Place and Show Betting

Place and Show Betting

I remember reading somewhere in one of the late, great Huey Mahl’s writings – where he was quoting one of his mentors (Lou Holloway was it??) – that (to paraphrase) “the best bet in racing is a bet to place on a super solid horse that fits the race and looks set to run his best today.”

In the current race-betting world of exotics up-the-kazoo – of every kind imaginable – the lowly place and show bets have been all but forgotten. ‘Bragging rights’ type bettors (which, really, make up the largest percentage) have relegated these wagers to little old grandmothers, or newbies trying to cash a ticket – any ticket!

These wagers aren’t glamorous, and they aren’t flashy; however, I think a re-evaluation of place and show betting is long overdue.

There are a couple of factors that play a significant part in deciding whether or not place and show betting is a good fit for you;

1. Do you play where rebates are offered?
2. Are you in the game for the long-term, and are stable profits and low-risk of prime concern?

The remainder of this discussion will assume that at least #2 above is true.

Betting place and show is obviously less risky than win betting (and far less risky than the various forms of exotics wagering), and will get you a higher hit rate. The other side of the coin is that in order to make it profitable, you definitely need to maintain that very high hit rate while at the same time avoiding the ‘minus-pool’ type payoffs of $2.10 and $2.20.

As well, in order to get your wagers up high enough to garner significant profits, you’ll need to restrict yourself to major tracks on major circuits (or the special big-name stakes race days at the smaller tracks) where the pool size will support higher wager amounts without payouts being much affected.

In order to get to these bet levels, and because the hit rate can be maintained (if you are sharp) at a much higher level – a player should be willing to accept a bit more risk, and can incorporate parlays and/or mild progressions into their money-management approach.

This is not an area where one can get sloppy with the bankroll. Protecting the bankroll is still – and always – the #1 concern.

When wagering on lower odds horses in the back slots, a relatively short collection of historical data (the results of your own betting) will serve to provide a close and adequately accurate projection of what you can expect in the future. With payoffs from $2.80 to $6.00 (according to whether place or show betting), a test of a hundred or so races will be solid for predicting purposes.

Even though the tracks seem to be offering every kind of bet imaginable, they still don’t offer place and show Pick 3s, or Pick 4s etc.. Even if they did, you’d be stuck with the currently less-than-acceptable rules for where your money goes when a scratch occurs after the series has started.

Place and show parlays put you back in control – you choose the races you want to play (you don’t have to accept the tracks pre-defined series of races) – and you can modify the wager even after you are into the series.

It’s likely that some of you are already serious place and show bettors. For the rest of you, even if you don’t currently bet place and show, there are circumstances where it can save your game!

Have you ever been in a losing streak?! Duh! . . . Sure, we all have. The bankroll declines, the psyche is negatively affected, decision making goes out of whack, second guessing begins, the whole “black snowball” effect starts to exert itself.

There is no better way to break this ugly cycle – and quickly – than to drop back to place and show betting for awhile. You immediately start cashing tickets, things begin to look a bit rosier right away, a couple of good 3 or 4 race parlays changes the ebbing of the bankroll, and voila! – You’ve successfully short-circuited what might have become a very bad and lengthy down-turn if you’d stuck with win and exotics betting.

What kind of horse should you bet to place or show?

If you’re running parlays and/or progressions, you do not want to risk higher-odds horses very often. You really need to set some tight filters, and demand that your prospective wager horse passes through those filters. Remember, the hit rate is crucial, so you just don’t want to mess around too much with horses you ‘think’ might run well, if they can overcome obvious negatives.

As well, your choice still needs to return a decent price in the place or show slot. You don’t want to be on the glaringly obvious figure horse that will go off at 2/5, or 1/2 or so.

You should develop a profile for specific race types – and of the horses who have all the best going for them in today’s race. You want super-solid types that, barring unforeseen racing luck, won’t often disappoint when given today’s conditions and probable pace scenario.

Develop this place or show specific handicapping that has the above-mentioned filters and restrictive factor requirements – and you will have added an important element (I’d even say “crucial” element) to your race betting.


If you are a place or show bettor, or a win bettor that most often wagers on the lower odds horses that figure to be solid contenders – our P3+ software can really increase your bottom line profits. Not overstating here – this software coupled with even a small edge on the game can take you to professional level relatively quickly.

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  1. Once I start to lose I immediately drop back to basics. I hate to grind out easy money as it is not as exciting as a good score.
    But I think the good lord makes you go that way to regain your focus. Other wise when you have to much money you tend to do to many stupid things. We all have egos and think we can play by the seat of our pants. Maybe when you have been drinking you think that way. But reality is what you see in the mirror the next morning. My old coach would say can you live with loosen.If not put your Helmet on and get back in the Game.
    Paul in PA.

    • Paul – thanks. The first sentence of your comment is one of the real keys to successful betting. It’s a psychological game at base. Confidence builds on itself – as does loss of confidence. Calling a race correctly – even if just enough to cash a show ticket – will set the sub-concious back on a positive track. The amounts involved are far less important than the repeated act of meeting a challenge and succeeding. Then the next key is being able to condense time, and see the challenge as long-term thereby not getting perturbed (neither “on a high,” nor “on tilt”) at race-to-race, and day-to-day results. – Gary

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