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Learn to Bet on Horse Racing: Playing the Chaos Odds Board

Fans inspect the horses in the Keeneland paddock on Toyota Blue Grass Stakes day April 8. (Eclipse Sportswire)

By: Tom Amello

Folks drawn for the first time to a day of Thoroughbred racing lack a clear understanding of how to win and have fun wagering. Many will attend big-race days and encounter a card of 12-14 races. Our “Playing the Odds: The Tote Board as Gateway to the Game” concept instructs, informs, and empowers new fans to win and have fun.

In previous installments, we profiled the “Monster Board,” the “Two-Headed Monster Board,” and the “Balanced Board.”

The no-favorite “Chaos Odds Board” is the final type. At the racetrack, Chaos leans toward the unpredictable and the random. When the betting public, for lack of compelling opinion, fails to sort the field with respect to favoritism, chaos reigns. This Chaos Board presents no clear betting favorite, with three runners at similar odds. No runner will be 2-1 or less. In this case, the Board is out of balance, hence chaos.

Strategy for Playing the Chaos Odds Board:

Every racetrack employs a morning-line oddsmaker whose job is to predict and project how the crowd will bet on the race. The oddsmaker “grades” the field in ascending order from favorite to longest shot. The line informs bettors as to which horses they are “expected” to prefer. The intent is to drive wagering. The oddsmaker’s job is to be correct about the post-time favorite as often as possible, and the good ones are. This factor plays into the simple strategies for wagering into a Chaos Board. (Note that experienced players view the morning-line differently, but that is a discussion for another time.)

Example of a Trackside odds Chaos Board – note the 1,5,6 horses are similar odds
1)  5-24) 10-17) 27-1
2)  24-15) 3-18)  8-1
3)  6-16) 4-19) 13-1
  1. The strategy is to wager against the similarly priced favorite, secomnd choice and third choice.
  2. The Chaos Board is an opportunity to place small win bets on long-odds fourth, fifth, or even sixth choice runners. At long odds, it’s OK to bet more than one horse to win. It’s a chaos race.
  3. Of the three similar short-priced horses, the predicted morning-line favorite is more likely to win or finish in the money on the reliability of the track’s paid line maker. Being right is the job.
  4. An exacta box using the horse or horses bet to win with the morning-line favorite is the next play.

THE WAGERS for the above Odds Board:

  • Win bet 3, 8 and possibly 4
  • Exacta box 1,3,8 or 1,3,4,8

Race 2 from Gulfstream Park on April 7, 2023, presented bettors with a Chaos Board. Below are DRF graded entries listed from favorite to longshot. The linemaker saw no clear favorite. The #3 Kukaro was a horse the linemaker believed would be supported by the crowd to favoritism.


As this field of nine went to post, #3 Kukaro was 5-2, #6 was 3-1 and #1 She’s a Gift was bet as the 2-1 post-time favorite. In this short field of 6, the situation called for the win bet on #4 Disco Queen and perhaps #2 Provocative, as well as an exacta box 2-3-4. The win wager returned $12.80; the exacta play failed.

In conclusion, informed and empowered with these understandings of the Odds Board, new fans lacking knowledge of how to win and have fun at the track have a plan to do so.


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Last updated: February, 2024

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