What Is Tote Betting? – Betting Guide

If you have an interest in horse racing then it’s likely you’ve come across the term ‘Tote betting’ or ‘betting with the Tote’. There are many different ways of betting at the races, and Tote betting is one of the more popular ways to do so. This guide will take you through what Tote betting is, how it works and the types of bets you can place.


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The Origins Of Tote Betting

While it may have been improved upon over the years, Tote betting is not a new thing. It was first introduced in the 1920s, backed by Winston Churchill, as a response to unregulated and unlicensed bookmakers manipulating the winnings. Regulated by the government, Tote betting gave greater security to punters and ensured that any profits made from betting went straight back into the horse racing industry.

Betting On The Tote

Tote betting is available on all horse races across the UK and Ireland, providing it has five or more runners. Racecourses will have a Tote facility where you can place your bet in person. You are also able to place your bet online.

There is a good range of bets that can be placed with the Tote. Firstly, there are three simple bets that can be made:

WinAs the name suggests, with this type of bet you are selecting a horse to win the race.
Each wayAn each way bet combines two bets in one and gives a bit of a safety net. Here, you place one bet on your selected horse to win, and another for it to place. If your horse wins the race, both parts of your bet will win. If your horse doesn’t finish first but does place, only the place part of your bet will win.
PlaceWith this bet you select a horse to place and the place in which it will finish.

If you’re looking for something a bit more complex, Tote betting also offers the following:

ExactaThis involves selecting two horses to finish 1st and 2nd  in a race. You will need to state in which order they will place.
TrifectaThis involves selecting three horses to finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd in a race. You will need to state in which order they will place.
SwingerThis involves selecting three horses to finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd in a race. Your chosen horses can finish in any order.
QuadpotThis involves selecting four horses to place in races 3-6 in that race meeting.
PlacepotThis involves selecting six horses to place in races 1-6 in that race meeting.
JackpotThis involves selecting six winners from selected ‘Jackpot’ meetings taking place on that day.
Scoop6This involves selecting six winners from selected ‘Scoop6’ meetings taking place on a Friday or Saturday.

The more complex betting types have the potential for a larger win, however, they come with a higher number of variables.

Tote Place Bets Explained

As we’ve mentioned, Tote bets can only be placed on races with five or more runners. The number of runners within a race determines the places that are included within the bet and will pay out. Here’s how it works:

Number of runners1st place2nd place3rd place4th place
16+ (non-handicap)    
16+ (handicap)    

Should I Bet With The Tote Or With A Fixed-Odds Bookmaker?

The answer to this question is a personal decision. It’s completely up to you how you place your bet. Both Tote betting and betting with a fixed-odds bookmaker have their pros and their cons.

With Tote betting, your stake becomes part of a larger pool. This means that, should your bet win, your payout could be much higher. However, the amount you receive is dependent upon the wager you placed and the amount of people in the pool who also placed that bet. If you bet on an outsider and therefore fewer others are likely to have done the same, you could be in for a big win. On the flip side, if you bet on a favourite, it is likely that a large number of other people would have also done so, meaning you will get a smaller cut of the winnings. Because of these variables impacting your payout, you don’t know exactly how much you will win when you place your bet. Projected odds are provided, known as the dividend forecast, but this can fluctuate as more people join the pool.

When betting with a sports betting site, they set their own odds based on their own assessment of the race. While these odds can fluctuate, the odds stated at the time of your bet are the odds that you receive, meaning that you know exactly what you could get should your bet win. However, this payout is likely to be lower than what you could receive with Tote betting.

Tips For Betting With The Tote

  • Research your options

As with any betting, it’s important to do your research on a race before placing your bet. Many punters will start by looking at the favourite, but it’s just as important to explore your options. If you think an outsider is in for a chance against the favourite to win or place, this could be a good option as fewer people are likely to bet on an outsider, giving you a higher payout if you’re right. Things to look at when making your decision are:

  1. Trainer form
  2. Race times
  3. Recent performance
  4. A horse’s pedigree
  5. Stride lengths
  • Big wins from small bets

That’s the dream, right? While this isn’t an easy feat, with Tote betting it is possible if you find the right opportunities. There are certain types of bets where it is possible to turn a small wager into a larger payout. The best Tote bets for this are Scoop6 and Jackpot bets, however these can get quite complex and require all six of your selected horses to win. But with high risk can come high reward. If you are looking to make either a Scoop6 or a Jackpot bet, be sure to do as much research as you can beforehand so that you can make an informed decision and give yourself a better chance of having a winning bet.