Pool betting is great way to test your knowledge by betting against other players and bettors rather than the sportsbook. All the money wagered by bettors is collected into a single pool, and the payout is determined by dividing the pool among the winners. This differs from fixed-odds betting, where the payout is predetermined based on the odds of the bet.

There are two main types, pari-mutuel betting and pool betting.

Pari-Mutuel or Tote Betting 

Pari-mutuel betting, also known as tote betting is commonly used in horse racing.

In this type of betting, all bets are placed into a pool, and the odds of each horse winning are determined by the amount of money bet on that horse. After the race is over and the bets are settled, the total amount of money in the pool is divided among the winners after deducting a percentage that goes to the race organizers and taxes. This means that the final payout for each winner depends on how many people bet on the winning horse and how much money was in the pool.

What is Pool Betting?
Source: BetUS.com

In pari-mutuel betting, different types of bets can be placed, such as

Win: betting on the horse that will finish first

Place: betting on a horse to finish in the top two or three (depending on the number of horses in the race)

Exacta: betting on the first two horses to finish in the correct order

Trifecta: betting on the first three horses to finish in the correct order

Quinella: betting on the first two horses to finish in any order

Pool Betting in Sports

Pool betting is commonly used in fantasy betting and survivor pools.

This type of betting is similar to Pari-Mutuel, as all bets are placed into a pool. However, in sports pool betting, the payout is determined by dividing the pool among the winners. The final payout for each winner depends on how many people bet on the winning team or player and how much money was in the pool.

In pool betting for sports, different types of bets can be placed, such as:

Bracket pools: This essentially means betting on the outcomes of a series of games in a tournament. This is one of the most popular ways to bet on the March Madness college basketball tournament.

Survivor pools: This involves betting on which team will win each week of an NFL season, with the catch that each team can only be chosen once.

Fantasy betting: This includes betting on individual player performance in games or seasons, with points awarded for various statistics.

What is Pool Betting?
Source: BetUS.com

How Does Pool Betting Work?

Pool betting can be a thrilling way to engage with your favorite sports or horse racing events. However, it’s important to understand the mechanics behind it. Here’s how it works:

  • Bettors place their bets on a particular event or race, such as a horse or sporting event.
  • The bets are collected and placed into a “pool.” In horse racing, this is called the “Pari-Mutuel pool.”
  • The organizers take a percentage of the pool, known as the “takeout,” to cover expenses and generate revenue. The takeout percentage varies depending on the event but usually ranges from 15-25%.
  • The remaining amount in the pool is distributed to the winning bettors, depending on the number of winners and the pool size.

In horse racing, the payout is determined by the odds of each horse winning. The Tote organization uses a computer to calculate the odds and potential payouts for each horse based on their bets. The odds are updated continuously as more bets are placed until the betting closes and the race begins.

There is also another version of Pari-Mutuel betting in Europe such as in France when betting on a horse whose trainer or owner has other runners in the race means your bet will be “coupled” with theirs. So, if any of them win, you have a winning bet, although the odds will be lower.

In sports pool betting, such as March Madness brackets or NFL Survivor Pools, participants pay an entry fee to enter and make their picks. The organizer of the pool collects the entry fees and creates a pool, with the prize money being distributed among the winners according to the rules of the pool.

What Are the Advantages of Pool Betting?

With the sports betting industry in America growing following revenue of over $4 billion in 2021, there has never been a better time to get involved with pool betting as the weight of money flowing into the pools increases. Pool betting can also be an attractive option for bettors, and the several advantages on offer make it a popular choice among gamblers. Here are some of the key benefits:

Big Returns with Small Outlay

Pool betting allows bettors to win large sums of money with a relatively small investment. Unlike fixed-odds betting, where the potential payout is limited to the odds set by the bookmaker, pool betting is determined by the amount of money wagered by all participants in the pool. As a result, the potential payout can be much larger, especially when fewer winning bets exist.

Longer Bets That Can Last for an Entire Event

Another advantage of pool betting is that it can offer longer bets that can last for the duration of an entire event or even days or weeks. For example, in pool betting for horse racing, bettors can place a wager on the outcome of a race or series of races over several days. This can make pool betting more exciting and engaging for bettors who enjoy following a particular event or series.

Multiple Betting Options

Pool betting offers various betting options to suit different types of bettors. For example, in pool betting for horse racing, bettors can choose from various bets, including win bets, place bets, exacta bets, and trifecta bets. This allows you to tailor your bets to your experience level and risk appetite.

Fairer Betting System

Pool betting is often considered to be a fairer betting system compared to traditional fixed-odds betting. In pool betting, the odds are determined by the amount of money wagered by all participants in the pool rather than by the bookmaker. This means that the odds are a true reflection of the market and the collective wisdom of all participants.

How to Work Out Your Return From a Pool Bet?

One of the best examples to explain how a pool bet works is to look at one of the most popular ones in racing – the win bet. If making a win selection via a pool bet, the odds are simply calculated by dividing the total pool by how many winning tickets are in it. So, if $10,000 is the total pool of money bet into the race after deductions, and $2,000 (20%) of the pool was on your fancy, the winning dividend will be: $10,000/$2,000 = $5, or in odds terms “4/1”. If the sportsbook on that winning selection paid 3/1, then you would be receiving bigger value via the pool bet.

