Parimutuel Betting Guide

Parimutuel (pool betting) was birthed with horse racing and greyhound racing. Here is our guide on parimutuel systems, strategies, and more.

Parimutuel betting has the potential to make the whole sports betting experience more fun for the user. Pool betting differs from traditional bookmaker betting because instead of betting against a house, all the money collected from the race will be added to a pool (the totalizer) and dispersed amongst people who have placed a winning bet.

What Is Parimutuel Betting

Parimutuel betting, also commonly referred to as pool betting and tote betting, is a type of wager where all the money collected is placed into a pool. After the house's take has been removed from the total amount, the money collected will be redistributed equally between the winning tickets.

There are various types of parimutuel bets which range in levels of complexity. For example, it is possible to bet on which horses will finish first and second in a race as well as bet on which horses will finish in the top 5. The more precise your bet is the more money you are likely to rake in.

How Does Pari Mutuel Work

Instead of betting money against a traditional bookmaker, with pari-mutuel betting, money staked will go into a pool. After all the money has been collected the house will then take their percentage of the Pool or Tote. (this varies but it's usually 10 - 20%).

The remaining money will be added up and dispersed equally to the amount of winning tickets or in relation to the money staked. The fewer people that have bet on the same horse as you the more money you will make.

how does parimutuel betting work
Pool Betting Explained

Parimutuel Betting Examples

Pool betting is most commonly used on horse racing but it's also possible to use it on practically any sport providing the bookmaker you decide to bet with offers this type of service.

Pari-mutuel Horse Racing Example

For this example, we have chosen a horse race that has 8 runners and has had £2,000 staked on the race in total.

Out of this total sum, 20% of the pool will be taken away by the house (tool operator). Meaning that the tool will end up being worth £1600. Out of this money, £400 was staked on Horse C which is the same horse we have bet on.

Therefore to calculate our odds all we need to do is take the total pool which in this case is £1600 and divide it by the amount of money bet on our horse which is £400. Then, 1600 divided by 400 equals 4.

The amount staked on a race will need to be multiplied by 4 to calculate any potential winnings. This means a stake of £10 would return £40.

Pari-mutuel Golf Example

Golf is a good sport to do pool betting down to the number of competitors. For example, place bets are very popular in golf as you will get paid if your golfer finishes in the top few positions.

If you backed Tiger Woods to finish in the top 3 for example, your odds will be calculated by adding all the money together that has been staked on place bets and dividing it by the amount staked on Tiger Woods to finish in the top 3.

To work out your potential winnings you will need to multiply your stake by the odds determined by the previous calculation.

What is parimutuel betting (or "pool betting")
What is parimutuel betting (or "pool betting")

Types of Parimutuel Wagers

There are numerous types of parimutuel wagers that are most commonly used in either greyhound or horse racing but can also be used in other sports too.

Winpick a straight winner
Placepick a contestant finishing first or second
Each-Waya win bet and a place bet in a single ticket
Showpick a contestant finishing first, second, or third
Exactapick the first two runners in the exact order
Trifectapick the first three runners in the exact order
Superfectapick the first four runners in the exact order
List of straight and exotic pari-mutuel wagers and pool betting wagers.

Straight bets refer to wagers where you are betting for horses to finish in the selected order. Meaning that if you have placed a straight bet on three horses they will have to finish exactly in the order you have selected them.

Exotic bets refer to when the horse's backed don't have to finish in exact order, they just need to finish in the top few positions. In some cases, you can back a winner and select several horses to finish second in a combination of multiple bets.

types of tote bets
The different types of pool bets.

Parimutuel Betting Sites

Parimutuel betting is very popular on racecourses but like most forms of betting it has also become hugely popular online. In most countries, there will be a specific site or organization that leads the way. Here is a list of a few countries and the most popular parimutuel site/organization in that respective country.

ToteUnited KingdomThe Tote is by far the most popular pool betting site in the UK. There are other competitors but Tote is solely focused on pool betting.
TwinSpiresUnited StatesThe US doesn't have a particular site dedicated to parimutuel betting that has reached mainstream status. What it does have though is a great site called Bet America (now TwinSpires) where various types of pari-mutuel bets can be wagered.
TABAustraliaIn Australia and New, Zealand TAB is by far the most popular pool betting site with no real competitors.
PMUFranceThe PMU is the largest pari-mutuel operator throughout Europe.
CPMACanadaAll parimutuel bets in Canada are monitored by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency.
Hong Kong Jockey ClubHong KongThe Hong Kong Jockey Club is a nonprofit organization that is government-funded.
List of Parimutuel Sites

Parimutuel Betting Systems

Parimutuel strategies can be used tactically for varying reasons. Some systems focus on low-risk strategies while others focus on getting that one big payday that punters can remember forever. One of the main reasons why this type of betting is seen as so attractive is because if successful it is possible to see huge returns and in these cases, the return of money will be higher than what you could reasonably expect from a bookmaker.


A boxed strategy is a type of wager where you can bet on which horses will finish in the first few positions in a race. The horses can finish in any order meaning that if you backed three horses they would indeed all have to finish in the top three but they can finish in any order.


A wheel bet is a type of wager where you can bet on a horse to win the race and 'wheel' the rest of the field. You can select a horse to win as well as select an additional four horses for example. Therefore if the horse backed wins the race and one of the other horses finishes in second place one of your bets would have been successful.


