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A Guide To Parimutuel Betting & The Best Pari-Mutuel Racebooks

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Parimutuel betting horse racing wagers are really popular right across America. There are so many tracks and so many states that a uniform approach for bettors has always been needed. Learn all about the best offshore sportsbooks and racebooks for online parimutuel betting in the USA today right here.

What is Parimutuel Betting

Also called pari mutuel and sometimes hyphenated to pari-mutuel, the parimutuel betting definition is easy as pie to understand. A system of wagering that is different to what they call fixed odds sports betting, parimutuel comes from the French pari mutuel, which roughly translates as mutual betting.

All wagers from a set type of betting go into a betting pool. Taxes and commission, like house takes in casinos, even on offshore sportsbooks and racebooks are taken out of that total amount bet with odds then calculated by sharing the remaining money among winning bets. The more popular a pick from parimutuel betting horse racing wagers is among the pool, then the shorter its odds are and smaller the dividends returned. If the favorite doesn’t win, then those few bettors who wagered on the winner receive payouts that are potentially bigger than fixed odds prices.

Final payouts and the amount of money winning gamblers receive can’t be determined until the betting pool closes and the race is off. This is how parimutuel wagers differ from fixed odds bets. With fixed odds, bettors take an agreed price or can choose the starting price (SP). In parimutuel betting, you don’t know the price of your pick which is expressed in dollars and cents after the race in the USA.

How Does Parimutuel Betting Work

Now that you understand the parimutuel betting definition properly, you’ve probably got questions. How does this work in practice? Pari-mutuel wagers don’t just apply to horse racing as we shall see, but it is the most popular sport with bettors for this type of gambling.

Let’s say you are betting straight on a horse race. That is either to Win, Place or Show. Keeping things simple, you go for a Win on Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby. All the handicappers have been talking him up and he punched his ticket to Churchill Downs with an impressive win a prep race. You place a $5 parimutuel wager on Big Red and he does the business on the racetrack. When the payout schedule comes through, Secretariat for a Win pays $5.00.

If you’re wondering how to figure parimutuel betting here, then that schedule is always based on a $1 stake. Your wager was $5, so you receive $25 back including your stake. Betting Secretariat to this amount made $20 in profit. Payout schedules also include the returned dividends for a horse to Place and Show. Even an Exotic bet like the Exacta and Trifecta will be on there, but more on those later.

Top 5 Parimutuel Betting Sites Reviewed

We hear you saying, “enough already, where can I get my parimutuel wagers on?” The answer is with one of our top five sportsbooks, and specifically racebooks, from the list above. Let’s look at those through the lens of parimutuel betting horse racing wagers in more detail:

1. Bovada – Top Dogs for Parimutuel Bets

Bovada parimutuel betting

With 10 years in the gambling industry behind the company, the Bovada racebook is a brilliant place if you like to bet parimutuel. The reason is very simple. No other offshore platform can match the global focus that Bovada takes. If you want to bet on all the dirt, turf and harness racing stateside, they’ve got you covered. But wait, there’s more. Parimutuel markets are available on South American races as well as the US and Canada from nations like Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

This international flavor to Bovada continues as you can bet on horses in Asia in hotspots for the sport like Hong Kong and Japan. Want to wager on events across the pond in the UK and Ireland? No problem, Bovada lets you bet there, in Mainland Europe from countries such as France and Sweden, and even further afield too. Wagering on events in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa means there’s not a corner of the globe they don’t cover with parimutuel betting on horses.

You can also see the Morning Line prices that act as a guide to forecast odds for all the action in the USA and Canada. Besides thoroughbred, quarter horse and harness racing, Bovada even has Virtual Racing that you can bet. All the straight and Exotic bet types associating with the sport are there for parimutuel bettors too. The only thing Bovada could do to make their racebook even better is to have some horse racing deals.

What we like:

  • Bet worldwide on horses
  • See Morning Line prices
  • Virtual Racing bets too
  • Straight and Exotic bets

What we don’t:

  • No horse racing deals

2. GTBets – Leading Racebook for Rebates

GTBets parimutuel betting

The catchphrase with GTBets is “it’s game time” but that applies to the racebook as much if not more than the sportsbook. You can place parimutuel bets on 87 different racetracks across North America and this form of wagering is also available on selected Australian meets too. While other sites out there have wider international diversity, GTBets puts American horse racing first, and that’s the way it should be! One of their USPs is the size of rebates they give to bettors who are down after their picks.

