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How-To Betting Guide for OTB Horse Wagering Tips

OTB Horse Betting Tips, Strategy, & Information

Everything You Need to Know About Wagering on Horse Races in Maryland

Maryland has a Long Horse Racing History­­

While horse racing as we know it today, goes back to the 12th century, racing arrived in Maryland considerably later. The first Thoroughbred was imported to the colonies in 1730, and the start of racing and wagering wasn’t far behind. The Maryland Jockey Club was founded in Annapolis, and awarded its first trophy, the Annapolis Subscription Plate, on May 4, 1743. The first recorded formal horse race on American soil was a modest affair by today’s standards. Charles Carroll, a wealthy Maryland planter, wagered George Hume Steuart, another well-heeled farmer, that his Thoroughbred would win a three-mile race along the South river.

The prize was a large silver punch bowl, dubbed the Annapolis Subscription Plate. Steuart’s horse won the race, and the bowl was engraved to record the winner. Today the Subscription Plate is the oldest surviving silver plate in Maryland, the oldest horse racing trophy in North America, and the second oldest trophy of any kind in the United States. You can still see it today, as part of the impressive collection of The Baltimore Museum of Art.

While the start of racing in Maryland was comparatively modest, things are quite different today. According to The American Horse Council, in 2017, the horse breeding and horse racing industry now contribute over $1 billion to the state’s economy every year. Maryland horse racing is here to stay.

Maryland’s Legendary Horse Racing Tracks

When you think of the biggest names in horse racing, you think of Maryland. After all, horse racing legends like Seabiscuit, War Admiral, and Secretariat ran their most important races on Maryland tracks.

Continuing a 250-year-old racing tradition, the people of Maryland proudly support horse racing and horse tracks. Whether they are hosting the Preakness Stakes or managing hundreds of race days throughout the year, the professionals at Maryland’s tracks for Thoroughbred and Standardbreds are at the center of the American horse racing industry.

  • Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, Maryland

    Pimlico is most well-known as the home of the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in horse racing’s most prestigious series, the Triple Crown. With 150 years of racing history behind it, Pimlico has become a beacon for American Thoroughbred racing. But this local favorite doesn’t limit its races to the Preakness. Popular with Baltimore locals, Pimlico hosts live races throughout the month of May.

  • Laurel Park, Laurel, Maryland

    Laurel Park is another legendary Maryland track that has hosted a long line of champion racehorses, including Barbaro, Bid, Secretariat, and War Admiral. Open since 1911, this fan favorite hosts more races than any other Maryland course, and is the home of the popular Maryland Million. Live races run 12 months a year.

  • Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland

    This raceway comes alive during the twelve-day Maryland State Fair that runs in late August. While the racing season is short, this track offers non-stop Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing during the fair, including the popular Coalition Stakes that regularly attract world-class Thoroughbreds.

  • Rosecroft Raceway, Fort Washington, Maryland

    “The Raceway by the Beltway” has been hosting Standardbred harness racing since 1949. Rosecroft harness races run on selected days from February through May.

  • Ocean Downs, Berlin, Maryland

    Ocean Downs is a seashore track that hosts Standardbred harness racing in the summer months.

Off Track Betting 101

In the world of horse racing, wagering is both an art and a science. It’s a type of betting that tends to reward those most familiar with the sport and the horses. After all, odds are based on a horse’s chances of winning. If you agree with the odds, you may bet on the favored horse with a modest potential payout. If you have reason to disagree with the odds, you can bet on horses with lower odds of winning, but with higher potential payouts.

While that sounds pretty simple, there are many conditions and factors to consider in horse racing that make it more exciting for experienced bettors.

Para-Mutuel: How Payouts are Determined

All betting at American tracks is done using a para-mutuel wagering system that was designed to provide attractive payouts for bets while still supporting the sport and the tracks. Unlike fixed-odds betting, the final payout is not determined until the pool is closed.

Prior to the event, betting agencies will continually provide estimates for what will be paid out for a given outcome, known as the odds, should no more bets be accepted at the pool closes.

In a para-mutuel wager, a fixed percentage (usually 14%-25%) of the total amount wagered is taken out for racing purses (paid to the races’ winners,) track operating costs, and state and local taxes. The remaining sum is divided by the number of correct bets to determine the payoff on each bet.