Reverse betting is very similar to straight betting. The only difference being is that the horses do not have to finish in exact order. To use a reverse exacta bet as an example. For this selection, two horses will need to be backed and as long as they both finish in the top 2 the bet would payout. Regardless of which order they finish in.


Permutations refer to the number of scenarios that can arise from your bets. For example, a boxed exacta on five horses will consist of 120 bets. This is taking into consideration all the possible positions your horses could finish in and result in a successful bet. On your bet slip, all of this will be incorporated into one bet.

Most Popular Parimutuel Betting Systems
Most Popular Pari-Mutuel Betting Systems

Parimutuel In The World

Parimutuel betting has found success throughout the world. Here is a list of countries where this type of betting has found the most success as well as a brief explanation of how tote betting works in that country.

United Kingdom

Pool betting is very popular in the UK. There are a few mainstream bookmakers that offer this service but by far the most famous service is The Tote. Tote betting is also available at the majority of racecourses.

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong jockey club was founded in 1884 and was renamed in 1959 after being granted a royal charter. It is listed as a nonprofit organization with one of its aims being to produce betting entertainment for the people of Hong Kong. It holds a government-granted monopoly in providing the nation pari-mutuel betting services on horse racing.


Horse racing, in general, is hugely popular in Ireland so it won't surprise you to know that pari-mutuel betting is very popular. Tote betting is available at the vast majority of racecourses where punters can choose from a wide set of permutations. Tote Ireland is practically the equivalent of the Tote in the UK with the only notable difference being that they only offer pari-mutuel betting.


In France, they have a government-controlled betting agency named pari-mutuel Urbain (PMU). With this agency, it is possible to place a whole range of pari-mutuel bets.

At most racecourses, it might surprise you that this is the only type of wager that takes place. This speaks to its huge popularity in France.

United States

In North America, Pool betting is popular and can be found at lots of racetracks as well as certain online bookmakers. It is possible to place Win Bets, Place bets, show bets, exacta bets, and many more. There is no specific mainstream pool betting site but Bet America offers great services.


Pari-mutuel betting can be done at almost all Canadian horse racing tracks and it's very popular. In Canada, it's also possible to place wagers at licensed "theatre betting" sites or via telephone. All pari-mutuel betting activity is governed and regulated by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency.

Australia & New Zealand

Traditionally Parimutuel betting in Australia and New Zealand was operated exclusively by Totaliser Agency Boards (TABs). This was government-owned and had a complete monopoly on the market. Most of the TABs now are privatized and owned by Tabcorp. The New Zealand TAB was reformed as the New Zealand Racing Board, under the terms of the Racing Act 2003.

In regards to its popularity, the majority of racecourses have tool pools and the practice remains popular in both countries.

History of Pool Betting

In 1867, Joseph Oller invented pari-mutuel betting. Due to the amount of calculation involved within this system, the machine known as the totalizer was also invented by an Australian engineer, George Alfred Julius.

This was an important moment in the history of pari-mutuel betting as it made the system more easy to understand for the masses meaning that punters can calculate their bet at racetracks throughout the world.

This system was first introduced in Auckland, New Zealand in 1913. Since then this has become common practice in racecourses throughout the world with it being introduced into the American market in 1927.

Pool Betting FAQ

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions in regards to pool betting.

What is pari-mutuel wagering?

Pool and parimutuel bets are types of wagers where all bets of a particular type are placed in a pool. After the market has closed and the outcome of the race has been determined the money collected will be equally dispersed among everyone with winning tickets.

How is pari-mutuel different to fixed-odds betting?

With fixed odds betting your odds are determined the moment you place the bet. Regardless of the action of the market, you will be paid out at these odds in the event of your horse winning. With pari-mutuel betting however your payout will be determined by the action of the market and how many people share the same bet. Meaning you will not know the exact payout until they have stopped taking bets.

Is parimutuel the same as pool betting?

Yes. This type of betting will often be classified as parimutuel betting or pool betting. These classifications are exactly the same thing.

How do you calculate payouts for parimutuel place payments?

It is important to note that it is not possible to know what the final payment of a parimutuel bet will be until all the money has been collected. If your bet wins all the money in the pool will be dispersed equally amongst people who have bet on the same horse.

Are odds better with pari-mutuel or exchange betting?

This will be different depending on the market but pari-mutuel betting is often seen to be attractive as there is a potential to receive a huge return if the market works in your favour.

How does a totalizator work?

A totalizator is designed to add up all the money placed in a pari-mutuel betting system. Through this calculation, a totalizator will be able to tell you what your starting odds are expected to be.

Pari-mutuel betting is completely legal across several states in the US. There are just a few states where this form of gambling is not available. These states include Utah, Alaska
South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Hawaii.

Which states allow pari-mutuel wagering?

It will be simpler to give the list of states who do not offer pari-mutuel wagering as the vast majority of them allow this type of gambling. Here is a list of states that do not offer this form of gambling. Utah, Alaska, South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Hawaii.

Parimutuel betting is often attributed to making the experience of betting on horses more enjoyable and in most cases more profitable. If you are seeking that huge payday then parimutuel betting is great for you.