The Tote is the only bookmaker in Britain which is allowed to offer parimutuel betting on horse racing. Other bookmakers offer a Tote service through syndication, while other bookmakers will accept a Tote bet and pay out on exactly the same terms as the Tote.
The pooled bets offered by the Tote are:
Win, Place, Exacta, Trifecta, Quadpot, Placepot, Jackpot, Scoop6 and Swinger.
As other bookmakers can offer similar gambling services it is necessary to disambiguate the bets. A bookmaker win-only bet (on-the-nose) isn't the same as a Tote Win bet, as the bookmaker is offering fixed odds for that particular outcome, whilst the Tote is a dividend paid out from the betting pool. The betting pool is generated from individuals placing money on a Tote bet.
A price quote for a horse on the Tote is the current dividend payout on the event of that outcome happening. This tends to be similar to normal bookmaker odds, and tracks the market in a similar way, but at any given time may be better or worse than a bookmaker's quoted odds. However, since all bets are pooled, all bets are essentially "starting price" (SP), that is, until the race has started (and all betting finished) one cannot calculate what the final payout will be; whereas bookmakers can offer either SP or a "board price", that is, a guaranteed payout at a given price for a winning bet. (The SP for horse races is the average price offered by bookmakers when the race starts, as inspected by employees of the Jockey Club).
It is sometimes suggested that Tote odds are generally less favourable than bookmakers' SPs. This claim is controversial, some assert they vary little from bookmakers' odds.
The minimum stake for this bet is £2. One selects a horse from the field. This can be on any horse at any race meeting. The betting slip can be denoted with the horse's race card number, or the horses name (and if at another course, the name of the course), or it can be marked as the 'favourite', where the horse is not nominated but the bet is placed on whichever horse is favourite (has the largest amount of money put into the pool) at the start of the race. This will, obviously, have the lowest payout (since the pool will be shared with the largest number of winners) but the assumption is that if others have bet on it, it must have a good chance of winning.
A Tote Place bet is still from one horse, as for a Tote Win, but the horse may come second, third or even fourth for the bet to win. Not every race qualifies for this type of bet. There must be a minimum of 5 horses in the field, the minimum stake is £2 and the following rules apply:
|Number of runners||Dividend places|
|Up to 4 runners||Unavailable|
|5, 6 or 7 runners||1 - 2|
| 8 - 15 runners in handicaps
8+ runners in non-handicaps
|1 - 2 - 3|
|16+ runners handicaps||1 - 2 - 3 - 4|
It is also possible to have an each-way ("e/w") bet, which is simply a combination of a Tote Win with a Tote Place bet. A £1 e/w bet is a total of £2, £1 for the Tote Win and the other £1 is for the Tote Place, and the money is split between the two separate pools (the Win pool and the Place pool).
Bookmakers other than the Tote do not generally offer a place-only bet, but only an each-way bet. This can be seen as a waste by bettors who believe their selection will finish 2nd or 3rd but will not come 1st; since half the money falls on the "win" it is wasted. A non-Tote bookmaker will offer a quarter of the odds (or much less commonly a fifth) for the e/w component, whereas the Tote place payout, and as such the e/w payout, is as always the betting pool dividend.
The Tote Exacta operates in the same way as a normal bookmaker's straight forecast. As always the Tote price for the forecast is always based on the betting pool dividend. A forecast is to predict the correct order of finishing for the first and second place horses. The minimum bet is £2 and the multiples of 10 pence over this, multiples can also be used to reach the initial minimum of £2. If the bet contains a non-runner the bet becomes void and un-named favourites are not allowed.
There are three Exacta bets:
Single Exacta (straight forecast). Pick in the correct order the horses which will finish first and second.
Combination Exacta (reverse forecast). Pick in either order the horses which will finish first and second. This bet is actually two bets in one, it is exactly equivalent to two straight forecasts, the first of which you select horse A to beat horse B, and then the second is for horse B to beat horse A. It's possible to specify more than two horses, at which point the bet becomes more complex, for example with three horses the individual bets are now a-b, a-c, b-a, b-c, c-a, c-b.
Banker Exacta (banker forecast). Pick a horse which you think is going to finish first, and then any number of horses to finish second. For instances, with a banker horse a, and with three additional horses, the bets are a-b, a-c, a-d.
Bookmakers that are not Tote-syndicated will offer their own forecast prices based on their own odds that they are quoting. However bookmakers will normally allow you to place a 'Tote forecast' and will pay out whatever the Tote dividend payout was.
Also known as a Trifecta: pick the first three horses in the right order. This is quite difficult to do and the dividend for getting it right is correspondingly better. The Tote can nominate races containing more than 8 runners as Trifecta races. There are three types of Trifecta, the Single, Combination and Banker and they work the same way as Exacta bets, only with three horses instead of two. The minimum stake is £2.
A Quadpot is operated on one race at every meeting in the UK and it takes place on the third to sixth races on the card. The aim is to pick a horse that will be placed in each one of these races, according to the placing rules stated in the Tote Place section above. The minimum bet is 10p. The dividend is declared after the result of the last race is known and thus the betting pool divided by the remaining stakes which are left. One may select the favourite instead of naming a specific horse.
