Known as straight bets, betting to Win, Place and Show is the most traditional and simplest horse racing wagers to make, and a good place for newcomers to the game to start.
Straight wagers are lower risk compared to exotic wagering and generally have a lower takeout (the “vig” the track charges).
Here is a look at the three straight wagers:
As the name implies, a Win wager is pretty simple. You wager on a horse (or horses) and if the horse wins the race, you cash. The obvious advantage to making a Win wager over Place and Show is the payoff is greater and it is easy to track your odds.
In pari-mutuel wagering the Win odds can shift in the minutes leading up to the start of the race and it is a good idea to wait until close to post time to make your Win wager. It is not uncommon to see late changes in prices. If a contender is sitting at 5-1 minutes before post time and many horseplayers see value in those odds, the price could easily drop to 4-1 or 3-1. A large win wager at a smaller track can make the odds shift even more dramatically.
When wagering at PlayUp online, you can watch the toteboard and make sure you are getting the value you are seeking before placing your wager. But keep in mind those odds are not final until the gate opens and the last update of the toteboard displays, which could come 10 or 15 seconds into the race.
Here are a couple of examples of Win payoffs (on a $2 win bet) based on the odds you might see on the toteboard:
2/1 pays $6.00
3/1 pays $8.00
9/2 pays $11.00
15/1 pays $32.00
The key to being successful at placing Win wagers is finding the value of the race and betting accordingly.
If you wager to Place, your horse must finish first or second for you to cash. But remember, you don’t get the Win payoff, just the Place payoff, which is generally smaller than the Win payoff because the are two horses (the winner and runner up) that will get paid off.
With the Place wager a more conservative bet, expect smaller returns. The best time to make a Place wager is if you like a horse at a decent price that you feel will run first or second. But remember if your horse does win or runs second and the favorite does as well, the Place payoff, which is split, is going to be lower.
The best scenario for a Place wager is when you think your horse will run first over second and the favorite will not. If you have a strong opinion that the favorite or second choice will not land in the top two, a Place wager could turn a decent profit, but using that opinion in an Exacta or Trifecta wager will lead to much bigger profits.
A Show wager is the easiest to hit of all horse wagers but will give you the smallest return. If you bet a horse to Show, your pick just needs to run first, second or third and your ticket gets cashed.
However, with the pool being split three ways, that payoff could be miniscule. You could place a Show wager on a horse at a generous price of 8-1 or so, and if the two favorites also finish in the top three, your payoff could be as low as $2.20 or $2.40 for a $2 wager.
While Show betting may be good for new horseplayers to get their feet wet as you will cash quite a few tickets, the return will be small. This is particularly true in fields with eight or less horses. If you do want to place a few Show wagers, look for large wide open fields where you think the favorite could misfire. Or better yet, just bet a few extra bucks to Win.