In this type of betting, rather than placing a bet against the race track, horse racing bettors are essentially wagering against each other. All bets on a particular horse race are pooled together. The more bets that are made, the larger the pool becomes.

If only one person bets on the winner (highly unlikely) the winner gets all the remaining sum (after subtractions for purses.) Most often, that sum is divided among hundreds, even thousands, of winners.

Unlike other some other types of sports gambling, para-mutuel betting allows odds and payouts to fluctuate and change continually until the pool closes, or until betting stops.

Straight Wagers: Win, Place, and Show

OTB betting offers two categories of wagers: straight wagers and exotic wagers. If you’re a beginner, it’s easiest to start with a few straight wagers. These bets are simple, straightforward, and fairly inexpensive. And you’re only betting on one horse per bet.

Each horse in the race will be assigned odds to win. For example, if you place a $2 Win bet, and your horse’s assigned odds are 20:1, if your horse wins, you will win $40 plus your $2 bet, for a payout of $42. However, these odds must adjusted for different types of bets.

Odds: Average
You may want to wager that your horse Wins the races or finishes first. Because you can win in only one outcome, winning, odds and potential payouts are often higher on this bet. If you horse’s odds are 20:1, they usually stay the same on a bet to Win.

Odds: Usually good
When you bet to Place, you increase your odds because you are betting that your horse Wins the races or Places first or second. Because you increase your odds of winning the bet, your odds are usually a bit lower on a bet to Place. Expanding on the 20:1 example above, your horse’s odds of either Winning or Placing are greater, so the odds may change to 10:1, meaning your payout on a winning Place bet of $2 would be $20 plus the $2 you bet, for a payout of $22.

Odds: Usually very good
When you bet to Show, you are betting that your horse finishes first, second, or third. Because odds of winning are even better than in a Win or Place bet, your odds are a little lower, and your payout will be more modest. For a horse with 20:1 odds, the odds that your selection Wins, Places, or Shows, are much better, so the odds may be lowered to 5:1. For a winning $2 Show bet, you would receive $10 plus the return of your $2 bet, for a payout of $12.

Across the Board
Odds: Average
In this bet, you pick a horse to Win, Place, AND Show. This bet is also called a “combo straight wager” because it’s actually three different bets. For example, if you place a $2 Across-the-Board wager, you actually must pay $6, because you’re placing a $2 Win bet, a $2 Place bet, and a $2 Show bet. If your horse comes in first, you get the Win, Place, and Show payouts. If your horse finishes second, you get Place and Show money. If your horse comes in third, you just get the Show money. And, of course, if your horse doesn’t place in the top three, you lose the bet.

Win/Place and Place/Show
Odds: Average
In this type of wager, like the Across the Board wager, you are combining multiple straight wagers. In a Win/Place bet, you place a bet that your horse will either Win and Place. A $2 Win/Place bet is actually $4 because you are betting on two scenarios. If your horse comes in first, you collect both the Win and Place money, and recoup your initial bet. If your horse finishes second, you get the Place money.

Similarly, in a Place/Show bet, you’re betting that your horse will either Place or Show. Similarly, a $2 Place/Show bet is actually $4 because you’re betting on two scenarios. If your horse finishes second, you collect the Place and Show money; if he finishes third, you get the Show money.

Exotic Bets
These types of bets allow you to pick multiple horses within a single bet. The odds are higher on these types of bets, which means that they are harder to win than straight bets.

Odds: Hard
You pick two horses within a single race and choose one to Win, and one to Place. If your two horses finish in that exact order, you win.

Exacta Box or Quinella
Odds: Hard
You can also “box” your Exacta bet which means your two horses can finish in any order in the top two spots and you still win.

Odds: Extremely Hard
This is an expansion on the Exacta. You pick a horse to Win, one to Place, and one to Show. If they finish first, second, and third, in that exact order, you win.

Odds: Extremely Hard
This is like the Trifecta, but with an unusual option to pick a fourth-place winner. You pick a horse to Win, one to Place, one to Show, and another to place fourth. If they finish first, second, third, and fourth, in that exact order, you win.

Daily Double
Odds: Hard
Instead of picking two horses in a single race, you pick that horses to Win in two selected races. If your horses finish first in both races, you win.