With GTBets, you can get 10% of net losses back as a refund every single week. That puts them among the gambling industry leaders for rebates. There are strict terms and conditions to this deal, but it’s good that the racebook hands back one-tenth of failed picks if you are on a losing streak. GTBets also uses coupled horse rules. If the same trainer or owner has the winner but you bet on the other horse, wagers payout regardless of whether your pick was right. This is awesome.

Coupled horse rules even apply in the event that the one you chose gets scratched. What could be better? There are so pretty low maximum stakes, but this may be due to regulations at different tracks. Limits are more relaxed around the main events in horse racing, so you can bet more dollars on the Breeders’ Cup, often held in California, and Triple Crown. With these great promos relating to parimutuel betting horse racing wagers, GTBets gets a thumbs up.

What we like:

  • Coupled horse rules cover
  • 10% rebate on net losses
  • Bet 87 North America tracks
  • All parimutuel wager types

What we don’t:

  • Few international markets
  • Lower max stakes than rivals

3. BetUS – Saturday’s Stakes Money Back Deal

BetUS parimutuel betting

Few racebooks or offshore bookmakers accepting bettors from the USA have a great reputation like BetUS. Founded in 1994, this gambling platform has gone from strength to strength. Once you’re on the racebook, you can’t take your eyes off the Saturday’s Stakes Money Back promo. This rebates your $10 bets if your picks finish second in selected stakes races. Other terms apply, but a deal like this targeting big races immediately gets bettors onside.

There are parimutuel markets available on both North American and international thoroughbred horse races on different tabs. It’s a neat way or compartmentalizing events overseas separate from the action at home in the USA and Canada. Harness racing also has its own tab with everything from around the world all in one place. This gives bettors the best of the two most popular types of competition worldwide.

Morning Line prices highlighting forecast odds are available right across all the North American horse racing on BetUS. This can help when choosing your picks, alongside The Locker Room which is packed full of betting news, stats, odds and free picks from expert handicappers. All the usual parimutuel wagers are available from the straight up Win, Place and Show wagers to Exotics and Parlays. However you like to bet, BetUS has it covered.

What we like:

  • Saturday’s Stakes Money Back promo
  • Morning Line prices for forecast odds
  • Established racebook with big reputation
  • North American and international bets

What we don’t:

  • Max stakes not made clear on racecard

4. BetOnline – Reasonable Rebates on Parimutuel Bets

BetOnline parimutuel betting

For 20 years now, BetOnline has offered bettors in the USA the chance to wager on their sportsbook and racebook. Established in The Big Apple, this gambling company moved out of New York to Panama City, so it’s an offshore operator these days. Their racebook gives up to 9% rebates on losing parimutuel bets from selected tracks and events. While that isn’t quite as generous as the current GTBets rebates rates, it’s still welcomed by bettors.

BetOnline also has a $25 risk-free bet welcome bonus specifically for the racebook. Your first horse racing wager is covered if your pick loses. That deal for new bettors comes with terms and conditions. Besides parimutuel betting on North American thoroughbred and harness racing, BetOnline gives you the chance to wager on major international events. We’re talking the Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot in England, and the Dubai World Cup and its card in the Middle East, and the Melbourne Cup down there in Australia.

That range of overseas horse racing probably isn’t as large as some other offshore racebooks, but you sure don’t miss out on anything major. BetOnline has the typical selection of parimutuel wagers, so you can bet an Exacta and other Exotics if you prefer those to straight plays. The racebook could be a little faster with load times, but that’s a minor problem. Newbies can also get help starting out. That’s thanks to the Racebook 101 section and part of a great overall package.

What we like:

  • Up to 9% rebate on losing wagers
  • Racebook 101 guide for newbies
  • North American and overseas races
  • Typical range of parimutuel bets

What we don’t:

  • Racebook loading speed slow

5. MyBookie – Strong Range of Pari-mutuel Wagers

MyBookie parimutuel betting

At MyBookie, bettors have been wagering on horses since 2014 when this offshore gambling platform opened out of Costa Rica. Thoroughbred and harness races you can bet on by country form the left-hand racebook menu on screen. This always includes both North American and international options with events from Hong Kong and Japan in the Far East, mainland Europe, and the UK and Ireland among the regular overseas races on offer.

You can also toggle the type of parimutuel wager based on what you want to bet. From the straight Win, Place and Show wagers to Exotics, Daily Double, “Pick” bets and Parlays, you can customize the racecard to suit your betting needs. A dropdown on every event shows race details, so you know where the event takes place, how much the purse is, and the distance, surface and type of race. Stake limits for bets are clearly visible at the bottom of each individual card.

