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When you progress from straight bets to exotic bets, Exacta bets make for a good entry point. In Exacta, you select two horses and predict their winning order. 

Exacta Bet Horse Racing

Other exotic bets, such as Trifecta and the like, are very similar to Exacta, except that you choose more horses and their order. This is why Exacta is considered the immediate next step after mastering straight bets. 

Exacta Bet vs. Quinella Bet

When you are trying to understand Exacta, it is important to understand the difference between Exacta and Quinella. In Exacta, you are betting on two horses and their exact order. So if you bet on horse A and horse B, A must come first and B must come second. Only then you can collect your payout. 

In Quinella, you also bet on two horses, but you do not predict the exact order. A and B only have to finish in the first two positions; first or second place does not matter. 

Types of Exacta Bets

Selecting two horses and their exact order is not easy. There are many factors at play, and as a smart bettor, you want to secure your chance of winning. How do you do that? By betting on different types of Trifecta. 

Straight Exacta Betting

As the name suggests, this is the simplest form of exacta. The bet is placed on only two horses to win and place the horses in a precise order. 

Let’s assume that the minimum wage is $2, and you are betting on horse #2 and horse #5. The betting slip will reflect $2 Exacta (2-5). This shows that the bet is placed on horses #2 and #5 and that horse #2 is predicted to place first, while horse #5 is predicted to place second.

Exacta Box Betting

Boxing an Exacta is an easy way to secure your winning. Boxing lets your selected horses come in any order and still win. 

But in this case, isn’t boxing Exacta the same as Quinella then? Yes and no. The difference is when you make a Quinella bet, the cost will be $2. In box Exacta, you will bet on different combinations, which will increase your cost to $4. 

Higher cost also means higher payout. Your payout amount is likely to be higher in box Exacta compared to Quinella. 

Taking the same wager amount and horses from the previous example, your Exacta slip will reflect your horse numbers and all possible combinations: 

$4 (#2 and #5) 

#2 Win-#5 Place 

#5 Win-#2 Place

If this was a Quinella slip, it would just read $2 with #2 and #5.

Exacta box also lets you bet on more than two horses to finish in the first two positions. Let’s say you add horse #7 to your narrowed list. Your possible combinations will be: 

#2 Win-#7 Place

#2 Win-#5 Place

#5 Win-#7 Place

#5 Win-#2 Place

#7 Win-#5 Place

#7 Win-#2 Place

As you can see, there are six combinations, so your cost will be $2*6 = $12. 

With every added horse, your cost compounds. You must do a cost-benefit analysis when you consider adding horses to your selection. 

Exacta Wheel Betting

This type of betting is also known as the Exacta key. Under this bet, the bettor covers the prime horses in the first position and the rest in the second position. There are two types.

Full Wheel: When the bettor selects a horse for the first position and remaining for the second position, it is called the full wheel. 

For example, in a race of six horses, horse #1 is selected by the bettor for the first position. The rest are placed in the second position, so the combinations will be five in all, and the cost will be $2*5, which is $10. 

The crosses will be:

#1 Win-#2 Place

#1 Win-#3 Place

#1 Win-#4 Place

#1 Win-#5 Place

#1 Win-#6 Place

Part Wheel: With this option, the bettor selects one horse for first place and a few for second. 

For example, suppose in a race of six horses that you choose horse #1 for the first position, and the other three horses (#2, #3, #4) are placed at the second position, then the combinations will be three in all, and the cost will be $2*3 = $6. The crosses will be:

#1 Win-#2 Place

#1 Win-#3 Place

#1 Win-#4 Place

In either of the above, the bettor can select more than one horse for first and second. This increases the number of the combinations and the probability of winning the bet. 

The Exacta wheel is one of the most opted types and rightly so. It gives a chance to cover more horses with less combinations and, hence, reduces the cost. 

How Much Does an Exacta Bet Cost?

We already went through some examples and their respective costs in the previous section. The cost of these bets depends on the number of combinations you bet on. There is a minimum wager, usually either $1 or $2. This is multiplied by the number of combinations you bet on. 

Another thing you should know is that if you find #1 and #1A on the screen while placing the bet, you will get both horses at the price of one. This is called an entry. It happens when the horses that participate in the race are trained by one trainer. 

What Are the Payouts for an Exacta Bet?

Like in other exotic bets, the payout for Exacta is calculated using the pari-mutuel system. Here, all the stake money is collated into a prize pool. All the winning tickets draw their share from this prize pool. It is pretty simple as a concept, however, predicting your payout money can be really difficult. 

Let’s say there are 1,000 tickets bought for straight exacta for $2 each. The prize pool is $2,000. Fifty tickets got it right, meaning they selected the finishing horses and their order correctly. 

Each winning ticket will get $2000/50, which is $40. There will be some deductions from this $40. Organizers, tracks, and collectors all get their share from this pool money, as well. 

Be Smart About Your Exacta Bets

Referring to our payout example from the previous section. if you just had one ticket for $2, and you got it right, you would have won ~$40 for just an investment of $2. However, you now know that that’s easier said than done. Do not lose hope; we will leave you with some tips to help you get started. Over time, you will get smarter about betting from better analysis and experience. 

  • When you are just starting out, choose easier bets even if the payout is less. Instead of spending $4 on a box Exacta, go for a $2 Quinella. When you start getting it right, spend the extra $2 and have your chance at the bigger payout. 
  • You will not win big if you choose the favorite. Think about the payout pool system you just learned and consider how many tickets you will have to share with if you win on an obvious choice. Choose races where you think the winner is not obvious; go against the herd mentality. 
  • Start with part wheels. Unless you are extremely sure of some of your choices, maximizing coverage and reducing costs should be your goal. Part wheels help you do that. 

With this foundational knowledge, you are now equipped to get started! It is very common to lose in these bets; invest only what will allow you to have fun even if you are losing. 

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Last updated: February, 2024

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