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Quinella vs Exacta

Many bettors are confused by the similarity between the Quinella and the Exacta. They are the same bet- so what would make you choose one over the other? For many years the minimum bet on the Exacta was $5, and only $2 on the Quinella. It was much more cost-effective to bet a simple $2 on a Quinella to get the same bet that was $10 to box the Exacta. Now with the Exacta and the Quinella having the same minimum bet it’s a little harder to decide which bet is the smarter wager.

Are they really the same bet?

In the Quinella bet the bettor will choose two horses in a race. These horses must come in first and second place, the order they place in does not matter. In the Exacta, the bettor is betting the horses to come in an exact order. “Boxing” the Exacta is essentially a secondary bet, doubling the price of the wager and betting the reverse order of the Exacta wager. When it comes down to when they pay out Exacta Box and Quinella are identical.

What is the difference?

The Quinella is one bet, while the Exacta Box is two. If you bet a $2 Quinella, the price of the ticket is $2. If you bet a $2 Exacta Box, the price of the ticket will be $4. The prize pools of these two bets are different, so one will typically pay out higher than the other. Another cost to consider is that out of every bet placed the track will take a small percentage. This percentage varies depending on where you place your bets, but typically the take out is higher in an Exacta Box as it is two bets in one, where the Quinella is a single bet.

How do I know which wager to place?

The prize pool in the Quinella is typically smaller than the Exacta, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should bet the Exacta. There’s a very quick formula to help you decide which bet you should play.

After you’ve chosen your horses, determine what your expected payouts will be. All the information you need will be in your race program and the current track odds. Once you have this information it’s very simple to plug it into the formula.

Q/E + Q/EB < 1 Q/E + Q/EB > 1

where Q is the expected Quinella payoff, E is the expected Exacta payoff, and EB is the expected reverse-Exacta payoff (the Exacta Box).

We’ll say with this example Horse #1/Horse #2 Quinella will pay $15. The Horse #1/Horse #2 Exacta will pay $20 and the Horse #1/Horse #2 reverse-Exacta (Exacta Box) will pay $50. You simply plug this information in, which would be

$15/$20 + $15/$50 = 1.05

Because this outcome is greater than 1, the bettor is expected a higher payout if they bet Quinella.

Things to Remember

Parimutuel betting is exciting because until the race actually begins, the odds can change dramatically. This formula is a handy tool, but the odds change frequently and payouts may end up higher or lower than originally calculated.