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what is a dead heat

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A dead heat is where two or more entrants in a sporting contest cannot be separated and the event is deemed to be tied. We’re going to examine the question of what is a dead in detail, providing you with everything that you need to know on the subject.

What Happens in a Dead Heat in Horse Racing?

what is a dead heat in horse racing

Let’s start with what is a dead heat in horse racing. This situation in a horse race arises when two or more horses cannot be separated by a photo finish.

The same rules apply whether it’s a steeplechase, hurdle race or one of the Flat race events. Such has been the advancement of photographic technology, that dead heat finishes in horse racing are increasingly rare.

The exact moment the horses reach the finish line can be paused and viewed frame by frame, which normally allows for a winner to be identified, even if it is by the slimmest of margins. A recent example of a dead heat came in a flat race at Sandown in 2021.

Phoenix Star was called as the winner, but a stewards’ enquiry later ruled that Hurricane Ivor had crossed the line at exactly the same time. A two-way dead heat was the official result.

Any prize pot is split between the dead heat winners. A noticeable example of this is the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Turf in the US, which finished as a dead heat between Johar and Ireland’s High Chaparral. A first prize of $1,000,000 was split between the two owners.

Dead Heat Rules Explained

You may be wondering how dead heat betting rules work. You may have heard the phrase ‘dead heat rules apply’ before, but been unsure how such a payout would be calculated.

In the event of ties, dead heat payout rules state that your stake should be divided by the number of dead-heaters. Let’s take a look at an example to explain things in the simplest terms.

Let’s say there is a two-way tie in a horse race. You have put £10 on Horse A at odds of 10/1. If it had clearly won, you would receive £100 in winnings, plus your £10 stake back.

Instead, Horse A finishes level with Horse B and we have two joint winners. As there are two winners, your stake of £10 will be divided by two, leaving you with a £5 stake at odds of 10/1. You win £50 and receive your £5 stake back.

So what about an each-way bet? As you might know, when you bet each-way, you are effectively having two wagers, with one bet on your selection to win and one on it to place. How an each-way wager is calculated depends on where the dead head occurs.

If there was a dead heat with two winners in a horse race, then your each way bet would see the stake of your win bet divided in two, while the place part would be calculated as normal. Should there be a clear winner, but a tie second between two horses, it would depend on the place terms.

The win part would be calculated normally, regardless. If there were only two places being paid out, then the stake of the place part of the bet would be divided in two. Should there be three places being paid, then you’d get half of your stake for the second place and half of your stake for the third place, resulting in 100% of your place bet being paid out.

What is a Dead Heat in Football?

Dead heats can occur across a range of sports. While football betting might not be an obvious one at first sight, you can bet on a draw in a game and if it is a cup match, the result will be settled in some way, such as with a replay, extra time or penalty shootout.

Even in a league situation, in the unlikely event of two or more teams ending the season with the exact same record, a play-off would be contested, in order to determine a league winner.

Dead heats in football tend to come in outright betting markets, though. The most common one is top scorer markets covering the entire season. You are betting on the player who will score the most goals in a certain competition. Sometimes there are two or more players who finish on the same amount of goals at the end of the season.

The most recent example of this in the Premier League came in the 2021-22 season, when Mohamed Salah and Heung-Min Son both finished with 23 goals. There have been three instances when three players have been tied at the top of the Premier League scoring charts, back in 1997-98, 1998-99 and then in 2018-19. We’re still waiting for our first four-way tie in the English top flight goalscorer markets!

What is a Dead Heat in Golf?

Amongst the other common sports for dead heats is golf. At golf tournaments the players are ranked on a leaderboard, trying to get a low as score as possible by scoring under par at each hole.

It is very common for players to be tied for a certain position. When it comes to the top of the leaderboard, how a dead heat impacts things can depend on whether you’ve placed a golf bet on a selection to win, or in another type of market such as who will finish as the first-round leader.

First-round leader bets will be settled as a dead heat if two or more players in an event finish level, with the stake divided by the number of players tied. In the case of a tournament winner market, dead heat rules in golf state that there will be a play-off between the tied players to decide the winner, so it makes no difference to any bets in golf.

When it comes to golf betting on places in a tournament, it’s once again a question of dividing your stake by the number of players tied. So if you’ve made a bet in golf for a player to finish in the top five places and they are one of three players tied for fifth place, your stake will be divided by three, to calculate your dead heat returns.

Best Bookie if Your Bet is Impacted by a Dead Heat

You’ll find that with dead heat rules betting sites will have them listed clearly, enabling punters to be able to be aware of what will happen if there’s a tie. Thanks to the design of their site and in particular their horse racing section, bet365 dead heat rules are not only fair and easy to digest, but earn our expert recommendation for the following reasons. They settle bets quickly, so you won’t have to wait long before you discover exactly how much you have won, after a dead heat.


Now that we’ve looked at what is a dead heat in some detail, and how it impacts your bets on popular sports, all that remains is for you to take that knowledge with you as a punter. As you will have seen, dead heats can occur in racing sports, but also in football markets and on golf leaderboards. We think that the betting rules regarding dead heats are pretty fair and represent a sensible solution in such a situation.


What does dead heat mean in horse racing?

Why is it call a dead heat?

What impact does a dead heat have on an each way bet?

How often does a dead heat occur?

Dan Fitch
Dan Fitch
Dan Fitch

A writer and editor for some of the top names in the gambling industry for nearly 20 years, Dan also works as a freelance sports journalist for publications and websites such as ESPN, FourFourTwo and LiveScore.