By HRI Foreign Staff — Horse racing is one of the oldest sports in the world and has long been associated with gambling, going all the way back to England in the early 18th century when aristocrats and hangers-on would gather in places such as Newmarket Heath to watch and wager on races.
Of course, horse racing has become a little more sophisticated since then. While going to the racetrack is still popular and there can be huge crowds for major events such as the Breeders Cup or the Kentucky Derby, there is now a thriving online horse racing betting sector. Online horse betting in Michigan and other states across the US is big business and the industry is likely to continue to expand as gambling legislation is liberalized across the US.
The golden rule
If you’re a newcomer to horse racing betting, it is important to remember that the same fundamental rule applies to this sport as to all forms of gambling, which is that you should never gamble with money that you cannot afford to lose. If you cannot set aside a betting bankroll that is essentially disposable, then you should not bet – on horse racing or anything else – until you can.
You might argue that horse racing is not the same as casino gambling. At a casino, there is no chance of winning in the long run, whereas a select few bettors can make horse racing betting pay. While this is true, horse racing betting professionals have to put in years of hard work to even have a chance of turning a regular profit and all of those professionals would also agree with the Golden Rule.
The pari-mutuel system
The first thing to understand about horse racing betting in the US is that it differs from traditional fixed odds sports betting. Betting on horses is done through the pari-mutuel system. Every bet on a race is pooled, and then, after a commission is deducted, the pool is shared out among the winners, with the odds of the horses determined by how many people wagered on them. In a pari-mutuel betting system, it usually pays to find an edge by going against the crowd.
Win, place and exotic
The most popular bet in horse racing betting is the Win bet. With this bet you are simply wagering on a horse to win the race. However, there are other bets worth looking at. A Place bet is a wager that your horse will finish first or second, while a Show bet is for your horse to finish in the first three.
Some of the bigger prizes can be won by wagering on riskier bets known collectively as exotic bets. These include the Quinella, the Exacta and the Trifecta, which involve picking the first, second and sometimes third horse to finish in each race and even more volatile bets such as the Pick 3, in which you have to choose the winners of three races. It is worth looking at each of these bet types to see which may suit your style, but tread very carefully with your staking until you are fully familiar with them.
There is a vast array of horse racing betting options every day, with races taking place across the US. It is frankly impossible to keep up to date with all the racing that goes on, which is why professionals usually specialize. Some people specialize in the top-rated races, while others prefer lower-grade action.
One common approach is to stick to the racing at one track, ideally a track that is local to you so you can watch some of the races in person. This will enable you become familiar with the horses and trainers who most commonly feature at that track, and to the quirks in terms of weather, track layout and surface that can have a significant impact on the outcome of races.
Whatever area you choose to specialize in, try to watch as many races as you can. Although there are plenty of sources of information out there, nothing can quite replace the experience of seeing the races themselves, which can teach you a great deal about the sport.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when getting involved in horse racing betting is to have fun. Unless you are one of the handful of professionals who can make a long-term profit from this pastime, you should consider it as a leisure activity to be enjoyed. Be aware of the risks, make sure that you only ever bet with money that you can afford to lose, and you will be able to get the most out of this fascinating and exciting sport.