It’s time for the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby, “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” Most years, it’s the best excuse to dress up, wear a fancy hat and get sloshed that doesn’t require an invitation from the queen. But this year, the combination of a still-ongoing pandemic and greatly expanded sports gambling mean lots of people will be placing bets from home. Who are you betting on? One of the favorites? A 50-to-1 long shot?

What do you mean you aren’t betting?

Compared with point spreads and moneylines, betting on the ponies can seem a little confusing. Are you intimidated by Saturday’s race program? The confusing lingo? Never fear: We’ve got you covered for this year’s race. You don’t have to be a seasoned gambler to sound like a betting pro this year. Pick a race, place a wager and have fun cheering on your horse. You might even win some money in the process.

Types of bets

Let’s start with the basic bets you can make on a race. These are all straight bets on a single race. Nice and easy. All the other types of bets are built on these first basic concepts:

  • Win — you’re betting that your horse will win the race. Plain and simple. This is also called betting “on the nose” if you want to sound like a real pro. If the horse finishes first, you win money.
  • Place — a bet to place means you think the horse will come in first or second. The payout for a place bet is lower than a win bet, but you have a greater chance of winning.
  • Show — your horse can finish anywhere in the top three and you’re cashing in. This is the safest bet you can make, so the resulting payout is less than a place or win bet.
  • Across the board — if you bet across the board, you’re actually placing three bets. You’re betting the horse will win, place and show, and it’s known as a combination straight bet. (Win, place or show bets are straight bets. The other combo straight wagers are win/place and place/show.) If your horse finishes first, you win all three bets; a second-place finish wins the place and show bets; third place wins the show bet.

If the basic bets aren’t doing it for you, try an exotic bet. These are next-level bets that require you to pick multiple horses correctly. If you pick right, your payout potential is higher than on the single bets above, but the odds are against you with these:

  • Exacta/Perfecta — you must pick the exact order of the first-place and second-place horses. It’s hard to pick these, so the payoff is higher than a basic bet.
  • Quinella — this is just like the exacta, but you don’t have to pick the exact order, just which two horses will finish in first and second place. It pays out less than the exacta, but higher than a basic bet.
  • Trifecta — you may have been able to guess what this one was. It’s the exacta, plus one. Pick the top three finishers, 1-2-3, in order and you win. This is a 50-cent minimum bet.
  • Superfecta — the superfecta takes it one step further. To win, you must pick, in order, first, second, third and fourth. Pick right, win big.

You can also box these bets, meaning you pick any number of horses in the hope they cross the finish line first in any order. These bets are a little more expensive, however, because you’re actually making more than one wager on each ticket. A $2 trifecta box bet on three horses, for example, will cost you $12 because there are six possible outcomes.

If you’re feeling really lucky, multi-race bets take it a step further, but they’re incredibly hard to pick right. There is nothing more heartbreaking than picking the first two of a pick three just to watch your horse fade down the homestretch. Here are a few of the types:

  • Double — this is the simplest multi-race bet, and most tracks offer this bet twice in a day. Usually, there is a Daily Double, which may also be called the Early Double (race one and two) or Late Double (last two races on the card). During Derby weekend, you can also place a Oaks-Derby Double, which is where bettors pick the winner of the Kentucky Oaks on Friday and the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
  • Pick-3/Pick-4/Pick-5/Pick-6 — just like the double, but with more races. There are limited offerings of these in a day, and they are usually for a specific stretch of races. At the Oaks and Derby, the pick-6 bet is on races 6 through 11. (Pick-3, Pick-4, Pick-5 have 50-cent minimums; Pick-6 is a $2 minimum). Sometimes, if there is no winner, the track will pay out for those who got five of the six races correct. This is called a consolation, and it won’t be the full payout for a pick-6. But hey, it’s something, right?
  • Parlay — a multi-race bet in which all winnings are automatically wagered on each succeeding race., i.e. “let it ride.” The benefit is a much higher payout if you win, but your chances of winning are slimmer. There are all sorts of parlays you can make, and it can get really complicated if you don’t know what you’re doing. For example, you can place a $10 show bet on a horse in the third race and parlay that with a win bet in the fourth and a place bet in the fifth. That means, if your horse shows in the third your winnings are automatically applied to your win bet in the fourth. If your horse in the fourth wins, your winnings then are placed on the show bet in the fifth. If at any point your horse doesn’t hit, you lose everything. But if you hit all the way through, you’re probably buying your friends’ drinks at the bar that night.

Placing a bet

We’re assuming this year that you’ll be making your bets from home. Even before the Supreme Court struck down the federal law that banned sports gambling in 2018, online betting on horse racing was legal in many states, a number that only has gotten bigger in recent years as more states have legalized all sports gambling. FanDuel, TVG, TwinSpires, NYRA Bets and DRF Bets are among the sites that offer horse racing betting in the states where it is permitted.

Once you’ve deposited money, you’ll need to find the race itself. The Kentucky Derby is Race 12 at Churchill Downs on Saturday, with a post time of 6:57 p.m. Eastern.

How much does this pay out?

Understanding betting odds is easy. If the odds are 5-1 and you bet $2, the result is $2×5/1+$2, or a $12 payout.

Reading the race results to find out how much you’ve won can be a little tricky for the uninitiated, but it’s actually pretty simple. Here are the payouts from last years Kentucky Derby:

A $2 win/place/show bet on Authentic would have netted you $29.80. A $2 exacta bet on Authentic and Tiz the Law to finish 1-2 paid $41, while a $1 trifecta bet on Authentic, Tiz the Law and Mr. Big News to finish 1-2-3 paid $1,311.80.