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what is tote betting

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Tote betting is a popular form of pool betting that can be used for horse racing. This is pari-mutuel wagering rather than taking fixed odds prices from the bookies. We’re going to delve into the question of what is Tote betting, showing exactly how it works, the different type of bets available and even giving you some strategies and tips.

What is the Tote in Betting?

The Tote is a betting organisation that was founded way back in 1928. Subsequent wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill was involved in establishing it. This company is still thriving today, though it has seen many changes over the last century.

It was originally set up by the UK government, offering on-track pool betting at British racecourses. The Tote expanded to include High Street shops in the 1970s and was eventually privatised in 2011, when it was bought by Betfred.

In 2019, it was sold again to the UK Tote Group, so it trades today online as Tote. They concentrate on their traditional betting pool products, which are available for betting on football as well as horse racing. In addition, they offer fantasy horse racing, virtual markets, a season-long Flat race betting competition and an online casino.

The Tote is the only company that are legally allowed to run betting pool markets on horse racing. Yet through ‘Tote Direct’ the Tote pools markets are licensed and outsourced to other bookmakers. You can therefore place bets on Tote markets, without having an account with them.

How Does Tote Betting Work?

what is Tote betting

Most people are familiar with the concept of sports betting sites with fixed odds. Traditional bookmakers price up a market and when you place bets you take the odds available at the time. If your selection wins, you get paid out at those odds.

So what is Tote betting? Let’s recap. When betting on the Tote, all the money placed on a horse racing betting market goes in to a cumulative pool. Once the Tote has subtracted their commission, which is currently 27%, the remaining money in the pool is shared out amongst those with every user that has a winning bet. It’s shared based on the stake, so if you bet £20 on a winning horse, you would get paid twice the amount of someone that bet £10.

The winning Tote dividend can be more generous than what you’d receive from fixed odds bookmakers. While you don’t know exactly what you stand to win with these sort of racing bets, you can very often get a pleasant surprise, should the figure be above that of the dividend guide when you placed the bet.

Different Types of Tote Bet

In this section, we’re going to run through some of the different types of pool betting that you can find at the Tote.

Tote Win Bet

A win bet is one of the most common forms of wagers placed at the Tote. You are simply betting on a particular horse to win a single race. Should you be successful, your winnings are paid from you share of the pool, based on the size of your stake.

Tote Place Bet

You can also put a Tote place bet on. If there are between five to seven runners in a race, then the hose must place in the top two positions. Between eight to 15 and it can place in the top three. Non-handicaps with 16 or more runners also pay out on a top three place, while handicaps with 16 or more, give the option of a top four finish.

By putting on a Tote place bet alongside backing a horse to win, you can create the equivalent of an each way bet with these two wagers. There are also types of Tote bets known as exotics and multiples. In our next section, we’re going to explore those type of wagers.

What is a Tote Exotic bet

Here are some of the types of racing bets at the Tote, that fit into the exotic betting category. These bet types all involve backing multiple horses in the same race.

Exacta / Quinella

This is essentially the same as a straight forecast in fixed odds betting. You have to pick the horse that will win the race and the horse that will finish second. That is a Straight Exacta. With a Reverse Exacta or Quinella, you pick two horses and they can finish in either order in the top two, for you to win.


With this type of exotic bet, you have to pick out the horses that will finish in the top three in a race. You have to choice of a straight Trifecta, also called a Tricast bet with fixed odds bookmakers, where you place the horses in a specific order. Or a combination, where they can finish in any order, or a banker Trifecta, which is where you pick the winner and the other two horses can finish in either order.

Tote Swinger Bet

With a Swinger, you bet on two horses, which must finish within the top three places in a race. The selections can finish in any of the top three places, in any order.

Tote Bets with Multiple Legs

Now we’re going to take a look at the Tote bets that require you to pick out multiple legs. Many of these bets have the benefit of you being able to wager a low minimum stake, with potentially big rewards.

Tote Double bet

With a Double on the Tote, you choose one of the available meetings and then pick out one or more selections from the two races that are available. You need to pick the winners in both races to win your share of the double.


With a Quadpot, you select a particular meeting and have to pick out horses that will place from four of the races, which are normally races three to six. All the bets must place to receive a share of the Quadpot.


A Placepot sees you tasked with picking out six horses that will place from a specific card. Generally it’s races one through to six. A horse from all six of the races must place, for you to win a share of the Placepot.


Each day, a horse racing meeting is selected for the daily jackpot. You pick out a minimum of six horses and amongst them you must pick six winners to win a share of the Jackpot pool.


