What is tote betting in a nutshell? It is a type of betting that doesn’t rely on bookies’ odds to calculate winnings, as it can be seen on many top betting sites. Instead, the return is determined by how much money has been collected in the prize pool from all the bettors, which is why ‘tote betting’ is also known as ‘pool betting’.

The term was originally used only for pool bets offered exclusively by a UK bookie called ‘the Tote’, which today offers wagerers 10 kinds of bets: Win/Place, Exacta, Trifecta, Swinger, Jackpot, Placepot, Quadpot, Double, Treble, and Scoop6. By the end of this guide, you will have all the different types of bets explained to the smallest detail, so let us start with some of the most important information.

8 Quick Facts About Tote Betting:

  1. Tote bets vs. fixed odds bets: the former are like a lottery – your possible winnings are not determined by fixed odds, but by how much money has been wagered by everyone betting on the event.
  2. Tote is also known as pool betting and parimutuel betting.
  3. Founded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Winston Churchill in 1928, the Tote is still operating and it is famous for its pool betting on horse racing.
  4. It had a monopoly on parimutuel betting until recently, which led to ‘totemeaning the same as ‘pool betting’ for a lot of people.
  5. The name derives from the ‘Totalizator Board’ – the automated system that calculates odds, displays them, and produces tickets based on incoming bets.
  6. The ToteScoop6 bet produced the first horse race betting millionaire.
  7. In horse racing, you bet on horses to ‘win’ or to ‘place’.
  8. Tote betting rules leave you with the option to bet on a single race or on multiple races.

Tote Explained

Unlike in fixed odds betting, where the possible winnings are calculated by a bookie with the probability of an outcome in mind, the amount you are eligible to win in a pool or tote bet depends on a simple formula: the total amount of money wagered is divided by the number of people who correctly predicted the outcome. Curiously, most Tote bookmakers agree the winnings between fixed odds betting and pool betting often coincide.

Stakes can be fixed, meaning each ticket wagered has the same value. If the stakes are not fixed, the payouts for every winner are calculated in proportion to their stake.

If a bet in tote betting is provided by a bookie, the house percentage or ‘vig’ – including some tax – is deducted from the prize pool.

Due to the nature of this betting system, potential Tote returns are unknown until the betting is closed at the start of the contest. In fixed-odds betting terms, this is called a ‘starting price’ bet.

What Is the Tote?

Until 2018, only one bookmaker in the UK was allowed to offer customers parimutuel betting: the Tote. Its name derives from the all-important totalizator board, the automated display where payoffs are calculated and adjusted while bets are coming in.

It was founded in 1928 by Winston Churchill under the name ‘The Racehorse Betting Control Board’ as a statutory corporation. The goal then was to provide a legal and government-regulated means of placing bets on horse races and thereby circumvent the shady business of underground betting.

The name has become a household name over the course of its long history, and via purchase by Betfred, the Tote got privatised in 2011. Today it employs more than 4,000 people and operates more than 500 High Street betting shops around the UK, offering both online and offline betting under the name Totesport.

Before we list and explain all of the bets available on most of the UK’s 60 racecourses, let’s take a look at some important horse racing terms you might come across while tote betting online and/or offline.

What Does It Mean for a Horse to Place?

A horse is placed if it finishes the race in one of the top positions. In other words, when you bet on a horse to place, you’re just betting on it to do well. If there are four or fewer runners in a race, the horse must win for it to place. In a race with five to seven runners, the first and second horses to cross the finish line count as placed, and the best three horses place when there are eight or more runners. In online betting, placing is used in placepots, each way bets, and single place bets.

What Is Each Way Betting?

What is tote betting is not the only question that should be asked, as there are parts of it that need to be made clear first. We will have to explain each way betting, too, as it is an important betting strategy and an integral component that will definitely help to have Tote explained fully. An each way bet is a double bet – one bet that your horse will win, and another that your horse will place. If the horse wins, both of the bets will be paid out, but if your selection only places, you have hedged your bets and you will still get a fraction of the Tote dividends.

What Are the Permutations in Tote Horse Racing Bets?

