Once you enter the Grandstand — the area where everybody hangs out and gambles — you’ll need to know a few things to start tapping that bankroll and making a penny or two. Here’s a basic horse-betting primer:
Since the dawn of time, the most common horse-betting increment has been $2. Sure, you can bet a crisp $100 bill, too, but we’d suggest starting with a two-spot.
If you bet the favorite (or the “chalk”) every time, you’ll have approximately a 33% chance of winning. Not bad odds, right?
You’ll be betting in a parimutuel environment, meaning all bets of a specific type (see bet types below) are put into a pool. Winnings come out of that pool. So it’s unlike poker or blackjack, where you’re betting against the dreaded House. Here, you’re up against other horse bettors.
Normal or “straight” horse bets come in three forms: Win – You’re betting on the horse to cross the finish line first — i.e., to win the race. Place – You’re betting on the horse to come in either first or second. Show – You’re betting on a horse to come in first, second, or third. NOTE: The last two bet types are the easiest way to get acquainted with playing the races. We’d suggest making a couple of these before dropping serious dough.
Horse betting is all about the odds. If you bet $2 on a horse to Win with 2-1 odds, you’ll more than double your money to $6. In other words, multiply $2 x 2/1 + your $2 initial bet. Third-grade math skills go a long way in adult life.
At the track, beginners should place bets at a betting window, manned by a human being. There is a level of comfort you reach standing face-to-face with a person and reading your bet to them — rather than using an electronic gambling machine or ADW (which we’ll touch upon later).
Horse betting follows a sequence. Let’s say it’s the 5th race and you want to bet on horse No. 4: approach the betting window and declare to the teller, “At Aqueduct, in the 5th race, I’d like to put $2 to win on the No. 4 horse”. That’s how you place a bet at any track: Racetrack, Race, Dollar Amount, Bet Type, Horse Number.
Once your bet has been placed, the teller will hand you a ticket, which will have your exact bet on it — and, like a lottery ticket, you can exchange it for cash later if your bet is “in the money”. So keep it safe in your sweet fanny pack.*
*please do not wear a fanny pack, no matter how sweet.