The Placepot is identical to the Quadpot except it operates over the first six races of a race card. All UK race meetings have six races as a minimum, occasionally seven and rarely eight, but the Placepot is always operated on the first six. This bet is very popular as it has the potential to allow a gambler involvement in the whole of the race card. The minimum bet is 10p. Here is a worked example:
|Race||Selection 1||Selection 2||Selection 3||Selection 4|
The first race the gambler has opted to choose two horses. Maybe the gambler isn't confident of his abilities or maybe it is a large field and the gambler feels unable to just place one horse. On race two the gambler has elected to roll with the favourite, whatever it may be. In the final race the gambler has chosen three selections. This is often driven by the motive that if the gambler reaches the last race and still has a bet on, he doesn't want to lose out in the last race by only having one selection. The number of combinations in this bet is therefore 2 × 1 × 2 × 1 × 1 × 3 = 12. The gambler has decided to risk 20p per bet, so the total cost of this bet is £2.40.
If after the first race the gambler has failed to pick a selection which was placed then the bet is over. If a selection is placed, then the bet continues, and the winnings are transferred as the stake on the second race. In this example, horse 2 may be placed and horse 7 unplaced, which means the bet continues – but there are now only 6 valid combinations for winning left.
If the gambler is lucky and managed to get through to the end, then the Tote will calculate the dividend for a £1 unit stake. In this example the Tote is going to declare the dividend as £30, and the lucky gambler has 2 winning combinations. Two combinations at a stake level of 20p is 40p, so 40% of £30 is £12, a profit of £9.60.
If a favourite is placed in every single race the Placepot payout is typically as low as it can get, and it could be anywhere from £3 to £15, although anything less than £6–£7 is quite unusual. If favourites fail to finish in the places for half of the races then something around the £40–£200 could be anticipated, placepots of over £25,000 have been known but they are extremely uncommon. However there isn't a science to guessing what the placepot might be, the placepot dividend is the calculation of the number of tickets left divided by the pool money.
There are a couple of additional rules which affect the operation of the Placepot (and indeed the Quadpot/Jackpot/Scoop6). If a selection becomes a non-runner it will be replaced by the Starting Price favourite. Where there are joint favourites and the gambler has selected to roll on the Favourite, then the horse with the lowest race card number will be taken. If the favourite withdraws (for instance, the horse refuses to enter its starting gate) and the market has no time to select a new favourite the horse with the next shortest odds will become the favourite. It's rare for a race card to progress without a couple of non-runners so a gambler will be affected by these rules from time to time.
The Tote Jackpot is in essence a more sophisticated Placepot. The Jackpot is operated over one race course a day from races one to six and is nominated in advance by The Tote, except on Saturdays where it is replaced by the Scoop6. The aim is to pick a winning horse in each race, whereas the aim of a Placepot bet is to just get a horse placed. In every other aspect the bets are identical. The minimum stake is £1 and multiples are in multiples of 50p. Typically the payouts are very good for the Jackpot as it is very difficult to pick six winners in a row. The betting pool will roll into the next Jackpot event if there is no dividend to pay.
Identical to the Tote Jackpot except it is run on Saturdays only and has been branded this way for television audiences, generally Scoop6 races are shown on terrestrial television in the UK. As the pool will roll-over in the event of there being no dividends to pay the pool can become very large and wins in excess of £500,000 have been known. There is also a bonus fund whereby the winner of a Scoop6 event can attempt to pick the winner of the most difficult race in next week's Scoop6. This bet is also a Placepot bet, as the Tote also payout a dividend for selecting a horse to be placed in each race. According to the Tote, the average dividend is over £500 for a £1 bet.
There is a major operational difference to this bet as compared to the Jackpot/Placepot/Quadpot: the six races on the Scoop6 card are nominated by the Tote from any of the race meetings on that day, typically the Scoop6 card will have a number of very difficult races such as handicap races with over 20 horses running, and races with 2- or 3-year-olds where many horses have no track record, making it difficult to select a winner. It is also the reason why the placepot payouts are correspondingly higher than a normal placepot as well. The televised coverage usually announces how many Scoop6 tickets are left after each Scoop6 race, and it is quite common to be left with only three or four tickets after the first four races.
As with other Tote bets, non-syndicated bookmakers will normally accept a Tote bet and pay out in line with the Tote dividend.
This is a single-race exotic bet available on all races of six or more runners at every meeting, every day, players have to pick two horses to finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd in any order.
Each bet offers three chances to win as follows:
- Picking the horses that finish first and second in any order
- Picking the horses that finish first and third in any order
- Picking the horses that finish second and third in any order
A different dividend is declared for each outcome.
The minimum unit stake for a toteswinger bet is 10p (shops and online). Minimum unit stake on-course is 50p with minimum total spend £2 as per all totepool on-course bets. Toteswinger is unique to the tote; there is no other equivalent fixed odds or SP bet.
This is an extremely popular bet in overseas racing markets, particularly South Africa where it accounts for 40% of pool turnover.