The term “pari-mutuel” is French in origin, from the term for “mutual wager.” It defines a system in which bets of a particular type are grouped together in a pool. After taxes and overhead costs are deducted, payoffs are calculated by sharing the pool among all winning wagers.

In the pari-mutuel system, odds on a given horse or exotic combination (such as an exacta or trifecta) are determined by the amount wagered on each entity, as opposed to being established by the house. Thus, the more money wagered on a horse, the lower that horse’s odds.

The minimum allowable amount for “straight” (win, place and show) wagers is $2. The minimum for “exotic” wagers ranges from 10 cents to $1. Here are the explanations of the different types of wagers offered at Tampa Bay Downs.


Win – When you bet a horse to win, you collect if your horse finishes first.

Place – When you bet a horse to place, you collect if your horse finishes first or second.

Show – When you bet a horse to show, you collect if your horse finishes first, second or third.

Across the Board – This is a wager on a horse to win, place and show. You receive win, place and show payouts if your horse wins; place and show payouts if your horse finishes second; and the show payout if your horse finishes third. Because you are actually placing three wagers, the minimum bet is $6.


Daily Double – To win the Daily Double, you must choose the winners of two consecutive races.

Exacta – To win an exacta bet, you must choose the two horses finishing first and second in exact order.

Trifecta – You must choose the first three finishers in their exact order of finish. 

Superfecta – You must choose the first four finishers in their exact order of finish.

Super High-5 – You must pick the first five finishers in their exact order of finish. When no bettor does so, the amount wagered is carried over to the following day’s Super High-5 pool.

Pick-3 – You must choose the winner of three consecutive races.

Pick-4 – You must choose the winner of four consecutive races.

Pick-5 – You must choose the winner of five consecutive races. If the Pick-5 is not hit, Tampa Bay Downs pays out for four correct picks and a portion of the pool carries over to the next day. 


Most people have a lucky number, a favorite color and an eye for a jockey who looks as if they know the ropes. So, what’s to keep you from acting on those impulses

Answer: absolutely nothing!

One of our long-time customers named Bernie, who has forgotten as much about scientific handicapping as 98 percent of the public will learn, always bet on a popular horse named Bernie Blue, who won the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore Stakes on Florida Cup Day in 2005.

Even when Bernie Blue got a little long in the tooth, losing his last several starts at Tampa Bay Downs, our Bernie stayed loyal. “I’d be (upset) if he won and I didn’t play him!” he explained.

Hunch bets are for people who know anything can happen in a race; people looking for one “plus factor” on a long shot’s ledger; and people who enjoy telling true tales about their big scores for days, weeks or even years later.

We know people who play the same numbers religiously in their exacta and trifecta wagers, and others who always bet a horse whose jockey wears orange silks. Some bettors refuse to consider wagering on hunches as a matter of principle, but we encourage you to follow your inner voice and keep things fun. You never can tell when a hunch bet is going to pay off big.


To a first-time visitor, betting terminology can sound intimidating. But there is no reason newcomers can’t walk away with a profit. Tampa Bay Downs is considered one of the most bettor-friendly Thoroughbred tracks in the country, due to its low takeout rates (the percentage deducted from each wager to cover taxes and administrative costs) and an average field size of more than eight horses a race.To purchase a ticket, give the clerk the following information:

• The track you want to bet and race number; 
• The amount you want to bet; 
• The type of bet you want to make (example: win, place or show);
• The program number(s) of the horse(s) you want to bet on – never refer to the horse’s name.

Example: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 4, $2 to win on #8.

Remember to check your tickets before leaving the window, and don’t throw away any tickets until the result of the race is official!

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