What Is Tote Betting?

Tote betting is a form of betting where all bets are placed into a pool. The company operating the tote pool then subtracts a percentage of the pool when all bets have been placed. The remaining money is then divided by the number of winning units to decide the dividend that will be paid out.

For example, there may be £10,000 bet on a 10-runner race at Royal Ascot. The tote will subtract a fixed percentage of let’s say 20% or £2,000 for running costs. That means the other £8,000 is divided by the number of winning units. To make it easy, let’s say each horse has exactly £1,000 bet on it. That means the remaining £8,000 is divided by £1,000 to make the return £8 to a £1 stake, which is equivalent to 7/1 (8.00).

You can place bigger bets than £1 on the tote, and your winnings are simply calculated pro-rate. For example, a £10 win bet in this scenario would return £80 and a £100 win bet would return £800, etc.

Difference Between Tote Betting and Fixed Odds Betting

Most bookmakers in the United Kingdom offer fixed-odds horse racing betting, which means you have the option to take odds on your selections when you place bets. Alternatively, you can take the Industry Starting Price (SP) and get paid out at the price your selection is returned at by the on-course starting price officials. Many fixed odds bookmakers also offer best odds guaranteed (BOG), which allows you to take the fixed odds and get paid out at higher odds if the SP is bigger.

This makes fixed odds betting different from tote betting, as you can’t take odds when placing a tote bet. Your bet is placed in the tote pool and the odds are determined by how much money is bet on your selection compared to the other horses in the pool. This means you can get lucky and get paid out at much higher odds than the SP. But you can also be unlucky and be paid a tote dividend that is much lower than the SP.

Types of Tote Bets

There are a variety of popular tote bets that you may want to consider, and these are a way of making a day at the races even more exciting.

Tote Win Bets

A tote win bet is simply a straight win bet on any horse.

Tote Place Bets

As there are is no each-way tote-betting, if you want to back a horse each-way with the tote you must place separate win and place bets. If you’ve placed win and place bets on the exchanges, you’ll find tote win and place bets very similar, apart from you can’t take odds.


An exacta is a bet where you pick two horses to finish first and second in the correct order. This is similar to a computer straight forecast (CSF) but, because of the pools, the dividends between these two similar bets can be enormous.

You can also place a reverse exacta, which is picking two horses to finish first or second in either order. This bet will cost you twice as much as an exacta. You can also place combination exactas with more than two horses, but three horses equate to six bets and four horses to 12 bets.


A trifecta bet is picking three horses to finish first, second, and third in the correct order. This is similar to a tricast bet but the dividend can, again, vary greatly. You can also place reverse trifectas and combination trifectas.


This is the more unusual Tote bet, with the swinger being a chance to pick two horses to finish anywhere in the first three in a race.


Tote jackpots are the most popular tote bet with punters looking to strike it rich for a small stake. However, you need some serious luck, skill, or a combination of both to win it, as you must pick the first six winners on a card to land the bet. If a jackpot isn’t won, the pool rolls over to the next jackpot meeting.


The placepot is definitely a bet you should have when you go to the races, and it’s a great way of betting on every race for a small stake. All you need to do is pick a horse in each of the first six races on a card that you think will get a place according to the standard each-way terms of the races. The placepot can pay some unexpectedly high dividends but can also pay disappointingly small ones. The thing to remember is, you can pick a 33/1 placed horse in the race but you’ll only get paid the same as anyone who picks a favourite that also places.


If your placepot goes down in either the first or second races, don’t worry, as you can then place a quadpot on the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth races. You simply need to pick a placed horse in each race. Of course, if you don’t fancy anything in the first two races, just put the quadpot bet on to start with.

Scoop 6

The Tote Scoop 6 is an innovative tote bet that covers six races on the same day, which are often from a variety of different meetings and are shown live on terrestrial television. It’s a £2 bet, with £1 going into a win pool and £1 going into a place pool. Win and place dividends are then declared when all six races have been run. If nobody manages to pick all six winners, then the win pool rolls over.

There is also a bonus pool, where anyone that has won the Scoop 6 the week before has a chance to win an extra big pot the week after by picking the winner of the bonus race. This is normally the hardest race of the day, such as a big handicap with lots of runners. However, Scoop 6 has made a few people millionaires.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Tote Betting

The main advantage of tote betting is the excitement of not knowing what the winning dividend is going to be. If you’re the type of punter that likes to go against popular opinion, tote betting can often reward you with much bigger dividends than the SP. This is especially true if you can land big-priced exactas and trifectas. You can also land big placepots if you think the favourites might have a bad day.

But if you’re backing horses that have been tipped up by popular betting tipsters or racing papers, you might be better sticking to taking a price with a bookie that offers BOG.

Countries That Offer Tote Betting

Racing in America, Hong Kong, Australia, and France is all based on tote betting, though some bookmakers in other countries may offer fixed odds on these races.

The United Kingdom and Ireland also have totes, but fixed-odds betting is more readily available and more popular with many punters.

If you’re still struggling to understand any aspect of tote betting then do not hesitate to drop a question at the bottom of this page and we’ll aim to help out as much as possible.