Your Comprehensive Guide to Tote Betting

Updated: 6133 Learning

Understand Tote betting: Our guide walks you through the nuances, tips, and strategies for pool betting success.

Your Comprehensive Guide to Tote Betting
Steve Madgwick Editor-In-Chief

Editor-In-Chief with 20 years experience covering the betting angles to breaking news stories. Daily slots player, Portsmouth fan and League Snooker Player

Eager to edge the odds in horse racing? Our Tote betting guide unravels the mystery of pool betting, offering you savvy information and fundamental insights. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned punter, you'll find valuable tips to refine your tote betting.

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History Of The Tote

The organisation was founded in 1928 and was set up to provide a safe alternative to illegal gambling and to help fund horse racing.  In 1961 it was renamed the Tote. 

The firm offer pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, which is essentially "pool betting"

All bets are "pooled" together  and the odds are determined by the total amount wagered on each possible outcome, rather than being set by bookmakers. 

Before the dividend (payout) is announced deductions are made which includes the operators cut and taxes.  

Many of their bets are similar to what you can bet on with standard bookmakers (although payouts differ from race to race)  there are several bets that are unique to the Tote. 

The Tote has a strong presence at racecourses throughout the UK although it is also available online, we have comprehensive online review of Tote betting  which will include when available any free bets and bonuses.  

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Type of Tote Bets

So when you are at the racecourse you will notice Tote betting windows, they offer an alternative to the on course bookmakers. You can place a range of bets with the Tote and these are listed below.

Win

Tote win bets are pretty much exactly the same as standard win bets except your bet is settled by the Tote win dividend rather than the fixed odds you’d get at a bookmaker. You may see guide prices from the Tote but remember these are only a guide and the payout/dividend can differ significantly.

A few minutes after the end of the race the Win/Place dividend is declared and it may look something like this:

Beating Or Equalling SP

The Tote will always pay at least SP on Win bets and if the Tote dividend is greater, they will pay out at that price. The promotion applies to Tote Win and win part of each way bets on all UK and Irish races. Terms and Conditions do apply.

Place

The Tote allows you to bet place only unlike many bookmakers. 

Place bets are also settled by a place dividend and this sort of bet can be favourable when a horse consistently runs well without winning or if there is a hot favourite in the race that you think won’t be beaten but you fancy your selection to run well behind it.

The number of places paid reflect standard each way betting terms.

Place Betting

For those of you who have bet place only on a betting exchange you can do exactly the same with the Tote.

Each Way

Simply a combination of bets on the win and place pools, you can check whether it is a 1/4 or 1/5th of the odds on each individual race when adding your horse racing tips

Exacta

An exacta works in much the same way as a forecast bet, you are required to name the first two horses home in a race (in that order).

Forecast Betting

It can be argued that you are more likely to land a forecast than a double as in two separate races you are dealing with two sets of variables whereas since a forecast is on just one race you are dealing with just one set of variables.

Should you wish to name two horses or more to finish first and second in any order you must place a combination exacta, two selections will cost two bets, three selections will cost six bets, four selections would be twelve bets, five selections will be twenty bets and so on.

Alternatively you can place a banker exacta where you specify a horse to finish first and then any number of horses to finish second. 

The number of bets will match the number of horses you back to finish second. 

If you pick a non runner in an exacta your stake is refunded.

The blog below was written by an OLBG.com member who likes forecast betting. 

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Swinger

The Tote Swinger is available on races with six or more runners where you have to name two horses to finish first, second or third. 

Three different dividends are paid on this, 1st and 2nd, 1st and 3rd and 2nd and 3rd. 

The dividends will be very low if you are backing two of the favourites as there are plenty of chances for you to win, but name two bigger priced horses to hit the frame and you’ll find the dividends very favourable.

Trifecta

This bet involves picking the first three home in a race just like a tricast with the bookies. 

Like an exacta, you can place a single (straight), combination or banker tricast. 

The Tote will select certain races with eight runners or more on each card to be eligible for this bet. 

If you pick a non runner in an trifecta your stake is refunded.

Placepot

The placepot is unique to the Tote and involves picking horses to be placed in the first six races on any card. 

You can make multiple selections in each race and the number of lines or bets you have selected can be worked out by multiplying the amount of selections in each race.

Whether a horse needs to win the race, come in the first two, three or four is calculated as follows:

  • Races of 2-4 runners, your horse needs to win.
  • Races of 5-7 runners, your horse needs to come first or second.
  • Races of 8 -15 runners your horse needs to finish first, second or third.
  • Handicap races of 16 or more runners your horse needs to finish in the first four.


The placepot bet is a mainstay when visiting the racetrack as it keeps you involved in that days racing. OLBG Betting Expert - Darren Brett looked into how to win the placepot in the blog below. 