Different Pool Betting Around The World

The Tote World Pool is a global betting pool that brings together racing fans from over 20 nations to bet on top racing events worldwide. It was created by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and in the UK, it is operated by the Tote. It remains a popular bet that continues to grow, with record numbers bet into the pool at Epsom in 2022.

Americans can bet in the Tote World Pool through licensed betting operators offering access to the pool. The easiest way for Americans to access the Tote World Pool is through Tote’s online platform, tote.co.uk. However, it’s important to note that betting laws and regulations differ between countries and states, so it’s always best to check local laws and regulations before placing bets.

In addition to the Tote World Pool, other international betting pools are also available for American bettors. For example, the Hong Kong Jockey Club operates a large and popular pool betting system, with betting options available both online and at off-track betting facilities in certain states. However, just like with the Tote World Pool, it’s important to check local laws and regulations before placing bets.

Other countries and regions also have their own pool betting systems, including Japan, Australia, and certain European countries. While some of these pools may be open to international bettors, it’s important to research each pool and its accessibility before placing bets.

Fixed Odds vs Pool Betting

Both fixed odds betting and pool betting have pros and cons. Fixed odds betting offers certainty and flexibility, while pool betting offers higher payouts and excitement. Ultimately, the choice between the two types of betting will depend on personal preferences and risk tolerance.

Fixed Odds Betting

Fixed odds betting is the most common form of betting. In this type of betting, the bookmaker predetermined the odds, and they remain fixed until the event ends. The odds determine the payout: the amount of money the bettor will receive if they win the bet. The payout is calculated by multiplying the amount of money wagered by the odds. For example, if you wager $10 on a horse with odds of 4/1, you will receive $50 if the horse wins.

Pros of Fixed Odds Betting Cons of Fixed Odds Betting
  • Certainty: One of the significant advantages of fixed odds betting is that the bettor knows exactly how much they stand to win or lose before they place the bet.
  • Variety: There is a wide range of fixed odds betting markets available, including politics, sports, and entertainment.
  • Strategy: Fixed odds betting allows bettors to use different strategies, such as hedging and arbitrage, to increase their chances of winning.
  • Risk: There is always a risk of losing money in fixed odds betting, and the payout is usually lower than the potential winnings in pool betting.
  • Rigidity: The odds remain fixed, and there is no flexibility to adjust or change them after the bet is placed.
  • Limited Payout: The payout in fixed odds betting is limited to the odds the bookmaker sets.

Pool Betting

Pool betting, also known as Tote or Pari-Mutuel betting, is a form where all the stakes are collected into a pool, and the payout is determined by dividing the pool among the winners. The odds are not fixed and are calculated based on the number of bets placed and the pool size. In pool betting, the money paid out is not known until after the event ends.

Pros of Pool Betting Cons of Pool Betting
  • Higher Payouts: Pool betting offers the potential for much higher payouts than fixed odds betting, especially for long-shot bets.
  • Fun: Pool betting is exciting because the bettors only know the final payout once the event ends.
  • Flexibility: Pool betting offers more flexibility than fixed odds betting, as the odds can change until the event starts.
  • Uncertainty: The payout in pool betting is only known once the event ends, making it difficult to plan or budget.
  • Complexity: Pool betting can be complex, and the payout calculation can be confusing, especially for new bettors.
  • Lower Probability: The potential for higher payouts in pool betting comes with a lower probability of winning, making it riskier than fixed odds betting.

What are the Different Pool Bets?

In racing, two types of pool betting are Tote Betting and Fixed Odds Betting.

Tote Betting, also known as Pari Mutuel betting, is a form of pool betting where all bets are placed in a pool, and the payout is based on the number of winning tickets and the pool size.

The odds of each selection are determined by the amount of money bet on each horse or team. The Tote deducts a percentage of the pool as commission, and the remainder is divided amongst the winning tickets.

Pool betting on horse racing
Source: BetOnline.com

Fixed Odds Betting is a form of pool betting where the odds are fixed at the time of the bet. The odds do not change, regardless of how much money is bet on each horse or team. The payout is based on the odds at the time of the bet.

Here are the most common types of pool bets:

Straight Bet

This is the simplest and most common form of pool betting. You bet on one horse or team to win in a straight bet. If your selection wins, you win the bet.


In a quinella, you bet on two horses or teams to finish first and second, in any order. If your two selections finish first and second, you win the bet.


An exacta bet is similar to a quinella, but you must pick the exact order of the top two finishers. You win the bet if your selections finish first and second in the correct order.


You must correctly pick the first, second, and third-place finishers for a trifecta. This bet is more challenging than a quinella or exacta but offers higher payouts.


A superfecta requires correctly picking the first, second, third, and fourth-place finishers. This is a difficult bet to win, but it offers huge payouts.

Daily Double

You must pick the winners of two consecutive races in a Daily Double bet. If your selections win both races, you win the bet.

