Quinella Betting Explained

Learning to Use Quinellas to Bet on Horse Races in 2022 (Pros and Cons)

Quinella betting for horse racing gives you a good chance at solid payback for a relatively simple wager. It comes into play whenever you can correctly predict the first two horses in the official order of finish of a horse race. The trick to it is that these two horses can come in any order, as long as they both finish in the top two.

Since wagering has long been a part of the action, horse racing is one of the most popular of all sports for sports bettors.

The variety of bets that you can make on the action can also lend to the excitement. With quinella betting, sports bettors can conceivably make a decent amount of payback in any given race by predicting the horses who will come in first and second.

In the following article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the horse racing wager known as the Quinella. We’ll explain how to make the wager and how the odds and payback work. Finally, we’ll look into some strategies you can utilize to make your Quinella wagers successful ones.

Explaining the Quinella Wager

Quinella wagers belong to a family of horse racing wagers known as “exotics.” These wagers are generally defined as ones where the bettor has to predict the outcome for at least two horses, either in a single race or multiple races. This is opposed to the straight bets, such as the win, place, and show, where you are betting on just one horse in one race.

Like mentioned above quinella betting requires you to wager on which horses will finish in the top two in the order of finish, but it’s important to note that this is based on the official order of finish as determined by track officials. Occasionally, a horse might actually cross the finish line first or second in a race but won’t be placed in the official order of finish due to some sort of foul that was committed.

As an example of how quinella betting works, imagine that you decide on a 2-4 quinella in a particular race.

You will win that race if either of the following outcomes occur:
  • 2-4
  • 4-2

4 And 2 Horse Racing

Betting Requirements for the Quinella Horse Racing Wager

Each track has its own way of deciding which bets are available in each race. In most cases, horse tracks that allow quinella betting make it available in most races on the card. Occasionally, if there are small number of horses in a race (usually below five), they might strike quinella wagering from that race on the grounds that it might be too easy to hit.

In most cases, the minimum requirement for a bet in United States horse racing is $2. But there are tracks with quinella bets that allow you to bet less than $2 per ticket. But the trick is that these places often ask that the total wager still reach $2.

For Example:
With a $1 quinella, you can play two different combinations at $1 apiece. If one of them comes in, you would win half the payback for what a $2 quinella returns. You might even be able to find other tracks with different amounts involved.

How to Make a Quinella Wager

If you utilize online gambling sites, you’ll find that it’s a pretty easy process for making any kind of wager, including quinella betting online. You just have to navigate between the different choices that you have, checking off each along the way until your wager is entered. Of course, the first step in that process is signing up and funding an account.

If you plan to make a quinella wager at a track or an off-track wagering site, always keep in mind that you have to have all the information with you when you go up. The teller is required to take a lot of bets from all over the country and maybe even the world, so they can’t possibly know the details of every race on every program.

Therefore, make sure you go up to the window with the following:
  • Name of the track you plan to bet
  • Number of the race on that track’s program
  • Amount of money you want to bet
  • Type of bet you want to make
  • Number of horse (or horses) included in the bet

#5 is an important one to remember. If you go up to the window with just the horses’ names for your quinella bet, the teller won’t have any idea to whom you’re referring. The tickets they print out have numbers on them rather than names, so that’s why you need that information.

How Quinella Payback Is Calculated

You might want to go into a horse racing knowing exactly the odds that you’ll get the minute you make the wager. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in horse racing betting, which is based on a pari-mutuel system. When you bet the quinella, or any other type of wager for that matter, your odds will depend on what other bettors like you do.

Quinella betting involves having a pool assigned to it where all bets will be collected. From this pool, the track will take out a certain percentage to pay its bills. Remaining bets are then divided up based on how much was bet on each possible quinella betting combination, and that’s how the odds are determined.

For Example:
If you have $1,000 in a total quinella pool and there has been $10 bet on the 2-4 combination. By dividing 10 into 1,000 you end up with odds of 100 to 1. If you were to bet $2 on that 2-4 quinella, you’d win $200 if you were to hit it.

Quinella Bets vs Exacta Bets

As we said earlier, the quinella is one of exotic bets that are utilized by horse racing bettors. You might also be aware of a wager known as the exacta. With the exacta, you still have to pick the horses in the top two.

The difference is that you must specify the order of those two horses with the exacta. For example, if you decide on a 5-7 exacta in a race, you would win if the #5 comes in first and the #7 comes in second. But if the reverse were true and the #7 came in first and the #5 came in second, you would lose the bet.

Of course, had you a bet a 5-7 quinella, you would have won either way. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the quinella is a better wager. Let’s take a closer look.

Comparing the Two Bets

Most tracks that offer a quinella also offer an exacta. That means you’ll generally have a choice between the two. How do you make that choice? Here are some suggestions.


We mentioned above that each track will set up a takeout amount for each individual wager. Occasionally, they might have different takeouts for quinella betting and exacta betting. If you’re looking to split hairs between the two, that can be a way to do it.

