Horse Racing for profit, or just fun?

Horse Racing for profit, or just fun?

OK, significantly more fun than profit.  But some time spent at the good ‘ol horse track can really open your eyes to some dos and do-nots with your money.  Now I had a pretty good time, but I was going with the expectation of losing some money.  I generally only go once a year to the track, to get my yearly gambling fix, and it has turned into a bit of a birthday tradition for me.

For those of you who don’t know, horse tracks make their money basically in two ways.  First, they take cut of all wagered money then distribute the rest as payouts.  Second, and probably a larger portion of their business, is based on the number of people attending.  This includes the entry fee ($7 normally, though I had a Groupon that gave me entrance, a program and $10 worth of food for $10) and of course concessions.  This includes quite reasonable food and drink costs, especially when compared to other sporting venues.


How To Make Money Horse Racing

Wagering to make money, or at least have as much fun per dollar as possible

Wagering to make money, or at least have as much fun per dollar as possible

Now, how you can make money at the track is through wagering.  There are the 3 main types of bet, namely placing a bet that a horse will finish first, in the top two, or in the top 3 called betting to win, place, and show, respectively.  However, you can also do exotic things like the Pick 4 (picking the winning horse of 4 consecutive races) trifecta (picking the first three horses in order), the superfecta (same as the trifecta, but for 4 horses), and really any combination of these bets.  Most of those bets have very high payouts, but generally the odds are against you.  As in most cases, the more complex things are, they worse they are for you to play.


Important Reminders

One of the things that people forget sometimes, is that just like poker, betting on horse racing is a zero sum game (in fact it is a minus sum game).  The track doesn’t care who wins, they just want folks to have a good time.  Some bets are Totally Money.  Others, not so much.  So look around and see who your competition is.  This leads us to some tips for the track:

  • Do study.  This may mean looking at the program, or going into more detail by buying the Daily Racing Form and looking for trends and trying to divine the winner from past performances.  This gives you something to do between races, and usually offers better odds than picking the winner based on the color of horse or what the jockey is wearing.  Granted, you can usually have more fun just betting on the jockey wearing pink.  This is just like other sports as well.  If you want to bet on soccer or football, you need to study and understand the odds.  Sites like can help you analyze this for many different sports.
  • Don’t drink excessively.  Feel free to imbibe to whatever level you want, just realize that you generally won’t make good decisions while drunk.  So if you’re going for a good time go at it, if you’re trying to win money, stay sober and alert.
  • Do have fun.  Go with friends or family.  Have fun while you’re there.  Remember that this is a form of entertainment for the vast majority, and you likely won’t be among the ½ percent of people trying to make a living at the track.
  • Don’t bet more than you can lose.  There is a lot of chance in racing.  Bad starts happen all the time, the jockey may not know the horse well and run them too soon.  The horse you have money on may get bumped to the outside.  Expect to lose money, so don’t put the rent on that “lock of the week” or the sure thing.

Readers, what are your experiences at the racing track, casino, or other betting venues?  Do you bets excessively and try to beat the house, or do you bet the minimums and are just there for a good time?

About Karl

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