Pick 3

In a Pick 3, you must pick the winners of three consecutive races. If your selections win all three races, you win the bet.

Pick 4

In a Pick 4, you must pick the winners of four consecutive races. If your selections win all four races, you win the bet.


A Placepot is a bet where you must pick a horse to place (finish in the top two, three, or four) in each of the first six races on a card – some countries it is the middle part of a card. If a horse is placed in the first six races at any meeting, you win the bet.


In a Jackpot, you must pick the winners of the first six consecutive races. If your selections win all six races, you win the Jackpot.

There are many types of pool betting formats used in sports as well. For example, March Madness pools are popular in the NBA, where participants fill in a ‘bracket’ for the entire tournament. If they correctly predict the outcome of each game in the bracket, they can end up with a significant payout. Indeed, the total anticipated amount bet on March Madness in 2023 stood at over $15 billion.

Some bookies also offer Fantasy Betting, which combines the popular fantasy sports format with pool betting. Participants pick a team of players, and their performance contributes to the pool winnings.

Is Pool Betting Legal?

The legality of pool betting varies on the jurisdiction, with some states allowing it while others prohibit it altogether. State laws may limit gambling to only state-run, state-approved, or tribal casinos. In some states, social exceptions allow people with a social connection to wager among themselves legally. However, even in places where gambling is legal, there may be restrictions on who can host or be the house.

In the US, the legality of pool betting is determined individually by each state. Some states allow certain forms of pool betting, while others prohibit it outright. The following are some examples of the legal status of pool betting in different states:

Nevada: Nevada is one of the few states where pool betting is fully legal. It is a hub for sports betting, and its casinos offer various pool bets for major sporting events.

Delaware: Delaware is another state where pool betting is entirely legal. The state allows a range of pool bets, including straight, exacta, trifecta, and superfecta.

New Jersey: New Jersey has recently legalized sports betting, including pool betting. Its racetracks and casinos offer various pool bets for horse racing and other sporting events.

California: California has strict laws regarding gambling, and pool betting is illegal in the state.

Texas: Texas also has strict laws regarding gambling, and pool betting is illegal.

Maine: Maine has a social exception that allows people with a social connection to wager among themselves legally. The organizer participates equally and does not benefit from hosting the pool.

It is important to note that the legal status of pool betting can change over time, and individuals should check their state laws before participating.

Best Sports For Pool Betting

When it comes to pool betting, certain sports lend themselves better than others. One of the most popular and profitable sports for pool betting is horse racing, thanks to the Pari-Mutuel betting system that it employs. In Pari-Mutuel betting, all bets placed on a race are pooled together, and after the house takes its cut, the remaining funds are distributed among the winners. This means that the size of the pool is directly related to the amount of money that is wagered, making horse racing a perfect fit for pool betting.

Another great option for pool betting is the NFL and NBA, where popular betting formats like survivor pools and pick’em contests are often used – in the NFL Circa Survivor during 2023, only three of over 6,000 entries were still active in Week 18, each trying for the $6m first prize.

In these formats, players select a certain number of teams to win each week, with the catch being that once a team is selected, it can’t be picked again for the remainder of the season. The last player remaining, or the player with the correct picks at the end of the season, wins the pool.

Tips For Pool Bets

Certain strategies and tips can help improve your chances of success in pool betting. Before making any bets, planning and considering your options is essential. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Do Your Research

When planning to participate in a pool betting system, thoroughly research the one you plan to use. Make sure to read the terms and conditions carefully and understand them completely. It is essential to clearly understand the pool betting rules and regulations to avoid any misunderstandings later on.

Take it Slow

It is important to be patient when participating in pool betting. Starting with small bets and gradually increasing the size of bets is a wise approach. This allows you to gain experience, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and learn from your mistakes without risking much money.

Manage Your Bankroll

This process is critical to successful pool betting. You should create a budget for your betting and play according to it, even if you are on a winning streak. Doing so can avoid losing more money than you can afford. This is also known as responsible gambling.

Know When to Make Use of Pool Betting

Pool betting can be a great option for certain types of wagers, such as longshot bets, or when multiple possible outcomes are difficult to predict. In such cases, pool betting allows you to spread your risk among a larger group of bettors, making it less likely to lose all your money in a single bet.

However, pool betting may not always be the best option for every situation. For example, if you are confident in your prediction of a single outcome, it may be more profitable to place a straight bet rather than participating in a pool bet. Therefore, it is essential to carefully consider whether pool betting is the right choice for your particular bet.

Follow the Market

Keeping track of the market and betting trends can provide valuable information for your pool bets. This includes monitoring the odds and how they change, leading to a race or game. If the odds shift in favor of a particular horse or team, it may indicate that it is more likely to win. However, it’s important to remember that the market is not always right, and sometimes the underdog can surprise everyone.


Is pool betting gambling?

How does pool betting work?

Do I win more with a pool bet?

How much does pool betting cost?

What is an example of a pool bet?

What is the difference between fixed odds and pool betting?

Does pool betting involve the game of pool?

Who invented pool betting?

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Krishi Chowdary
Sports Editor
Author photo
Krishi Chowdary Sports Editor