Pick 3
Odds: Very Hard
This is based on the Daily Double, but you pick winners for three consecutive races.

Pick 4
Odds: Extremely Hard
You get the idea. Pick the winners for four consecutive races.

Pick 6
Odds: One of the Hardest to Win
The is often the biggest bet you can make. You must pick the winning horses in six consecutive races. If you win, the payout is big, and it’s unusual to see a five figure payout. If no one correctly picks all six winners, those who accurately selected five out of six will split 30 percent of the Pick 6 pool. The remaining 70 percent carries over to the next racing day and will continue to do so each day until someone correctly chooses the winner of all six races.

Rainbow 6 or Fortune 6
Odds: Think of it Like the Lottery
Like the Pick 6, you must choose the winning horses in six consecutive races. Unlike the Pick 6, the Rainbow 6 only pays out when there is only a single winning ticket. If more than one person correctly picks all six winners for the Rainbow 6 on a given day, a consolation payout is usually made, but the majority of the betting pool carries over to the next day. Rainbow 6 tickets are often very inexpensive (10 or 20 cents) making it easy for lots of people to play (and reducing the odds of any one person winning.) The largest Rainbow 6 to date was in 2014 when a 20-cent ticket paid out over $6 million.

Placing a Bet at a Hollywood Off Track Betting (OTB) is Easy.
When you visit our Off-Track Betting area, open seven days a week, you’ll find 29 betting carrels, each equipped with their own TV, and 23 large-screen TVs, so you can watch all the action as it happens. Daily Racing Forms are available for purchase in the OTB area. Prices range from $6 to $10.50 per form.

In our OTB area, you can bet on Maryland races, but we also offer live simulcasts from around the country, so the excitement never stops. We also feature live races from the Latin American Racing Channel.

You may choose to bet through one of our Representatives, use one of our Automated Machines, or even use one of the Tablets.

When placing a bet, you must have:

  1. The racetrack name and race number
  2. The dollar amount of your wager
  3. The type of bet – Win, Place, Show, etc.
  4. The official number(s) of the horse(s) you’ve chosen

If you need assistance, our friendly Representatives are positioned throughout the area to help patrons understand the format and to place bets.

After placing your bet, watch your horse run and make sure the race has been declared “official” before deciding if you’ve won or lost. Once the race is official, you can collect your winnings.

What Kind of Payouts Can You Expect?
Here are returns on a $2 wager, using a variety of odds.

Odds Odds Odds 



Some OTB bettors tend to win, while other tend to lose. While luck is a big factor in any wager, there are some tips you can lean on to make you more likely to win. With that in mind, these tips may improve your odds:

Listen to the Announcer
When watching races, pay attention to the announcer, and the simulcast commentator who handicaps between the races. You may pick up some tips to help you place a smarter bet.

Pay Attention to The Jockeys
Different jockeys bring different skills to the race, and a good jockey increases the odds of winning. If you learn how to identify these jockeys, you will understand when they add to or subtract from the horses’ chances of winning.

When evaluating jockeys, remember that about 90% of jockey fall into the middle range. They are average, solid riders. They win their fair share of races, but they don’t win more or less than any of the other average riders. Another 5% of jockeys are noticeably less talented and win fewer races. They tend to show up in smaller races on less talented horses.

But the top 5% of jockey are money makers. These top jockeys win more races because they have a rare talent for riding in ways that make their horses faster. This top 5% tends to ride in the better races on the better horses.

Don’t Ignore the Favorite
While it can be fun to bet on a long-shot, the favorite horse is favored for a reason. While they may not provide big paydays, they win about a third of the time.

Pay Attention to Potential Overlay and Underlays
Once you get better at recognizing horse and jockey talent, you can evaluate the odds more reliably. Some of the most successful horse betters know when the oddsmakers have underestimated a horse and made the payout odds too high. If you can accurately spot an overlay, you’ll recognize the times when a horse with high odds is actually the better bet.

These experts also understand the Underlay. When odds-makers get too confident about a horse’s ability to win, they give them good odds, even if there are factors that make this less likely. If you can accurately spot an underlay, you’ll recognize the times when a favored horse with low odds is actually the riskier bet.