Permutations can help you hedge your bets by selecting more than one option for one horse. Let’s say you want to stake £5 on the winners of five separate races and you are unsure about who will win the second and third race. You can make a permutation bet by selecting more than one horse for those races, and while that boosts your chances of winning the Tote pool bet, it also raises the amount you must place. To calculate your final stake, take the product of the number of selections you have made and multiply it by your original stake. In this case, if you select two horses for the second race and three for the third, based on the following equation, you must wager £30: (1x2x3x1x1)x£5 = 6x£5 = £30.

The Rules on Tote Betting

The most basic bets you can make are Tote Win and Tote Place. You simply pick a horse to win or to place in a particular race. You can combine the two into a ToteWin/Place, or each-way bet. If your selected horse wins, you get paid for both parts of the bet, but if it only places, you still get a fraction of the winnings. This is a good way to hedge your bets, but it also doubles the amount you must stake. The Place bets are available only for the races with five or more runners.

The ToteDouble bet consists of predicting the winners of two consecutive races, while the ToteTreble is the same for three races.

The daily Tote Placepots are the most popular type of betting. This bet requires the punter to guess a placed horse in the first six races on a given day at one particular race track. The ToteQuadpot is the same deal, only for the last four races of the day.

With ToteSwinger, the bettor selects two horses to be in the top three places, regardless of their order. The bet pays the same whether the selected horses come in first and second, first and third, or second and third.

When people type ‘what is tote betting’ and search for the info on it, they are most often confused about the exacta. The aim of a ToteExacta bettor is to guess the first- and second-placed horses in a single race, which is called a Straight Exacta. The Combination Exacta allows you to predict which two horses will place first and second, regardless of the order. It is equal to two Straight Exacta bets, so the stake is doubled, while the Banker Exacta means that you will pick one horse to win and more than one to come in second.

The Tote Trifecta is the same as the Exacta, except that you need to predict the best three places. It also has Straight, Combination, and Banker variations.

The ToteJackpot is your chance to win big on a small investment. It is a very tall order – pick the winners in six races. If no one wins the ToteJackpot, the pool is transferred to the next day’s Jackpot.

While there is a ToteJackpot every day, the famous ToteScoop6 is available only on Saturdays and selected special days. This Tote Bet is by definition worth everyone’s attention, as it produced the world’s first horse race betting millionaire in 2008. Here, a bettor must predict the winner of six specific races selected by Totepool. The selection of difficult races is what makes this bet a challenge. Handicap races with 16 or more runners are often included, as well as the races with inexperienced, young horses with no track records to be taken into consideration.

Scoop6 is a PlacePot bet because there is a separate fund to be shared among the punters whose selected horses all placed. A bonus fund gives Scoop6 winners a chance to make even more money by guessing the winner of a difficult race of the following week. Permutations are allowed, but unlike other Totepool bets, the stakes are fixed at £2.

Finally, we would like to address some of the most frequent questions people ask in order to save you time and help you fully understand this type of betting.

What is a Tote Exacta bet?

The aim of a Tote Exacta bet is to guess the two winning horses in a race and their order. There are three variants of an Exacta bet Straight, Combination, and Banker.

What is a Combination Exacta?

A Combination Exacta requires you to guess the two winning horses, regardless of which one is the first and which is the second. It is equal to two Straight Exacta bets.

What is a Tote bet?

In a tote (pool) bet, the payout for a successful bet is not determined by the odds calculated by a bookie, but by the size of the betting pool and the number of winners.

What’s the difference between Tote and fixed odds?

In a fixed-odds bet, the bookie determines the payout. In a Tote, the payout is determined by the size of the money pool collected by everyone who bets on the same event.

How does the Tote Jackpot work?

The aim of this Jackpot is to guess the winners of six races in one day. This is a very difficult bet and often nobody wins the prize. When that is the case, the fund is transferred to the next day’s Jackpot, so the payout can grow quite large.

Now that we’ve answered the burning questions on ‘what is tote betting’ and explained the details surrounding the process, you can freely dive into the tote world and place your first bet.