A maximum 8% rebate on losing picks from qualified tracks isn’t as high as rates on other racebooks but still handy. Funds go straight into your account the following day, so this deal is faster to payout on MyBookie than a number of their competitors. Supporting the parimutuel betting horse racing wagers are futures odds for the big events in the US. Races like the next Kentucky Derby, Pegasus World Cup and Breeders’ Cup feature as part of a supplemental fixed odds betting service.

What we like:

  • Wide range of parimutuel bets
  • Good choice of overseas races
  • 8% max rebate on losing picks
  • Stake limits clearly displayed

What we don’t:

  • Stake limits vary based on track

Types of Online Parimutuel Betting

As you probably noticed in our reviews of top offshore racebooks and bookmakers for parimutuel bets, there are different types of wager available. Some are only recommended for advanced bettors who know their stuff, but you should still be aware. The basis of any parimutuel betting system requires an understanding of the options open to you in terms of wagers. Let’s start with the simple straight bets:

  • Win – Pick the winner of the event.
  • Place – Pick a horse to win or be second.
  • Show – Pick a horse to win, be second or third.
  • Across The Board – Three wagers in one, separate bets on Win, Place and Show.

Now, let’s move on to the Exotic bets. These involve betting more than one horse in the same race. They’re called Exotics because that’s what they are relative to simpler straight bets:

  • Exacta – Pick two horses to win and be second in that exact order.
  • Quinella – Pick two horses to win and be second in any order.
  • Trifecta – Pick three horses to win, be second and third in that exact order.
  • Superfecta – Pick four horses to win, be second, third and fourth in that exact order.
  • Duet – Pick two horses to be first, second and third in any order.

That just leaves Multis and Parlays to cover. These pari-mutuel wagers are all about picking multiple horses across different races, usually at the same track:

  • Daily Double – Pick the winners of two consecutive races chosen by the racebook.
  • Triple (Pick 3) – Pick the winners of three consecutive races chosen by the racebook.
  • Quadrella (Pick 4) – Pick the winners of four consecutive races chosen by the racebook.
  • Pick 6 –  Pick the winners of six consecutive races chosen by the racebook.
  • Parlays – Pick horses from different races to Win, Place and/or Show in the same wager.

Parimutuel Betting System Options

Away from Parlays, we can categorize parmutuel wagers into two main types. There are straight bets such as Win, Place and Show, and Exotic bets like Quinellas and Duets. Advanced bettors know that you can cover more bases with Exotics than just the standard wagers. This involves using a neat parimutuel betting system or two along the way. You can box, wheel and even reverse Exotic bets like Trifectas and Superfectas. There is both an upside and downside to this.

Box or Reverse Pari-mutuel Bets

When you box or reverse an Exotic wager, this means the bet includes picks to finish in any order rather than a specific one. A Quinella, for example, is simply an Exacta reversed. If you fancy more than two horses to finish first and second, however, you could box the wager instead and include a third or even fourth pick. The unit stake multiplies so all permutations are covered.

From a simple AB BA which a Quinella has where the unit stake doubles, a boxed version with three picks is AB AC BA BC CA CB. That means you must wager six times a standard Exacta to cover all those potential outcomes. You do reduce the risk of losing but also the profit made on such wagers. That is the balance pro bettors weigh up before making this play.

Wheel Parimutuel Bets

Wheeling is another tactic that advanced bettors use. This is where they strongly fancy one pick, usually to win, but aren’t sure about which horses fill the place and show spots. Using a wheel with pari-mutuel wagers help keep the number of permutations and total outlay down.

A wheeled Exacta, for instance, could see you bet the favorite, horse A, to win and then three others, horses B, C and D, to be second. That would only be three wagers in one, AB, AC and AD, with the unit stake tripling. Costs don’t spiral and eat into profits so much when using this tactic.

The Best Mobile Parimutuel Betting App

All of the top horse racing betting apps available to bettors include parimutuel markets as standard. How do you know which give the best mobile gambling experience, though? That is where we come in. Both offshore platforms and dedicated horse racing wagering services such as TVG and TwinSpires are among the options here.

A top parimutuel betting app must not only be trustworthy but quick and easy to use. Dedicated mobile platforms for both Android and iOS devices, thus covering all bases with smartphones, is another hallmark of best in class. With offshore racebooks, we found that many of the top online parimutuel betting operators had great betting apps to go with them.

