Now we know what the tote is, the next question is why bet on the tote?
Well, the answer to this is longer or shorter depending on where in the world you live, and on which events you want to bet.
First, the short answer. There are some countries, such as Hong Kong and France, where the tote has a monopoly on horse racing betting.
In other words, if you want to bet on racing in France or Hong Kong (and plenty of other nations), you can only bet with the tote. So that’s pretty straightforward in those cases!
However, in countries where there is a greater choice of wagering ‘market places’ (the tote is merely a facilitator, bring people together who want to back their judgement on a given event: as such, it is a market place), then the reasons for betting on the tote are more varied.
Firstly, it should be said that the tote is not always the best place to bet. For example, in the UK, the tote win pools – that is, predicting which horse will win a race – and place pools – which horse(s) will place in a race – are very small.
This leads them to being susceptible to manipulation and, in any case, to being somewhat unpredictable in terms of the return, or dividend, winning players receive.
I certainly don’t advise betting on the tote for UK win / place bets, as other options offer a stronger market and a more reliable dividend.
It is also not a good idea to bet on the tote if you like all of the most ‘obvious’ horses in the race or races you wish to play. For example, if you want to make an exacta bet – predicting the first and second in a race in the correct order – and you think the favourite will beat the second favourite, this is unlikely to pay a value dividend.
‘Value’ is when the return outweighs the likelihood, and the key to successful tote betting is wager against the crowd. Being contrarian for the sake of it is plain daft, but horse racing is a lot more volatile and unpredictable than most people accept – certainly more so than they bet – and taking calculated chances against the crowd will, quite literally, pay handsome dividends.
The tote is an alternative to starting price for intra-race bets such as the exacta (SP version called computer straight forecast, or CSF, in UK) and trifecta (SP version called the tricast in UK), and generally pays a better return if you like at least one non-favourite horse.
A third reason for betting on the tote, and this is my favourite reason, is that they offer bets that are not available anywhere else, such as the swinger, the superfecta and, to a lesser degree, the placepot and jackpot.
The what, what and what?! If you’ve not heard those terms before, be sure and check the ‘Bet Types‘ page.
And a fourth reason for tote betting is the pool size. Now, although the amount wagered is almost always less than that wagered either with bookmakers or on the exchanges, there is very often a lot more ‘mug money’ (i.e. uninformed bets) in certain tote pools.
We’ll explore each of these in more detail in the ‘When to bet on the tote‘ and ‘Best tote bets‘ and ‘Worst tote bets‘ pages.