Win, Place, and Show Betting Guide

Explaining and Examining the Best Strategies for Horse Racing Bets


Win, place, and show betting allows horse racing gamblers to keep it as simple as possible. All you have to worry about is a single horse in a single race. As a result, these so-called “straight” wagers give you the best chance of getting some sort of return on your betting investment at the track or on sports betting websites.

For those who are just learning about the sport of horse racing, all of the betting lingo and terminology can get a bit overwhelming. That’s why it might be best for those just starting out to stick to win, place, and show betting. What you’ll find as you wager some more is that those bets have a lot to offer whether you’re a beginner or an expert in making horse racing picks.

We’re here to help you by going over the basics of win, place, and show betting. First, we’ll tell you how each bet works, and we’ll also explain how the odds for those bets are calculated. Finally, we’ll talk about the different strategies you can use to pick the horses that will comprise your win, place, and show betting.

Best Online Racebooks for Win, Place, and Show Betting

Mobile and Tablet - Horse Racing BettingWin, Place and Show bets are the most common wagers placed among horse racing bets. As a result, there are many sites offering these types of bets on horse races.

After much research, our team has decided that BetUS is the top online racebook for 2021. Here are a few reasons why:

  • BetUS has been in business since 1994
  • They’re currently offering 100% welcome bonus up to $2,500
  • You can get up to $100 in free play for betting on weekly horse match ups (win or lose)
  • They have a dedicated racebook section focused on the needs of horse racing bettors
  • BetUS has more options for betting on horse races than most competitors

Visit BetUS

Not sold on BetUS? Here are some other great online sportsbook options:

The Basics of Horse Racing Betting

Although it can seem a bit daunting at first, horse racing betting is actually a very simple enterprise once you learn some of the terms. You can think of it in two ways: straight and exotic wagers. Straight bets include just one horse in one race, while exotic bets take you into the realm of multiple horses on your horse racing betting ticket.

Straight bets break down into win, place, and show, so we’re about to take you through each of those bets individually. Meanwhile, if you do choose exotic bets, you can try one of these wagers:

  • Exacta: Picking the first two horses in the order of finish of a race in exact order
  • Quinella: Picking the first two horses in the order of finish of a race in any order
  • Trifecta: Picking the first three horses in the order of finish of a race in exact order
  • Superfecta: Picking the first four horses in the order of finish of a race in exact order
  • Daily Double: Picking the winner of two consecutive races
  • Pick 3, Pick 4, etc.: Picking the winner of three, four, or more consecutive races

What You Get Out of Win, Place, and Show Betting

There are many reasons that you might choose to stick with win, place, and show betting for real money on horse races. Take a look at a couple of reasons below.

  • First of all, it’s the simplest way to bet horses. You don’t have to worry about some of the more intricate techniques associated with the exotic bets listed above. It all comes down to a single horse in a single race, which makes it easy to follow.
  • In addition, win, place, and show betting makes it easier for you to handicap (another word for the method you use to pick bets). When you’re relying on multiple horses to do what you expect, a lot of variables can come into play to beat you. With just one horse involved, you have a better chance of getting the result you anticipate.
  • With win, place, and show betting, you have a much better chance of getting something back for your original wager. It’s simple math, but it’s much more likely for a single horse to finish where predicted than for multiple horses to do the same.
  • Win, place, and show betting also gives you a much clearer idea of your odds than you’ll have with exotic bets. This is especially true for win bets, where the odds are listed for each horse. With exotic bets, it can be difficult to guess what your odds are going to be.

Breaking Down Win, Place, and Show Betting

Take a look at how each of these one-horse bets breaks down:

  • Win: Your horse must come in first in the official order of finish
  • Place: Your horse must come in first or second in the official order of finish
  • Show: Your horse must come in first, second, or third in the official order of finish

The phrase “official order of finish” is an important one to consider. There are times where horses might seem to come in a certain order across the line, but that order might get changed by judges or stewards due to some sort of rule being broken during the race. As a result, never give up on a race until you see that it has become official.

