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Thursday 14 September 2017

Tote Betting; what is it and how to play

Betting at a bookmaker is a fairly simple concept to understand. If the odds are 2:1 and you bet £10, you get £20 plus your stake back if you win. Should you decide to try your luck at the horses, you might be a little surprised to find that the return on your bets can be somewhat fluid, and varies depending on what everyone else does. Welcome to the Tote!

Introduced in 1928, the Tote was an effort to thwart various illegal betting operations that were hanging about horse-racing at the time, by giving a government authorised and reputable company to use for their betting needs. It wasn’t until the 1970s, about a decade after High Street betting shops opened, that the Tote started moving into the High Street bookmakers’ territory. Eventually, the government-owned Tote was purchased by Betfred in 2011 and is still owned by them today.

The Tote gets its name from the Tote board which is a colloquial nickname for totalisator, an automated system which runs pari-mutuel betting and helps keep track of the complicated calculations needed in this style of betting. Unlike in the bookmakers with fixed-odds betting, the money you make on bets with the tote is dependent entirely on the bets of your fellow gamblers. All the money placed goes into a pool and anyone who wins gets a certain amount of the winning pool depending on what exactly they bet. In this way, the amount you win and the exact odds are a little flexible and means you can end up winning more or less than you expected.

As an example, if you place a Win Bet on number 3 who’s got 2:1 at the bookies, this is shown as 3.0 so it counts the money you get back from a win already. These odds can change as the betting increases, though the dividend will go down if everyone bets on the same horse. If you’re the only one to bet you may see your winnings go up! Whereas when you’re betting on online casino games on Betfair the odds remain the same.

Of course, as with fixed odds betting at the bookies, there are quite a few different options when it comes to placing your bets, but most will feel similar to bets placed at a bookmaker.

A Win bet is pretty self-explanatory, you bet that a certain horse will win and if it does you get paid (although it’s still worth remembering that the odds can change.) Then you get a place bet which is going to have lower odds since it’s got a wider field of options – essentially, that a horse will ‘place’ in the top spots; 1st-3rd with 8 or more runners and 1st-2nd if there’s 5-7 runners. You’ve got less risk but less reward with this type of bet, as you’d expect. An exacta and a trifecta are more precise bets, with an exacta you bet on the first and second place winners and a trifecta you pick 1st, 2nd and 3rd. You can also place a reverse exacta/trifecta which bets on the horses coming in any order but requires you place more bets to cover all the possible outcomes.

Then you get bigger and more complex bets with things like a Placepot where you bet on a horse in every race to ‘place’ and if they’re all correct you get a bigger multiplier of winnings! Effectively, it’s placing all your bets at once with all the pros and cons that can entail, but bear in mind this can still be affected by the dividends. Similar bets include the Quadpot which is only across 4 races and the eponymous Jackpot where you bet on a whole host of races but you need every horse to win! As you get a rollover to the next day if nobody wins, this is a high risk, high reward game!

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