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Placepot7

The Placepot7 is a new pool type which works in the same way as a standard Placepot but with two key differences. It has 7 legs instead of 6 It can be formed from races across multiple different meetings rather than just one, this makes it a “cross-meeting” pool, like the Scoop6.

To win, you must select one or more horses to place in each of the 7 legs according to the place terms of each individual race. 

Quadpot

Very similar to the placepot except you are picking horses to place in the last four races of the placepot.. 

It is aimed at those who feel more comfortable just selecting in four races or those that may have gone out of the placepot in the earlier races. 

Quinella 

Select two horses to finish in either order, this bet is similar to a combination exacta or reverse forecast. 

Jackpot

The same principles apply to the placepot except your horse has to win each race instead of getting placed. 

There is only one Jackpot meeting each day (usually the feature meeting) and if there are no winners the jackpot fund is rolled on to the next day’s Jackpot meeting. 

There is no jackpot meeting on a Saturday because of the Scoop 6.

Scoop6

The Scoop 6 takes place each Saturday and during the major festivals, and is a combination of the Jackpot and Placepot. Six televised races are selected in advance, usually across two or three meetings and those taking part must try and pick the winner of each race. 

The bet costs £2 per line with £1 going on the placepot part of the bet and £1 going towards the win fund. 

The Scoop6 has been known to rollover many times creating huge jackpots. 

Each week there is a bonus race, often the most difficult race on the day’s Scoop6, where winners from the previous week pick one horse in an attempt to win a bonus fund. 

The bonus fund is also rolled over whenever it isn’t won.

When To Bet On The Tote Over Fixed Odds

There is no set formula to this but it can pay to concentrate on the Tote at bigger meetings where there is plenty of on course Tote betting. 

Bigger shock results tend to also be rewarded on Tote as much fewer people predict the correct result. 

In big field handicaps the exacta and trifecta payouts can sometimes double the forecast and tricast payouts, especially when there are a couple of big priced runners hitting the frame.

Here is a random example of win and place on the Tote versus the bookmakers, this data was taken from the opening day of the 2024 flat season at Doncaster. 

Doncaster 23rd March 2024 Tote Win Starting Price
Race1 3 3
Race 2 20.7 17
Race 3 10 9.5
Race 4 5 5
Race 5 42.7 34
Race 6 12.5 11
Race 7 8 8
Race 8 5 5
Share

Tips For Tote Betting

When betting into the Tote pool you have to remember that the more predictable the outcome, the more winners there will be and the lower the dividend will be. On occasions betting on certain Tote bets is not worth the risk. 

For example backing many favourites on the placepot is a risky strategy, one horse running below par can turn your bet into a loser, if all the favourites win the dividend will be very low.

Horse Racing Favourites

In 2023 34% of favourites in the UK won their race, so 66% lost. This is something to remember when filling in your tote placepot slip.

In a given race there may be a short priced favourite that has more potential than any other in the field but also a horse that nearly always runs it’s race and often places. The latter may be better ‘value’ for your placepot as if that places but the favourite doesn’t you will be looking at a much bigger dividend.

 A horse sneaking a place is just as valuable as a ten length winner in the placepot, and that should be remembered when evaluating which horses to pick.

If betting on Tote bets that have bookmaker alternatives (win, each way, exacta and trifecta) it is worth always comparing what you would have won if picking the alternative bet. Keep a record of this and work out which bet would have been more profitable over a year or so.

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Depending on what sort of races you bet in and what priced horses you back you’ll probably find either the Tote bets or the bookmaker bets suit your needs much more than the other one.

There are some great bets on the Tote, there are some not so great bets, it all depends on your style of betting and what sort of horses you pick. Usually it simply takes trial and error to work out the best bets for each individual.

Here is a random example of win and place on the Tote versus the bookmakers

Tote Guide

When it comes to bigger priced outsiders betting on the Tote should always be considered.

The World Pool

The World Pool is a collaboration between the UK Tote and other Tote organisations worldwide, including the Hong Kong Jockey Club. 

Because of this, the World Pools can grow to massive amounts. If you are still deciding about Tote betting or have not partaken before, these days would be an excellent place to start. 

The World Pool is available at selected meetings and races throughout the year; you can see the 2024 lineup below which includes Royal Ascot and the Guineas

You can bet on Tote Win and Place markets + Tote Swinger, Quinella, Exacta and Trifecta. 

