A ‘Luck’ Fan’s Guide to Parimutuel Betting (A.K.A. Betting On Horses)

Friday, January 20 by
He already broke the Blackjack tables. 

Dustin Hoffman has joined the ranks of film actors like Steve Buscemi who made themselves more awesome by appearing on television. Oops, our mistake, “It’s not television, it’s HBO.” Yes, Dusty will be starring in Luck, a show that details the exciting, fast-paced world of… parimutuel horse racing. Since there’s probably no one under the age of 90 who has the slightest clue how this works, we’ve decided to break down some of the more common terms so that you aren’t completely lost. As an added service, we’re throwing in pictures of these majestic creatures (the horses, not Dustin Hoffman) for your viewing pleasure.

Note that if you’re reading this in any country other than the United States, the terms are different. For example, in the UK, “win,” “place” and “show” are “tops, guvnah,” “right-o, old boy” and “jolly good show, mate,” respectively.

Win: Your horse has to, um, win.

Place: Your horse can come in first or second. Kind of a pussy bet if you ask us.

Show: Your horse can come in first, second or third. You’re not going to make a ton of money off of this bet, chief.

Exacta: You accurately predict the first- and second-place finishers in the proper order. If they’re both longshots you’re probably not going into work the next day.

Quinella: Same as the above, except the two horses can be in any order. Get ready to take the family on that vacation to Vegas you’ve been dreaming about since you realized your gambling addiction and alcoholism are fully catered to out there.

Trifecta: You pick the first-, second- and third-place horses in the correct order. If you are able to do this on a longshot bet, it’s likely that you have mob connections and the race was fixed.

Superfecta: Pick the first four horses in the race in the exact order. Get a five-figure payout. Tell your boss what you really think of him.

Daily Double: A bet covering two races. You choose the winning horse in both races, you get the same payout as winning a regular bet. The only difference is that you only placed one bet, so the greedy public schools only get their take once.

Pick X: You can place a bet where you pick the winner in a series of races. It’s expensive and you probably won’t ever win. If you do, you’re going to make a shitload of money. This is how professional gamblers put their kids through college.

Let It Ride: A rad movie starring Richard Dreyfuss and David Johansen that was pretty cool to watch on a local UHF station’s “Saturday Afternoon Movie” circa 1991. Often appeared in a double feature with Short Time. Had horse racing.

How Betting Works: You’re not really betting against the other players. You’re betting against yourself. The original odds of a horse race have nothing to do with the final tally. The final odds have far more to do with who is betting on what. In fact, if The Grifters is to be believed (and we really hope that it is), mobsters hire hot old chicks in stunning couture dresses to lower the odds on longshots so that they don’t have to pay out as much to the winners.

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