Oddsmakers do make mistakes, so once you get skilled at evaluating races, you can see if you can beat the oddsmakers with your own racing predictions.

Never Bet Money You Can’t Lose
Even the most well-informed OTB bettor will sometimes be surprised at the outcome. While you can research the sport and get better at horse race betting, no bet is a sure thing. Never gamble money you can’t lose, financially or emotionally. If you or someone you care about has a problem with gambling, The 1-800-GAMBLER (426-2537) helpline is available 24 hours a day and connects individuals to services, including counseling, treatment, self-help, and support groups. Maryland residents are eligible for free problem gambling assessment and treatment.

Learn the Lingo: OTB
Tracks and bettors have their own terms and lingo that can be confusing or intimidating for first-time gamblers. If you want to feel more confident when you visit the OTB area at Hollywood Casino, we’ve provided a list of terms and slang you may encounter. We hope you find these definitions helpful.

Added Money: Cash added, in addition to cash provided in para-mutuel wagers, to increase the total purse for a stakes race.

Board: The tote board on which odds, betting pools, and other race information is displayed.

Chalk Horse: Odds-on-favorite or top choice to succeed.

Entry: Two or more horses with the same owner or trainer that run as a single betting interest.

Field horse (or Mutuel Field): Two or more starters running as a single betting unit. Sometimes happens when there are more entrants than positions than the board can accommodate.

Handicap Race (HCP): A race, usually for better-quality horses, in which weight carried is assigned to the horses by the Racing Secretary based on an assessment of their past ability. Better horses get higher weights to enable horses with a lesser record to have a chance to win.

Handle: Amount of money waged on a race or in a day.

In the Money: Finishing first, second, or third.

Inquiry: An investigation by stewards of a foul or violation which occurred during the race.

Lock: Slang for a highly-probable winner.

Maiden: A horse that has not yet won a race.

Minus Pool: A mutuel pool caused when one horse is so heavily played that, after deductions of state tax and commission, there is not enough money left to pay the legally prescribed minimum on each winning bet. The racing association usually makes up the difference.

Morning Line: Approximate odds quoted before wagering begins, before post time.

Odds-on: Odds of less than even money.

On the Nose: Slang for betting a horse to win only.

Pool: Mutuel pool, the total sum bet on a race or a particular bet.

Purse: The amount of money distributed to a designated number of finishers in a race.

Stakes Race: A race which closes more than 72 hours in advance of its running and for which subscribers contribute money towards its purse.

Win bet: Slang for a wager on a horse to finish first.

Learn the Lingo: The Horses
When you want to wager on a sport, it’s smart to understand the history and skills of your players. And in racing, the players are horses. While no breeder has a foolproof method for producing a guaranteed champion, horses bred from champion bloodlines are more likely to win.

That’s why it’s good to do a little research on the horses, learn what kind of races they excel in, think about their racing history, their age, and more. Knowing more about the horses in the race will help you make more informed betting decisions and should significantly improve your odds of winning.

For example, some horses are known to do better on wet tracks and are referred to as mudders. If you are betting on a race with a muddy track, mudders become a better bet than on other days. If you are using past performance as your indicator, it’s important to know if the horse won handily (without much effort) or was ridden full-out (meaning the jockey had to forcible urge him on, and may have been a big factor in his victory.)

Many factors influence a horse’s odd of winning. To help you decide which horse to wager on, here’s a quick list of basic horse terms you should know to become a more knowledgeable gambler.

Age: The number of years since a horse was foaled. Ages are calculated as if all horses were foaled on January 1.

All Out: A horse who is racing as well as he can, trying to the best of his ability.

Also-Eligible: A horse that has been entered in the race but can’t start unless another horse is scratched.

Also-Ran: A horse who finishes out of the money. Also-rans do not receive payouts.

Bearing In (or Out): The term used to describe a horse failing to maintain a straight course, veering to the left or right. Bearing in (or out) might be due to fatigue, outside distractions, poor riding, or even injury.

Bobble: When a horse takes a bad step away from the starting gate. Similar to a human stumble, causing the horse to duck his head or go to his knees.

Bolt: Sudden veering from a straight course.

Breezing: When a horse is being held back or restrained during a race.

