What is Totepool and How Does Tote Betting Work?

TotepoolIf you have ever heard of peer to peer or pari-mutuel betting then you are entering Totepool territory.

With a regular fixed odds bookmaker, they advertise the odds they are willing to offer on a meeting and the punter accepts them or moves on to something else. If the punter likes the odds and places a bet, they will be paid out at the odds they took should their bet win.

This means they know how much they stand to win from the moment they place their bet.

Totepool betting is different.

When betting in this way all bets made on the race go into a pot, a percentage is taken to pay the bookmakers and the rest is split between the winners based on the size of each winner’s stake.

This is actually a description of pari-mutuel betting, the Totepool is just a brand name given to a group of pooled bet types here in the UK to make them easier to advertise.

The history here is a little bit long winded, but in order to understand what the Totepool is you need a basic understanding of it.

History of the Totepool

Totaliser Board
Credit: Partick Camera Club

In 1928 the UK Government launched the Racehorse Betting Control Board, a state run alternative to the illegal off course bookmaking that was going on at the time.

It was reformed in 1961 as the Horserace Totaliser Board, nicknamed the Tote, and became something of an institution in the UK after high street betting was made legal and the brand opened over 500 shops up and down the country in its heyday.

Over the years different types of pooled bet were introduced by the Tote, we cover many of them below, and to wrap them all up in a neat marketing package they were named as the Totepool in 2004. This was the same year that the Tote rebranded to Totesport.

So the use of the phrase tote betting (which is actually pari-mutuel betting) was born from taking the name of the brand offering the bet type and using it as an eponym. A bit like telling someone to ‘Google’ something, instead of telling them to use an online search engine.

In 2011 the Tote was sold off to Betfred, who then held the rights to pooled betting in this country for 7 years until 2018, at which point other brands were able to offer pooled betting as well.

How the Totepool Works

Totepool Betting Concept

As we now know, the Totepool is just the collective name given for a lot of different Tote bets, which are in themselves pari-mutuel bets under a different name.

Regardless of which type of Tote bet you use, the basic mechanics of how they work are the same with a few tweaks here and there. All of the money bet on the event goes into the same pot, and after deductions for running the service, the rest becomes the prize pool.

Bettors can see which horses are being bet on the most because the total amount is shown next to their names, so although there are no ‘odds’ as such, you can get a decent idea of what the general betting population is doing with their money.

Regardless of which horse you choose to bet on, you will not know how much you stand to win unless you are actually successful in your bet, because the amount depends on how many other punters made the same predication and how much they staked.

For example, if an outsider somehow managed to romp home, and only 10 people out of 1,000 bet on it, those 10 people would share the dividend while the other 990 would lose their stake.

However, those 10 people would not all get an equal share of the dividend.

The Maths

Imagine the gross pool was £10,000 and we were talking about the Tote Win, so betting on a horse to simply win the race. We can scrap 20% of that to fees, so we are left with a net pool of £8,000.

If 9 of the winning bettors had put £10 on the winning horse but the 1 remaining bettor had bet £50, it wouldn’t be fair for that person to get the same amount as everyone else because they risked more on the bet. So it is worked out on a ‘per £1 bet’ ratio.

To get this figure, we have to divide the net pool by the collective total of winning bets, which in our example is 9 bets of £10 and 1 bet of £50, so £140 altogether. So: 8,000 ÷ 140 = 57.14.

This is always rounded down to the nearest 10p so it would actually be a £57.10 dividend per £1 bet.

All of our £10 bettors would therefore win £571 each (57.10 x 10) and our £50 bettor would win a well deserved £2,855 (57.10 x 50).

Hopefully you can see that it’s a very fair way of sharing the spoils where everyone ends up being paid out at the same odds, and it often ends up being more rewarding than fixed odds betting, especially where outsiders are concerned since fewer people bet on them.

In this way whether you bet £1 or £100 you will be paid out at the same rate as all the other winners, but the bookmaker is making their money in a different way which often results in more money for winning bettors.

What Kind of Totepool Bets Are There?

Tote Bet Types

Over the years many new types of Tote bet have been created and added to the Totepool.

Here they are with a brief description of each:

  • Tote Win – A simple bet on the winning horse.
  • Tote Place Another simple bet on a horse to be placed.
  • Tote Swinger – Select 2 horses to finish in any order in the first 3 places.
  • Tote Exacta – Select the 2 horses which will come 1st and 2nd in the correct order.
  • Tote Quinella – Select the 2 horses which will come 1st and 2nd in either order.
  • Tote Trifecta – Select the 3 horses which will come 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the correct order.
  • Tote Double – Select the winning horse in 2 specific pre-determined races at the same meeting.
  • Tote Treble – Select the winning horse in 3 specific pre-determined races at the same meeting.
  • Tote Quadpot – Select a horse to place in race 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the day at a specific meeting.
  • Tote Placepot – Select a horse to place in each of 6 pre-determined races at the same meeting.
  • Tote Jackpot – Select the winning horse in each of 6 pre-determined races, sometimes at the same meeting but not always.
  • Scoop6 – Select the winner in 6 pre-determined races from different meetings each Saturday. Can also be played selecting a horse to place rather than win.

As you can see there are a lot of options depending on how much risk you want to take, and some of these bets have been known to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds for stakes of just a few pounds.

This makes the Totepool an excellent hunting ground for anyone wanting to make fun bets for small amounts, but still have the possibility to win larger amounts.