Guide to Tote betting: Introduction

By Matthew Taylor, At The Races

Welcome to the guide to betting on the Tote. In this six-part series we are going to cover the basics of how the Tote and pool betting works to the bet types available. We’ll look at how Permutation betting can add a new dimension for punters before covering some personal insights into structuring exotic bets, other strategies for Tote betting and finally, five golden rules to keep in the back of your mind.

I hope readers find it useful, it is written very much from my own perspective as a racing fan that likes to bet frequently but in relatively small amounts and finds the allure of attempting to find six winners at a race meeting much more appealing than randomly picking six bingo numbers on the lottery.

Whilst we’ll cover aspects of win and place betting, much of this guide will focus on exotic bets, ranging from that old favourite, the Placepot, to Exactas and Trifectas.

But before we get into all that, let’s start with some basics. The first thing to learn is how pool betting works.

Most punters are familiar with the concept of fixed odds betting whereby the bookmaker offers a price on a horse and when the punter places their bet they have the option of taking that price, thus giving them a clear indication of what their potential winnngs are.

Although this series is about exotic betting, we’ll start by looking at the differences between a simple win bet with a bookmaker and the Tote.

Each price the bookmaker offers in a race has a percentage equivalent (ie evens is 50%) and, provided the bookmaker takes the right amount of money at the right odds, they make a profit through their ‘margin’ – this is the figure that their total book exceeds 100%. In a three horse race, a bookmaker who offers evens (50%), 6/4 (40%) and 5/2 (28.6%) will therefore make a margin of 18.6%.

In pool betting, punters bet against each other and the operator (the Tote) takes a fixed margin. In the win pool, for example, each punter places an amount of money against different horses. This is then pooled together, the operator then takes their margin (also known as deduction or take-out) and what is left is divided between the winning tickets. Win dividends are declared to a £1 stake (in Ireland and France it is €1 and in the US $2) so, if you’ve had a £5 win bet on a horse that wins at a dividend of £3.00 you’ll collect £15.

The launch of the new Tote in the UK has seen a shift in punters' favour, however, with a new Tote Guarantee unveiled that guarantees all Tote win bets up to a maximum of £500 stake will be settled at the higher of the Tote dividend or bookmakers' Starting Price (SP). This guarantee will take place at selected race meetings, which will be announced on the Tote's Website.

Got all that? Then the next thing we need to look at is Exotic Bet Types.

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