For example, if the takeout for the exacta is higher than it is for the quinella, that means that the quinella is a bet where more of your wager will be going to potential payback.

If you plan on consistently making one of these two wagers, takeout can be a good deciding factor.


Are you someone who wants to make sure that they get returns on as many bets as possible, even if they’re small ones? If you are, the quinella makes for a better wager. You have a much better chance of winning it on a race-by-race basis than you would of hitting the exacta.


This is where the advantage shifts to the exacta. Remember that each quinella pool will be made up of more potential winning tickets, since the combinations can come in either order. That lessens the size of the payback when you compare it to the exacta.

In other words, if you want bigger payback, the Exacta is the way to go. It will be an extreme rarity for the quinella ever to pay more than the exacta in a given race.

Handicapping Strengths

Whether or not the exacta or quinella is better for you should be based in part by what you can do as a handicapper. For example, you might find that your strengths are limited to just getting the top two right in any order. If that’s the case, you should probably stick to the quinella.

But if you find that you’re betting the quinella and short-changing yourself because you had the first and second horse figured out in the right order, you should consider switching to the exacta. That would give you more bang for your buck.

The Quinella in Modern Betting Times

Quinella betting has dwindled some in popularity over the years. Over the years, specialty wagers have become all the rage like the Pick 5 or Pick 6, which often have a kind of jackpot component tied to them have become more and more popular. As a result, other wagering pools have become so diluted that it almost wasn’t worth a track keeping those wagers around.

Often, the quinella has been the wager that has been lopped off. The main reason is that the exacta is so closely related to it.

In fact, with an exacta box, you essentially get the same thing as a quinella, where you win the bet regardless of what order the horses in the top two finish. Yet it’s also important to remember that an Exacta box costs more than a quinella, since it is essentially two Exacta bets mashed together.

It’s important to understand that quinella betting hasn’t completely become extinct. Many tracks appreciate the tradition of including it, while bettors also enjoy the flexibility that it gives them, especially if it’s accompanied by a track offering a lower takeout than normal. But it’s always important to check if the track you’re betting offers the Quinella before getting too wrapped up in handicapping for it.

Techniques for Effective Quinella Wagering

Including More Horses

Just because there are only two horses included in a quinella bet, you aren’t limited to just one bet per race. You can expand your quinella betting to include as many horses in the field as you wish. Doing so gives you a better chance of winning, while obviously increasing your wager.

For example, you might decide that, in an eight-horse race, there are four horses (the #1, #3, #5 and #7) with a legitimate shot to be among the top two.

You can make quinella wagers, including all four, which means you would get the following bets:
  • 1-3
  • 1-5
  • 1-7
  • 3-5
  • 3-7
  • 5-7

As you can see, here are six wagers involved here. Assuming a $2 minimum for quinella betting, you’d be looking at a $12 wager. But you can see how many chances you have to win.

Remember that the rules of the quinella require the top two to finish in any order. This means that there are 12 different winning combinations that will give you a win in this example.

You can be creative as possible with your quinella wagers. The bottom line is doing it in a way where you cover the horses you think have a shot while the size of your bet down.

Eliminating Possibilities

If you are set to bet on a race with a lot of horses in it, it can be intimidating to try and narrow it down to just two possibilities. But what can make it less challenging is to narrow down the field.

When you’re looking at a large field, there are likely several horses which will be overmatched when compared to some of the better horses in the race.

By “throwing them out,” you’ll be able to assess the other horses much more clearly.

This can make quinella betting much more manageable and easier to handle.

Playing Favorites

One of the most popular quinella betting techniques is known as “favorite-all.” Using it allows you to take advantage of the fact that betting favorites win a larger percentage of the time than any other horses. The favorite-all method includes the favorite in quinella bets with every other horse in the field.

For example, imagine that there was an eight-horse field and you wanted to bet the favorite (the #1 horse) with everyone else in the field as quinellas.

You would end up with the following quinella bets:
  • 1-2
  • 1-3
  • 1-4
  • 1-5
  • 1-6
  • 1-7
  • 1-8

There are seven bets there, meaning that your cost will be $14. The idea behind Favorite-All is to try and milk more out of what seems like sure thing.

If you were to bet the favorite to win, place or show, the return would most likely be minimal. But if you can get the favorite in a Quinella combination and have one of the long shots in the race sneak into first or second, you could get a pretty big payback out of it.

FAQs About Quinella Betting

Most horse racing establishments and betting sites have a backup in place for something like this. Most will give you a refund on your wager. Others might allow you to make a substitution for the scratched horse if you can do it before the race begins.

It’s possible because the quinella betting pools are completely independent from the win pools, which are what determines who the favorites are in a given race. Yet it’s not likely because, in most cases, the win betting and the quinella betting will follow along similar lines. Still, having a quinella with the top two choices will likely pay better than having either of those two horses simply to win, place or show.

Many tracks will put on their broadcast a screen for quinella payouts. This screen will show you the odds for every possible quinella combination in the race. But you have to remember that these odds are changing right up until race time. So, even if you can see them, they might not represent what your final quinella betting odds end up being.