The minimum wager on any Win, place, and show wagering in the United States is generally $2. You might be able to find some tracks or betting websites that give a lower minimum, but $2 is pretty much the standard. Keep in mind that you can bet more than $2 if you wish, which would raise your potential payback.

Odds for Win, Place, and Show Betting

Your odds for win, place, and show betting will be dependent on how other bettors wager on the race. This is the common method for pari-mutuel betting systems, which are generally used by the horse racing industry as a whole. Those odds won’t be set until the race begins.

To compute those odds, you first have to take into account the track takeout. This is the percentage that the track takes out of win, place, and show betting pools. Once the takeout is complete, all remaining money is divided by the amount bet on each horse.

For example, let’s take a look at a sample win pool in an eight-horse race. You’ll see the amount of money bet in each pool and the resulting odds based on the $1,000 total in the pool:

  • #1: $100
  • #2: $400
  • #3: $50
  • #4: $50
  • #5: $200
  • #6: $100
  • #7: $50
  • #8: $50

Take a look at the #1 horse. If you divide the $100 into the $1,000, it means that you would be getting $10 in return for a $1 bet, including the amount bet. In other words, you would be winning $9 for every bet, leaving odds of 9 to 1.

Similar calculations can be made for the other horses in the race. The #2 would be the betting favorite, with odds of around 3 to 2.

In the case of win betting, these odds are generally visible at tracks across the country on their odds boards. For place and show wagering, you might not be able to see the exact odds. But you will be able to find pools like the example above so that you can estimate possible payback from the size of the pool in question.

Fixed Odds Win, Place, and Show Betting

It is rare to be able to take advantage of fixed betting odds for win, place, and show betting in horse racing. Fixed odds betting, which is utilized in most other sports, allows you to lock in the odds at which they were bet. What other bettors do after you won’t have an effect on your original odds.

It is possible to find fixed odds betting available for win, place, and show for certain major horse races. These most often take the form of futures wagers. With futures wagers, you can take advantage of odds early before the majority of the wagering on a specific race takes place.

For example:

The Kentucky Derby, the most famous horse race in America, is known for futures wagers pools it offers on win betting at several points months before the race. You might bet on a horse at 10 to 1 on a futures wager in January, four months before the Kentucky Derby actually takes place. If the horse performs well from that point until the Derby, you might have a bargain.

The big drawback with fixed odds horse racing is that you have no guarantee that the horse on which you bet will even make the race in question. If not, you won’t get a refund on your original wager. You simply have to eat your losses.

How to Read Win, Place, and Show Betting Prices

At the conclusion of each horse race, after the results have been deemed official, you’ll see on track tote boards and on graphics on their broadcast the “prices.” This tells you how much you can expect to win for your win, place, and show real money wagers.

Here is an example of how this works:

Horse Win Place Show
7 – Mr. Smith $4.40 $3.60 $2.60
4 – Don’t Do It $10.00 $6.40
9 – Michael Cycle $8.80

If you bet on Mr. Smith to win, you would receive $4.40 for a $2 wager. That includes the amount of the original wager, which means your profit was $2.40. You can read the other prices in similar fashion.

Keep in mind:

That you only get the prices for the win, place, and show bet that you made. For example, if you bet Mr. Smith to place, you will only get $3.60. You wouldn’t get the win or show prices as well, even though he filled the requirements of those wagers.

If you bet more than $2, you can calculate your payback by doing a little multiplication. For example, if you bet $10 on Michael Cycle to show, you’d multiply the original Show price by five, since $10 is five times as much as $2. Hence, your show payback for a $10 wager would be $44 ($8.80 times 5).