This type of bet is only available on Saturday. The Tote picks out six races. Punters much choose at least one horse from each race. You must pick out the winner of the first race, to go through to the second. You must then have picked the winner of the second race, to go through to the third and so on. If you fail to pick the winner in a certain race, you drop out. The pool is won by the last punter standing. Should more than one player survive for the same amount of time, then the pool is split between them.

How to Bet on Tote Placepot

Now that you have learned about the different types of bets available at the Tote, we’re going to show you how to put one on. We’ve chosen a Placepot bet, to illustrate and we’re going to take you through the process step-by-step.

  1. Open a Tote Account

    Go to the Tote website and set up a Tote account if you don’t already have one. You’ll have to fund the account to be able to put on your bet.
  2. Choose a Meeting

    Pick a race meeting for your Placepot. Depending on the time of day, there could be plenty of options, or less.
  3. Pick Your Horses

    Each Placepot covers the first six races of a meeting. Pick a horse for each race. You’ll be able to see the place terms for each race, so you’ll know where they’ll have to finish to place. If you pick more than one horse for each race, you can perm your various selections.
  4. Choose Your Stake

    Depending on the meeting, the stake will need to be at least 50p or £1. If you choose to perm multiple selections, this is something to consider when choosing your unit stake. Once you have decided on your stake, you can check the details of the bet back and confirm the Placepot.

Pros & Cons of Tote Betting Explained

Now that you understand what is Tote betting, you may be wondering what are the strengths of this type of gambling and what are the weaknesses. Plenty of punters see an upside to pool bets with an increase of £11,800,000, up 126.5%, reported in the UKGC industry statistics published in November 2022. Here are the pros and cons as we see them.

  • Often produces higher payouts than regular horse racing bets
  • Can win big on Exotic and Multiple bets even with minimum stake
  • Lots of opportunities based around Tote place bet wagers
  • Guarantees to match fixed odds Starting Price (SP) of runners
  • Tote prices only a guide and you don’t know how much you will win
  • Have to back a winner and a Tote place bet separately to make an each way bet

Tote Betting Calculator

As we’ve said, you don’t know what you’re going to win when you place a bet at the Tote, though the betting pool dividend guides do give you a rough idea. So too, can odds from regular bookies.

You can use a free bet calculator before a race, to work out roughly what you might win. Though you may get more, or slightly less at the Tote, but you will at least have a general notion of what sort of money you can win.

Play around with the staking, from the minimum stake upwards, to see what will be a comfortable amount for you to bet, given the potential rewards. You can also use a bet calculator to fully understand the details of your settled bet at the Tote.

Tote Online Betting Strategies & Tips

Here are some tips and strategies that will help your profitability when betting with the Tote. These are some ways of how to bet on horses through pari-mutuel pools and do well:

Refine your Each Way options

If you want to bet each way at the Tote, you need to put on a win bet and then a separate place bet. That gives you more of an opportunity to experiment with your staking, than would be the case at a normal bookie, where you’d typically just click on the EW option.

There may be occasions when it makes more sense to have a bigger stake for your place bet and a smaller stake for the win part. The opposite is also true, so always consider that your win and place staking, do not have to match each other.

Places Trump Winners in Races

Traditional accas are difficult to land, as you are looking to predict multiple winners, which all need to be successful. This puts a lot of serious punters off. Yet with the Tote place bet multiple options such as Quadpot and Placepot, you have a much better chance of winning. Obviously, it is easier to pick horses that will merely place in a race, rather than winners, making this form of acca bet a potential money-maker.

Maximise Minimum Bet for Jackpot

The Tote’s Jackpot game requires you to pick out six winners. As you can imagine, that’s extremely difficult, but there’s ways to make it easier, without breaking the bank. While the total minimum stake is 50p, the minimum unit stake is just 1p. That means that you can cheaply select multiple runners in each race, giving you a much better chance of landing a share of the Jackpot.

Why Do So Few Bookies Offer Access to Tote Betting Online?

You may have noticed that there are less fixed odds bookies offering Tote betting meaning that punters increasingly have to use the Tote directly. Bookies have to agree a license with the Tote to gain use of their products and this only really makes sense for the biggest bookmakers, that want to provide a full compliment of betting options for their punters. For many smaller bookies, it’s not really in their interests to promote a competitor and they prefer to concentrate on their fixed odds product.


What is a Tote bet in horse racing?

Is Tote betting better than taking fixed odds prices with the bookies?

How can you bet on the Tote?

What is the difference between the Tote and fixed odds betting?

How does each way betting work on the Tote?

Which countries use Tote pool betting?

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.