guide to betting on the toteThe Tote is the name of the betting pool service that operates at horse and greyhound racecourses across the UK. It was established in 1929 and is the only main alternative to fixed odds betting that is available from ‘high street’ bookmakers such as William Hill, Ladbrokes, Stan James and Coral.

The Tote is also the home of some of the more interesting betting formats such as Placepot, Scoop6, Jackpot as well as a way to place more familiar bets such as win, each way and forecasts. Below is a guide to the different types of bets available…

The Tote is a pool betting system, which means that all the stake money on a particular type of bet on a particular race gets pooled together and then divided out to the winners after deductions are made. For example, if £5,000 is staked on win bets in the 3.20 at Southwell, then the pool of prize money will be £5,000. The Tote takes a deduction from this pool to cover their costs of running the bets and their contributions to horse racing, this depends on the bet type but is somewhere around 15%. So after this deduction there is £4,250 in the prize pool (£5,000 minus 15%). After the race is run it turns out that £880 was staked on the winner. The prize pool (£4,250) is divided by the £880 of winning stake money, which works out at a return of £4.83 for every £1 staked. So someone who bet £5 on that winning horse will receive £24.15 including their stake back, so the final odds work out at just under 4/1. This might be lower than the odds offered through traditional fixed odds bookmakers, or sometimes it might be higher…it just depends on the luck of the draw and what the majority of the people chose at the Tote that day.

Win Bet

These work in the same way as any other basic horse racing bet, but there are a few differences to look out for. The first point to consider is that the final odds that a winning bet will pay out on is only finalised after the race has won. The odds you see on Tote screens before you place a bet is only really a guideline, and they change as the betting changes. Tote odds are shown as decimal odds too, which is different to the fractional odds you may be used to in fixed odds betting shops. For example, instead of 2/1 the odds will be shown as 3.0 as your stake is included in the odds shown. So, bet £1 on a 2/1 horse and win £3. Bet £1 on a 3.0 decimal odds horse and win £3. More information about how odds work is available in our guide to horse racing odds.

When considering a single win bet on the Tote try and find out what the odds are in a fixed odds bookmaker too. If BetFred have a shop at the racecourse and are offering 5/1 on your horse then use them if the Tote is only advising 5.0 as your winnings are likely to be more with BetFred.

NB: The minimum bet available on a Tote single win is usually £2 at the racecourse.

Place Bet

This works similar to a Win bet but you are instead backing a horse to place, and as such the odds offered will be lower than a Win bet. Place bets are available on the Tote for races with 5 or more runners. If there are 5 to 7 runners then a place result is available if your horse finished 1st or 2nd. If there are 8 or more runners then a place is 1st, 2nd or 3rd. In Handicap races with 8 or more runners then a place is 1st to 4th position. You have a better chance of winning a Place bet, but your returns will be lower as the risk is less than a Win bet and the pool is likely to be divided between more winning stakes than a Win bet.

The minimum stake is usually £2 for Tote Place bets.

Each Way Bet

Works the same as an each way bet in with other bookmakers, but this time a Win bet and a Place bet are placed together to make the Each Way bet at the Tote. Each way bets are available on races with 5 or more runners and the minimum stake is £2 again.

Exacta & Reverse Exacta

This is the Tote’s name for a Forecast bet, which is explained in more detail on our article about Forecasts & Tricasts.

With an Exacta you are choosing 2 horses to finish in 1st and 2nd place, and this type of bet is available in all races with 3 or more runners. The minimum stake is £2.

You can also place a Reverse Exacta bet – this is in fact two bets so your stake is doubled, and it allows you to win if the 2 horses you chose came 1st and 2nd between them, in any order. You can place a £1 Reverse Exacta to meet the Tote minimum bet amount of £2 as that bet will cost £2 (2 x £1).

Trifecta & Reverse Trifecta Bets

Works on the same basis as the Exacta bet, only this time you are choosing 3 horses to finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd in a precise order. This bet is usually only available on races with 8 or more runners. The minimum stake is £2, as usual with the Tote.

A Reverse Trifecta allows your 3 horses to share 1st, 2nd and 3rd between them in any order. This bet is made up of 6 bets however, to cover the 6 possible outcomes between the 3 horses. So a £1 Reverse Trifecta will cost you £6. You can do a 35p Reverse Trifecta instead, which will cost £2.10 (6 x 35p).

Getting a winning Trifecta is a very long shot indeed, but the rewards are usually very big if you manage it.


Ah, the Placepot…we have to admit to having a real soft spot for the Placepot, so much so that it is the first bet we look for when planning a trip to a racecourse or looking for something to hold our interest through a Saturday afternoon. Many professional punters will argue that Placepots (and Multiples, Jackpots, etc) are only for the mugs, and that may be so, but what’s a pound or two here or there on a Placepot in the grand scheme of things? When you get one up it is a real thrill, and when you get over £100 back in your hand for every £1 staked (as the payouts often are) then it can pay for your day at the races, and all the drinks, and the taxi home.

That said, if you get a Placepot up where all the favourites have placed then you might be upset to find out that your returns are only £10. They can be less than this too. Here’s a list of Placepot pay-outs (for £1 staked) as officially listed on August 31st in recent years:

Bath – £1,158.90
Beverley – £10.40
Chester – £14.80
Killarney (Ireland) – 2,252.40 Euros
Market Rasen – £78.10
Newton Abbot – £60.80
Sandown – £346.70

Happy Days if you got it up at Bath, Killarney or Sandown, still cheering at Market Rasen and Newton Abbot, but well miffed if you were at Beverley or Chester.

