The thrill of the race has been known to man since time immemorial, if we go by the chariot races of the Romans, or the famous race between the steeds of Norsk god Odin and the giant Hrungnir.
The thundering hooves, the sculpted forms flying along the track, and the yells of triumph and disappointment form an intoxicating elixir that has drawn people to the races over centuries and millennia. Already, the emotions invested in the race are extremely high. It is only logical that people, then, should opt to invest more than merely their emotions in the race. This is what brings us to the origins of betting. In horse racing, greyhound racing and all other sports where participants finish in ranks, the betting system followed is called pari-mutuel betting. The word "pari-mutuel" comes from a French phrase meaning "mutual stake". This already gives us one basic rule about the process - the betting pool comes from the total amount of money wagered, and the money won is calculated as a percentage of this quantity after deducting the taxes and house "take". Needless to say, the probability of getting a winning bet is maximized if you bet on the most likely contender, but winnings are the highest when an unknown or unlikely candidate - also known as the "dark horse" - takes the win. There are several methods of placing bets in pari-mutuel betting, some of which are - • Win - the wager is placed on the animal that wins the race. • Exacta, perfecta, or exactor - the bettor places a wager on two animals, declaring which will finish first and which second. The result has to be an exact match for a winning bet. If this is carried on to the winning three or four animals, the bet is known as Trifecta or Superfecta.• Place - the wager is placed on an animal that finishes either first or second.• Quinella- This is very similar to the exacta bet, except that the bettor need not specify the order in which the top two animals appear• Show - the animal that has been wagered on must finish first, second or third.• Duet - The bettor picks out two animals, and wagers that they will both be placed among the top three.• Double - the bettor wagers on the animal he thinks will win two successive races. This is called a 'running' double or a 'rolling' double. If this is extended to three or four successive races, it is called a Triple or a Quadrella(also called "Quaddie").• Box - bettors place multiple wagers, on all possible combinations of a group of animals in the same race. • Key - the bettor picks one animal to be in a specific position, and a number of other animals to be placed in any combination around it. This is also a multiple wager, and carries the associated higher cost. • Bets are divided into "straight bets" and "exotic bets". Win, show and place are counted among the former, while all others are classed as "exotic bets". That gets you started with some basic bets for dog racing and horse racing. Certain tracks may have their own specific bets or names for bets, but with these under your belt you can get ready for a nail-biting thriller at the racetrack.