Betting on a horse race: If I place a bet at 100:1 and at race time the odds are 10:1 do I get a 100:1 payout or the 10:1 payout?

The bookies adjust their odds in accordance with the betting patterns. If they have a lot of exposure on a particular horse they may seek to manage their risk by laying off or hedging some of that exposure. But of course they will sometimes lose money on a race.

The parimutuel system you’re describing sounds similar to the tote, which is operated by the track and is another option for betting if you are physically at the race. In that case the odds are only determined after all the bets are in. The tote never loses.

From Tote betting - Wikipedia

A bookmaker win-only bet (on-the-nose) isn’t the same as a Tote Win bet, as the bookmaker is offering fixed odds for that particular outcome, while the Tote is a dividend paid out from the betting pool. The betting pool is generated from individuals placing money on a Tote bet.

A price quote for a horse on the Tote is the current dividend payout on the event of that outcome happening. This tends to be similar to normal bookmaker odds, and tracks the market in a similar way, but at any given time may be better or worse than a bookmaker’s quoted odds. However, since all bets are pooled, all bets are essentially “starting price” (SP), that is, until the race has started (and all betting finished) one cannot calculate what the final payout will be; whereas bookmakers can offer either SP or a “board price”, that is, a guaranteed payout at a given price for a winning bet. (The SP for horse races is the average price offered by bookmakers when the race starts, as inspected by employees of the Jockey Club).

Ok. In your previous post you didn’t make clear that it was a bookie writing on the betting slip. I didn’t think it was feasible for the actual track to do that.

No. I think our friend is referring to betting with bookies. I believe their books are separate from the track’s (the tote’s) pools. Bookies don’t use a parimutuel system.

But bookies still have to balance their books (and make a profit), so while they can lock in your wager at 100:1, they’ll have to offer lower odds to subsequent bettors on the same horse, in order to balance. They’re impressive* as they obviously do a lot of mental math, changing their odds, as they take wagers.

A parimutuel system balances itself. The track (or if you prefer, the tote) takes its percentage off the top (anywhere from 18 to 25% typically), and what’s left in the pools is what the winners share. As a result, the track doesn’t care what the odds are or who wins; it gets its cut straight off the top. Bookies do care, because if they have not balanced their book during betting, they won’t profit (at best), or they will lose their shirts (at worst).

*I’ve watched bookmakers at work, when I’ve been to the track in Australia. They are legal there, and are accorded their own section of the grandstand concourse. And they are amazing, changing odds every minute, as they mentally calculate how to balance their books. I only ever played the tote at Australian tracks, but the bookies were fascinating to watch.

So, if I bet (say) $1000 on a horse at 10:1 and I win I may not get $11,000 back? The track can tell me they took $2,500 off the top so I get an $8,500 payout? ($10,000-2500 = 7,500 + 1000 original bet = $8500).

Not really, because the tote displays what the odds are after the takeouts. So if you bet $1000 on Horse A at 10:1 on the tote, and Horse A goes off at those odds, and wins, you’d get $11,000 at the payout. The track has already taken its cut, at the time of booking the bet, and displayed the after-cut odds on the tote, so you’d get what is displayed.

And the track does take its cut at the time of booking. Your $2 Win bet on number 5, is booked, and at 18% takeout, it means only $1.64 is going into the pool. The odds displayed are what’s in the pool.

Think of this year’s Kentucky Derby. The winning horse went off at 80:1 on the tote. In plain English, that’s “You lay $1 to win $80,” and the horse appropriately paid $163.60 (true odds were 80.8 to 1, but the tote only shows whole numbers). What it is not, is, “The horse was listed at 80:1, but we’ll only pay 60:1 because of takeouts, so here’s your $122.00.”

Simply put, the numbers displayed on the tote are the numbers after the track has taken its cut.

And don’t get sidetracked by the guy selling betting tips…

“I said place! ‘Place it on Lucky D-’ That horse is gonna run second!”

I’ve always thought that was a particularly awkward way to put it but I guess the screenwriter couldn’t think of a way to make the confusion more elegant.

More annoying was the earlier scene where Lonnegan was shut out. The horse he was to bet on was quoted several times as 3 to 1 yet as he stormed out the door J.J. announces the payout was $6. The payout on a $2 3:1 bet is $8, the bettor getting his $2 bet back and the 3 to 1 winnings.

I know absolutely nothing about betting the ponies. Is it possible the, “Place it on Lucky D-,” line may have been (very doubtful) common usage in the '30s? Similarly, could the betting system have been different back then?

On a lighter note, my Dad (who NEVER went to the movies) took me and my brother (12 and 9, respectively) to see The Sting and I thought he was going to fall out of his chair laughing when the FBI guys showed up halfway through the film. I asked him later why was that so funny and he replied something about the suits and skimmer hats being so cliche and the FBI would never set up quarters in a beat up warehouse. And the rest of the cast falling for it (or, were they?) added a layer of farce to the film that he didn’t expect. Or something like that.

“No, ma’am. We in the FBI do not have a sense of humor that I am aware of.”

Years ago I was at the track, and the jockey did that (ie., put his feet down to slow down the horse and pulling back on the reins). Tons of people were booing him because of that. Cost me the race (18 to1 odds).

Never went back to the track again.

Yeah, I’d never heard of this before, and I thought “What a stupid question”. Turns out, it twas me that be stupid.

No. That’s the wording that was used in the actual scam. All the betting mechanisms in The Sting came from the book The Big Con. The mark didn’t protest because, despite the “mistake,” it still showed the people running the con could predict the results accurately and could do it again.

The main reason US tracks have parimutuel wagering is because of a legal loophole. Most states passed laws against bookmaking, but the laws did not think to ban parimutuel wagering (it wasn’t used in the US at that point). Tracks saw the loophole and took it.

Well, I’ll be damned – a factual answer! Thanks, Chuck.

This source, concentrating on Kentucky, mentions the loophole in 1860s France where the system started but it falling out of favor there because of operators’ cheating. In the early 20th century progressives, unable to ban horse race gambling all together, favored it over bookies.

Over time, its advantages over bookmaking became evident as it allowed the people to set the odds, didn’t place the bettors in opposition to the organization conducting the wagering, discouraged unethical practices by the bookmakers due to more accountability, and removed the primary element from chance, distinguished it from lotteries.

IIRC the last state to switch from bookmaking to parimutuel was New York in 1948. Unlike England and Australia there is no bookmaking – legally – in the US.

The whole FBI thing was set up to con Lt. Snyder to keep him off Hooker’s back (and to convince him that Hooker’s dead in the end). Lonnegan only sees the “FBI” for a few seconds before he is hustled off the scene. Everyone else involved knows about the FBI part of the con. Only Snyder had to fall for it, and it’s reasonable that a dim-witted detective from Joliet wouldn’t know much about how the FBI operates in Chicago.

Bookmaking in Canada is also illegal; and all horse race wagers must be placed through the parimutuel tote. I’m unsure when that happened.