is known as a $1 exacta box as well. This will give you a box and cost you only $2 (since it represents two $1 bets). Just keep in mind that a $1 box will earn you only half of the full exacta payout if you should hit it.
You don’t have to limit your exacta boxes to just two horses. If there are a handful of horses that you feel could be in the mix of a particular race, you could include them all in a larger exacta box.
For example, imagine there’s a 10-horse race and you feel that the only horses that have a shot to finish in the top two in the order of finish are the #1, #3, #5 and #7. You can box them all, and you would win with any of the following results:
As you can see, you’re covered a lot of different ways. But that also means a much more sizable bet than a two-horse exacta box. In this case, there are 12 different combinations, which means you’re looking at a $24 wager.
Some bettors believe in bets like this when the field is particularly large. That’s because the payback for races like that on an exacta will tend to be substantial. By using the multiple-horse exacta box, you’ll give yourself a good chance at the payback if you handicapped the race well.
By keying an exacta, you are emphasizing your confidence in a particular horse, and leaving open the possibilities for many other horses to fill out your exacta horse betting ticket. This can come in handy when you feel good about who is going to win but aren’t sure who will finish second.
Let’s say you feel strongly that the #4 is going to win a particular race. But you aren’t sure if the #2, #3 or #5 will finish second. You can choose to key the #4 in first with the #2, #3 and #5, which would cover you for the following outcomes:
This would be a $6 wager, since you have three different exacta bets. You could also key on a horse to finish second while having multiple possibilities to win. In addition, you could key multiple horses for both first and second, although, obviously, that would boost the size of your wager.
When you wheel the field for exacta betting in a particular race, you are essentially including every horse in the race in exacta combinations. That might seem like a very expensive bet, but it could be lucrative if you know what you’re doing.
The most popular wheel exacta bet comes when a bettor picks one horse to win then includes the entire field as possible second-place finishers. For example, imagine that you liked the #1 horse to win in an eight-horse field but have no real idea of who might finish second. You could wheel the #1 with the field and be covered by the following results:
There are seven bets here, which means you’d be looking at a $14 bet if you want a full-priced return. That might seem pricey, but consider how you can use this to your advantage.
Many bettors like to wheel a heavy favorite with the field. If you were to bet on a favorite to win, your return wouldn’t be much. But wheeling it with the field in an exacta horse betting can pay off well, especially if you end up with a long shot finishing second.
The downside of this type of bet is that, if another horse that is bet well finishes second, you might not make a profit. But a wheel exacta bet can be really effective if you have no doubt about the winner of a particular race and want to cash in a little bit more than with just a win bet.