 

January
Saturday 27: Cape Town Met Day – Kenilworth Racecourse 
February
Saturday 24: Blue Diamond Stakes Day – Caulfield Racecourse
Saturday 24: Saudi Cup Race Day – King Abdulaziz Racecourse 
March
Saturday 30: Australian Cup Day – Flemington Racecourse
Saturday 30: Tancred Stakes Day – Rosehill Gardens Racecourse 
Saturday 30: Dubai World Cup Day – Meydan Racecourse 
April
Saturday 6: South African Derby Day – Turffontein Racecourse
Saturday 13: Queen Elizabeth Stakes Day – Randwick Racecourse 
May
Saturday 4: 2000 Guineas Day – Newmarket Racecourse 
Sunday 5: 1000 Guineas Day – Newmarket Racecourse
Saturday 18: Lockinge Stakes Day – Newbury Racecourse 
Sunday 26: Irish 1000 Guineas Day – Curragh Racecourse 
June
Saturday 1: Derby Stakes Day – Epsom Racecourse 
Saturday 8: Gold Challenge – Greyville Racecourse 
Tuesday 18: King’s Stand Stakes Day – Ascot Racecourse 
Wednesday 19: Prince of Wales’s Stakes Day – Ascot Racecourse 
Thursday 20: Gold Cup Day – Ascot Racecourse 
Friday 21: Commonwealth Cup Day – Ascot Racecourse 
Saturday 22: Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes – Ascot Racecourse 
Sunday 30: Irish Derby Day – Curragh Racecourse 


FAQ

  • What is Tote Betting

    Tote betting is betting into a pool as opposed to fixed odds bookmaker betting. 

    All individual tote bets on a horse are pooled together, and the payout is determined by the size of the pool and the number of winning tickets made on the horse. 

    The more people who back the winner, the lower the winning dividend.

    The fewer people who back the winner, the higher the winning dividend.

  • What type of bets are available on the Tote

             

    Exacta
    Jackpot
    Placepot
    Quadpot
    Scoop 6
    Swinger
    Trifecta

  • Can I place Tote Bets online

    Yes, you can; go to the tote review page and follow the links to the Tote.  

  • Is Tote Betting better than fixed odds?

    At times it can be, there are often larger payouts than fixed odds, especially when there are longshot winners. The Tote placepot can give you an interest in all races and the Tote jackpot can give you a life changing win.

  • How are the Tote payouts calculated?

    The odds are calculated by how much is bet on each horse. The more bet on a horse, the shorter the Tote odds, and on the reverse, the less bet on a horse, the longer the Tote odds. 

  • What is the Tote Guarantee?

    This means you will never be paid less than the returned Starting Price when you bet with the Tote.

    So, let's say the Tote dividend is £6.00, but the starting price is 13/2 (7.5). The Tote will bump up your winnings so they are equal to the starting price; that is the Tote guarantee.

     


Responsible Gambling

Whether betting with the Tote or traditional bookmakers we advise that you always gamble responsibly. The OLBG Betting Experts have created articles that cover this subject. 

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Author

OLBG betting experts Steve Madgwick and Nigel Skinner created and formatted this Tote betting article. The information was sourced from various providers, including the Tote website.

Steve Madgwick

Steve Madgwick

Editor-in-chief

Steve is our Editor-In-Chief with over 20 years of experience creating and managing high-quality sports betting content for OLBG & multiple other publications. An avid traveller, Steve has lived and worked in Gozo, Malta, and more recently Spain before moving back to the UK in 2022. Today Steve manages all content on OLBG and oversees our SEO. He was brought up with horse racing, attending tracks in the South East, most frequently, Goodwood, Fontwell and Brighton, and his knowledge of online slot games is unrivalled. 

.👨‍🏫 Specialist Subjects🔬📚

🎱🏆 Steve is first a foremost a snooker nut, with a dedicated screen in the office for ensuring every event is showing when televised. A regular visitor to The Crucible for the World Championships, his favourite players are Dominic Dale and Judd Trump having followed the latter since seeing him play aged just 11. Fascinated with Statistics and the sport in general, he is also an amateur league player with a high break of 72

⚽ A Portsmouth fan for 40 years, Steve has seen action in every Division of English football and followed his team to Europe and the FA Cup final twice. 

🏇 A former leading horse racing tipster on OLBG, those days are long gone, but he still lives for National Hunt racing and of course the Cheltenham Festival.

Nigel Skinner

Nigel Skinner

Blog content manager

Nigel is one of OLBG's senior editors with 19 years of industry experience. Today he specialises in researching and writing about the betting angles to political and mainstream news stories and being the OLBG in-house expert on 'next football manager' betting markets.

Specialist Subjects🔬📚

⚽️👨‍💼 Nigel is an Arsenal fan first and foremost but has an unrivalled knowledge of English football managers at every level. Meticulously putting together our Next Manager articles, Nigel can quite possibly name you every manager of every club in the land, not to mention a pretty good eye for predicting replacements when changes happen. 

📈📊📉 A long-time exchange trader and spread betting fan, Nigel is our go-to for advice on the subjects and uses them daily in his own betting activity. 

🗳️💼 Finally, Nigel loves his politics and [some would say] has an unhealthy interest in the day-to-day events in the UK's political landscape, contributing to all our Political betting content and new pieces.

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