Placepots are available at every race meeting in the UK, and they operate across the first 6 races on the card. You MUST place your Placepot bet before the first race starts, if you miss it then you will have to try another meeting or have a go with 4 of your selections in the Quadpot (see further below).

To place a Placepot bet you have to select a horse in every race that you think will get a place. As usual, places are 1st or 2nd in races with 5 to 7 runners, and 1st, 2nd or 3rd in races with 8 or more runners. If a race has 4 or less runners then you need your horse to win. The minimum stake at a Tote counter is £2 for a Placepot, but you can choose more than 1 horse in any (or all) of the races though to increase your chances of winning, but the total amount of your stake can get very expensive if you do this more than a couple of times. This is called perm betting. If you choose more than just the minimum of one horse in each race then your stake will be worked out by multiplying the number of selections in each race. The number you are left with here is then multiplied by your stake. Here’s a couple of examples:

You choose two horses in the first race, two in the second, 1 horse in the third, fourth and fifth race, and then 2 in the sixth. Multiplying this many selections will look like 2 x 2 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 2 = 8. If your stake is £2 then your bet will cost £16 (8 x £2). That might be too rich, so you can reduce your stake down to a smaller value (e.g. 25p) as long as the actual total amount you stake adds up to £2 or more at the course Tote.

See what happens if you choose 2 horses in each race:

2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 64
64 x £2 stake = £128

Yeah, a bit too big, and you’d be gutted if only one of your lines came up and the Placepot only returned £10 per £1 staked….you’d lose £108. But you might get 10 lines up on a Placepot that returns £100 to each £1 staked….you’d get £1,000 back in your hand. Our advice is to treat the Placepot as a fun bet, that every now and again might come up, and every now and again might pay for a really good night out. Don’t view these as get rich quick bets, because they aren’t. If you bet on a budget, and want to back 2 horses in every race in your Placepot then make the stake the minimum for perms, which is 10p. That Placepot total stake will only be £6.40, and if a few of your lines land then you can still make a nice profit.

That said, we have found that going for 4 races with one horse picked and 2 horses in the other two races is about right for us as a £1 stake only costs £4 and you will nearly always be in profit if you get at least 1 line up. It’s a personal thing, but give it a go, it gets very exciting when you have 5 out of 5 places and the last race starts.

It can also be really, really annoying when your Placepot is bust after the first race…so keep that in mind.

NB: You can place a Placepot bet with any major bookmaker; you do not have to be at a Tote kiosk at a racecourse. You can do this on their websites, or walk into a shop and fill out a placepot coupon. The minimum stake in betting shops is much lower than the £2 that the Tote insist on, and you can place a Placepot with 1 horse in each race for as little as 10p if you so desire. This just means that if you win then you will get 10% of the winnings declared as being returned to a £1 stake (e.g. Placepot pays out £100 to the £1, so you get £10 back for your 10p).

Jackpot Bet

This is similar to the Placepot, but also hugely different. Ok, not a very helpful comment, but let me explain…

Like the Placepot, you need to choose at least one horse in each of the first 6 races at the specified Jackpot daily race meeting, but this time you need all of your horses to WIN!

Each day, one race meet is nominated as the Jackpot meeting, and if you are in a betting shop then the racecard on the wall will have red markings around it and the Tote Jackpot branding will be obvious. If you can get the Jackpot up then you really will have hit the jackpot as the prize fund for this bet rolls over from day to day if it is not won, and Jackpot wins of hundreds of thousands of pounds, even a million have happened a number of times in the last couple of years.

It is a fun bet, nothing else; there is no strategy that can be employed to try and increase your chances of winning the Jackpot…you need to pick 6 winners out of 6 races at a specified meeting, so good luck with that. The heart races though when if you get to 4 out of 4….not sure what it feels like after 5 out of 5, but one day, maybe!

As with everything to do with Tote betting, the minimum stake is £2, but you can use perms in the same way as the Placepot bet to choose more than 1 horse in each race and the minimum of 10p per perm applies as long as your total stake is at least £2. It goes without saying that you have to place your Jackpot bet before the start of the first race.

You can also enter the Jackpot in any bookmakers shop or website, and you can enter with 1 horse per race for a minimum stake of 50p in shops, instead of £2 at Tote windows.


Exactly the same as the Placepot but only operates across 4 races on the racecard, and this is usually races three, four, five and six. The Quadpot was likely to have been designed to catch punters who lose their Placepots in the first two races and want to keep their selections in play for the following four races.

Pick a horse to place in the 4 specified races, or more than one horse if you want to make it a perm bet.

The Quadpot operates at pretty much every meeting, and the minimum stake can be as low as £1 on course. You can also place a Quadpot in any bookmaker shop.

The returns are lower than if you win the Placepot, but can still be quite handy. Here are the Quadpot returns for our August 31st example (per £1 staked):

Bath – £141.20
Beverley – £4.80
Chester – £4.00
Killarney (Ireland) – not available in Ireland
Market Rasen – £9.90
Newton Abbot – £27.60
Sandown – £148.60

A mixed bag, two of them are great, one is OK, and the other 3 are not much to write home about, but profit is profit. Again, we see these as fun bets, and no trip to the track happens without a couple of these being placed.