Bullet Work: A horse’s best workout time for the distance on a given day at a track.

Checked: When a horse is pulled up, as a corrective move by his jockey, because the horse is cut off or closed in during a race.

Closer: The term for a horse who usually runs best in the latter part of the race.

Colt: A male horse less than five years old.

Distanced: Refers to a horse that has finished a long distance behind the winner.

Dam: A horse’s mother.

Gelding: A castrated male horse.

Lasix: Medication used to stop nose bleeds.

Sire: A horse’s father.

Breeder: Owner of the dam of a horse when the was foaled.

Stud: Male horse used for breeding. Also used to as a term for a breeding farm.

Eased: When a jockey stops his horse during the race thus forfeiting the race, usually due to an injury or equipment problem.

Easily: Running or winning without being pressed by the jockey or opposition.

Evenly: When a horse is running evenly in a race and is neither gaining nor losing position or distance.

Extended: When the jockey forces his horse to run at top speed.

Faltered: Use to describe a horse, in contention early in the race, that drops back in the late stages.

Filly: A female horse less than five years old.

Flatten Out: When a horse drops his head almost on straight line with body, generally from exhaustion.

Foal: A newly born Thoroughbred, used until he is weaned. Can be a male or female.

Front-Runner: The horse who usually leads the field or is expected to lead the field.

Graduate: A horse winning for the first time.

Handily: A horse working or racing with ease and without urging.

Hung: A horse holding the same position during a race, unable to make up distance on the winner.

In Hand: Running under moderate control, not at the horse’s best pace.

Juvenile:  A two-year-old horse.

Mare: A female horse, older than five years.

Morning Glory: A horse who performs well in morning workouts but fails to run as well in actual races.

Mudder: A horse who run well on wet tracks.

On the Bit: Describes a horse who is eager to run.

Ridden Out: When a horse finishes a race without rider urging him to run his best.

Scratch: Withdrawal of a horse entered for a race.

Sophomore: A three-year-old horse.

Stretch Runner: A horse who finishes faster in the stretch.

Taken Up: A horse who pulled up sharply by his rider, usually because they are in close quarters.

Under Wraps: A horse under considerable restraint during a race, or even during a workout.

Washy: A horse who breaks out in noticeable, nervous sweat before a race.

Yearling: Since all horses age on January 1 (and not on their actual dates of birth), a Thoroughbred is referred to as a Yearling until the New Year’s Day after being foaled.

Learn the Lingo: The Tracks and Races
You’ll probably become familiar with the names of many tracks once you decide to start betting, so it’s a good idea to understand their terms, and find out what, exactly, those commentators and announcers are talking about when they discuss races. Understanding what kinds of races will be run, track conditions, and jockey techniques will make you a more educated gambler.

For example, some horses run better in mud, while others falter in bad weather. That means that understanding what a “good track” is vs. a “heavy” track allows you to determine which horses are more likely to run well on any given day.

Understanding if a jockey is keeping a certain horse “under wraps” or if the horse is another “Morning Glory” will help you decide if a horse will live up to the odds of the day.

All Out: A horse who is trying to the best of his ability.

Also-Eligible: A horse entered in the race but who cannot start unless another horse is scratched.

Also-Ran: A horse who finishes but does not share in the winning purse.

Backstretch: The straightway on the far side of the track.

Bearing In (or Out): When the horse or rider fails to maintain a straight course, veering to the left or right. Can be caused by injury, fatigue, outside distractions, or poor riding.

Blanket Finish: When the horses at the finish line are so close you could place a single (imaginary) blanket across them.

Blinkers: Headgear worn by a horse to limit his vision and prevent distractions.

Bobble: A bad step or stumble away from the starting gate, sometimes causing a horse to duck his head or go to his knees.

Bolt: Sudden veering from a straight course.

Breezing: A horse working under restraint.

Bull Ring: Small racetrack less than one mile around.

Bullet Work: The best workout time for the race distance on a given day at a track.

Checked: A horse pulled up by his jockey for an instant because he is cut off or in tight quarters.

Chute: Extension of the backstretch or homestretch to allow a longer straight run at the start.

Claiming Race: A race for horses in which they are eligible for a predetermined purchase. Claiming races are equalizers because owners are unlikely to enter a $10,000 horse in a race for $5,000 claimers and risk having it claimed.