Parimutuel Betting Strategy

After already discussing parimutuel betting system options that pro bettors use, it’s time for some more general strategies. These can help take your wagering to the next level. We asked our expert handicappers for their best approaches to parimutuel betting strategy and they came up with some doozies. Here are there top tips for when you bet this way:

Use Betting Exchanges and Fixed Odds Markets as Guides

Betting on horses takes place all around the world. Pari-mutuel wagers are just one route you can take. It’s the most popular form of gambling on the sport stateside but that shouldn’t stop you from looking at other sources. Betting exchanges overseas will probably have a market on all major North American thoroughbred horse races like the Pegasus World Cup in Florida, so consult them and see what bettors are backing to win and laying to lose.

Fixed odds markets are available across the pond in the UK and Ireland, meanwhile. This can also be a guide to whether you should bet the favorite or pick another horse. Tunnel vision about parimutuel bets doesn’t make sense. Thinking outside the box in this way may produce more winners. This strategy comes with no guarantees but you may reach a more informed decision by looking at other forms of gambling.

Seek Place and Show Value

Everyone wants to back winning horses, but sometimes there is greater value and profit in betting outside of favorites on others in the race to Place or make the Show. While dividends for second and third can be smaller, there is nothing worse than betting a horse to Win and it just missing out. You lose dollars and cents that way, but the Place and Show market increase your chances of a successful wager.

To the same end, Win and Place bets on the same horse, or going Across The Board, help you cover more bases. Sure, your pick may not win but an Across The Board bet pays out for the Place and Show if the horse comes second. Seeking this kind of value is a skill bettors hone with time and experience. It is also a good habit to get into right from the start.

Keep Exotics Stakes Small

Exotic pari-mutuel bets are pretty complex. We’ve already discussed them in the parimutuel systems section, so you know that already. It is not good parimutuel betting strategy to let boxed, wheeled and reversed bets get out of hand. The stakes on Exotics need to be small, because each losing permutations eats into any profit you can make.

As with straight Win wagers, there can only be outcome that pays. With unit stakes multiplying with every permutation covered, you must get a hold of yourself with Exotic bets. Play for small stakes, wheel only when you are sure you have the winner and only fancy two or three to be second and/or third, and above all don’t let things get messy.

Parimutuel Betting Software

Did you know there is parimutuel betting software free of charge available out there? It can help you keep track of how your do with your wagers. From a parimutuel betting calculator that makes sense of what your profits should be to the trusty parimutuel betting spreadsheet that does all the formulas for you, these tools are worth a look.

Free picks from expert handicappers online are always appreciated. Just think of parimutuel betting software free to use in the same way. Anything that helps you figure out what you stand to gain from wagers is a good thing. A parimutuel betting spreadsheet that crunches all the numbers is what the pros use. For those still learning about such wagers, there is more than one parimutuel betting calculator available online.

Parimutuel Betting in Other Sports

Horse racing is not the only sport where pari-mutuel wagers are available.  Golf, greyhound racing which works in a similar way, and soccer are others where you can do this kind of pool betting easily in the USA. If you’re wondering how does payout work in parimutuel betting on golf and soccer sporting events, the same principles apply from the horses. This is because there are more than two potential outcomes to events in these sports. Let’s take a look at both in more detail:

Parimutuel Betting Golf Wagers

On the PGA Tour, there are any number of golfers who can win events when the opening round tees off. This means parimutuel betting golf markets make sense. Majors like The Masters at Augusta National in Georgia attract huge gambling interest stateside because the tournament takes place at the same venue every year.

A large field of contenders is perfect for pari-mutuel wagering here. With the US Open golf tournament that moves around America to a different course every year with The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts hosting in 2022, things can be even more unpredictable. Longshots can up their game with momentum behind them. With ties for second and/or third place possible, parimutuel bets on golf have their place.

Parimutuel Betting Soccer Wagers

With soccer, pari-mutuel markets work with Parlays and match results. MoneyLines like you get in regular football betting in the USA don’t include ties, yet soccer games often end in draws. There are three potential outcomes after the regulation 90 minutes of play. Either team wins or the game ends level.

Parimutuel betting soccer Parlays are a legacy from the days of the pari-mutuel pools coupons in the UK. Bettors would pay a small amount, maybe as little as a dollar, and go through the weekend’s games predicting the results in every league or certain matches. Each result was allocated points: either team winning was worth one point, a no score draw two and a score draw three.

Conclusion

You’ve had what is parimutuel betting explained to you from all sides here. Whether it’s hyphenated as pari-mutuel or the one-word spelling, this form of gambling in very popular with horse racing. Although not exclusive to that sport, its rise over the last century wouldn’t have happened without it.

FAQs

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Jamie Clark has worked in the sports betting and related industries for many years. A horse racing expert, he also has a passion for track and field athletics. Jamie has covered all major sporting events with a focus on gambling from World Cups to Ashes Series, Grand Slams and even the Olympics.