How to Make Win, Place, and Show Wagers

You need to have the following information when you wish to make a win, place, and show wager at a race track or off-track wagering site:

  1. The track: You should have the name of the track on hand. This is especially true if you’re planning to be at a track different from the one where you’re currently located.
  2. The race number: There are several races at race tracks each day. You have to make sure you have the number of the race specified for each bet you want to make.
  3. The amount of the bet: You should also specify this, even though most tellers will assume that you want a $2 wager if you don’t say different. If you do wish to raise the amount, you should make sure to let them know.
  4. The type of bet: Win, place, and show betting, or even one of the exotic wagers we listed above.
  5. The number of horse (or horses) included: Don’t make the mistake of coming up to the teller window with a name of a horse. The teller won’t know the name because of all the races with which they have to deal throughout their shift. It will be the number of the horse that they type into the ticket.

If you’re betting win, place, and show at a sports betting site, you will still need all of the above information. You’ll use it to navigate through all of the settings until you land on the right race and track. From there, it’s a matter of clicking on the horse you’re betting, the amount, and the type of wager.

Different Ways to Make Win, Place, and Show Bets

If you want to wager on win, place, and show but want to branch out a bit from the basics, there are some strategies that you can try. Here are two of the most popular.

Across the Board

Remember how we showed you above that you’ll only get paid for the specific wager that you make? In other words, if you bet a horse to win and it does, you won’t also get the show and place prices. Well, across the board can solve your problems.

With an across the board bet, you are essentially betting on a horse to win, place, and show all at once. To do it, you’ll have to put a minimum of $2 on all outcomes, which would mean a minimum $6 for all three bets.

Let’s look again at our sample prices from above:

Horse Win Place Show
7 – Mr. Smith $4.40 $3.60 $2.60
4 – Don’t Do It $10.00 $6.40
9 – Michael Cycle $8.80

If you had bet on Mr. Smith across the board, your winnings would be $4.60 plus $3.60 plus $2.60, for a total of $10.80. Don’t Do It, across the board, would return you $16.40 ($10 plus $6.40). Michael Cycle would still return you $8.80.

You can also up the size of the bet with across the board bets. For example, if you bet $5 across the board on a horse, it would take an initial wager of $15. If that were the case, your winnings would be multiplied 2 ½ times from the $2 prices.

Favorites and Longshots

Whether you play favorites or long shots will depend on your own betting preferences. Longshots will lead to more risk that you’ll lose your win, place, and show bet. But it will also give you a much better chance at a big payback for a small wager.

If you’re the type who wants to get a consistent return on your wagers, you should consider favorites. Favorites, on the whole, cash in win, place, and show bets much more consistently than longshots. Of course, the drawback is that they won’t pay as much even when you get them right.

You should try out different strategies before settling on one particular way of using win, place, and show horse racing wagering. What you might find is that you like to adjust on the fly, depending on the horses in each race and the odds that you’re getting. That flexibility can really be the key to developing an overall winning horse racing betting strategy.

FAQ About Win, Place, or Show Betting

There is no limit to the number of bets you can make on a horse race, at least not in terms of choosing horses. Technically, you could pick bet on every horse in every race across the board if you wanted (although that wouldn’t be wise). It can be wise to take a couple of different horses to win, place, or show in a race as a way of narrowing down the field.

A dead heat occurs when two horses come across the finish line at the exact same time, according to track officials. When this occurs with horses who are in first, second or third, they will each pay out for each spot. For example, if two horses finish in a dead heat for second, each will return for any place or show bets.

The favorite is of course who the online sportsbook thinks has the best chance of winning. As a result they're not necessarily a bad bet, but there are a few other factors to consider. First, the odds for the favorite will be the least profitable. Second, the favorite is never a guaranteed winner.

Favorites in horse races usually win about 33% of the time and finish second around 53% of the time.

This won’t happen often, but it can. Remember that win, place, and show betting odds are all separate from one another. If a horse received a lot of betting action to win but not a lot to place or show, it is possible that the minor prizes will pay more than the major one.

Have more questions about win, place, or show betting? Be sure to contact us!