Closer: A horse who runs best during the end of the race, after not leading in the earlier parts of the race.

Clubhouse Turn: Usually the turn immediately after the finish line, often closest to the clubhouse.

Colors: Racing silks, the jacket and cap worn by jockeys.

Dead Track: A racing surface that lacks resiliency. Usually means a slower race.

Dead-Heat: Two or more horses finishing in a tie at the finish.

Distanced: When a horse finishes a long distance behind the winner.

Eased: The jockey stops the horse during the race, disqualifying them, usually due to an injury or equipment problem.

Easily: Running or winning without being pressed by the jockey or opposition.

Entry: Two or more horses owned by the same stable or trained by the same trainer and running as a single betting unit.

Evenly: Staying in the same place throughout the race, neither gaining nor losing position or distance during a race.

Extended: When a horse is forced to run at top speed.

Faltered: When a horse that was in contention early on, drops back in the late stages.

Fast track: The optimum condition for a dirt track, dry, fast and even.

Firm: A optimum condition for a turf course, and fast on a dirt track.

First Turn: The first bend in the track beyond the starting point.

Flatten Out: When a horse drops his head almost into straight line with his body, usually a sign of exhaustion.

Front-Runner: A horse who usually leads (or tries to lead) the field for as far as he can.

Furlong: One eighth of a mile.

Good Track: A condition used to describe a track that is neither fast nor slow, and generally a bit wet.

Graduate: A horse that has won for the first time.

Half: Half a mile, four furlongs; 880 yards; 2,640 feet.

Hand Ride: Urging a horse with the hands and arms, not the whip.

Handily: A horse working or racing with ease and without urging.

Head of the Stretch: Beginning of the straight run for the finish.

Heavy: Condition of track when wet, slower than a muddy track.

Hung: A horse holding the same position in the pack of racers, unable to gain on the winner.

In Hand: When a horse is running under moderate control, at less than best pace.

Jockey: The rider.

Match Race: A race between two horses for which no other horses are eligible.

Morning glory: The horse who performs well in morning workouts but fails to fire in actual races.

Muddy: Deep condition of racetrack after being soaked with water. A slow and sometimes treacherous track condition.

Nose: Smallest advantage a horse can win by.

On the Bit: Slang for a horse that is eager to run.

Paddock: The area where the horses are brought before the race to be saddled and mounted.

Photo Finish: Race result that are so close that judges must consult the official photograph. Driving: When the jockey urges the horse on relentlessly.

Pole: Markers at measured distances around the track, marking the distance from the finish.

Post Position: The starting stall position assigned to each horse, numbered from the inner rail across the track at the starting line.

Post Time: The scheduled start of a race.

Post: The starting point of a race.

Ridden Out: When a jockey finishes a race without urging the horse to ride his fastest.

Route: A distance race of one mile or longer.

Scratch: Withdrawal of a horse entered for a race, after close of entries.

Sloppy: A track that is wet on surface with firm bottom.

Slow: A track with some moisture in it that is not fast, between good and heavy.

Sprint: A race of seven furlongs or less.

Starting Gate: The mobile stalls horses must stand in until the start of the race.

Stewards: Racing officials designated to uphold the track rules, answering to the state racing commission.

Stick: A jockey’s whip or bat.

Stretch Runner: The horse who finishes fast in the stretch.

Stretch Turn: Bend of track into homestretch.

Taken Up: A horse pulled up sharply by his rider because they are in close quarters.

Tout: Person who claims to have, and sell, advance information on a race.

Turf Course: Grass race course.

Track Record: Fastest time for a distance at a particular track.

Under Wraps: A horse kept under firm restraint during a race or workout, presumably to hide his full potential.

Washy: A horse who breaks out in nervous sweat before race.

Win: Crosses the finish line first.

Problem Gambling Hotline
While gambling is a fun pastime for many, it can become a problem for some. Never gamble money you can’t lose, financially or emotionally. If you or someone you care about has a problem with gambling, The 1-800-GAMBLER (426-2537) helpline is available 24 hours a day and connects individuals to services, including counseling, treatment, self-help, and support groups. Maryland residents are eligible for free problem gambling assessment and treatment.

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