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Derby: House Quinella A Better Bet Than Exacta Boxes.
By Kevin O’Neill

There are certain aspects of the structure of sports betting and horse racing that can give the player an advantage. Some of them don’t happen all that often. Some opportunities occur only once a year, such as the house quinella in the Kentucky Derby.
When a track doesn’t offer a separate quinella pool (1st and 2nd in any order, while exactas require you to pick 1st and 2nd in exact order), some books, both in Vegas and offshore book a “house quinella”. The House Q is calculated by multiplying the win price of the first place horse by the place price of the runner up and dividing it by two. When betting exactas involving two horses that are 15-1 and less in the Kentucky Derby the house quinella is a better bet than an exacta box. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
Last year Smarty Jones was the favorite at 4-1 and Lion Heart was the second choice at better than 5-1. The exacta paid $65.20. The house quinella paid $41.82. If you had a $10 exacta box ($20 total bet) of those two you got back $326. If you risked the same $20 on a house quinella your return was $418.20, 28% more than the exacta box.
In 2003 Funny Cide won at 12-1 with favored Empire Maker running second at odds of 5-2. The exacta paid $97 while the house Q paid $80.04. A $20 risk in a $10 exacta box with the two returned $465 while a $20 house quinella paid a stout $800.40, a 72% premium over the exacta box return.

The public nature of Derby betting provides the opportunity here. Smart horseplayers know that longhots are a bad bet to place over the long run (no time to detail why. You’ll have to trust me on this). On an average day at the races the place pool is an efficient market. At the Derby a lot of once a year horse bettors are playing longshots to win/place or across the board, creating bloated place pools that fatten the place prices on well bet horses.
Not all books post house quinellas, in fact most don’t. You’ll have to ask and when you do ask check on their limits. Two worth checking out are the Stardust in Vegas and Millennium (see online.
On another Derby issue. Why do trifectas and superfectas pay enormous amounts in the Derby even when the horses seem logical or there is only one bomber in the mix? It is all about the size of the field. In a typical 8-horse field there are 336 possible trifecta combinations and 1680 superfecta combinations. In the Derby a full 20-horse field has 6840 possible trifecta combination and 116,280 superfecta combinations. That explains why the superfecta paid over $41,000 last year with the favorite winning and the second choice nabbing the place spot. Of course most books cap their payoffs on exotics and big paying exotics are usually better played at the track or with a simulcasting outfit that puts your action right into the tote.
Last week we promised information coming soon on our Business of Sports Handicapping seminar and coaching program. We’ve been enhancing the program for this year and with the details close to being worked out it’ll be sent to our email list next week. Opt in by visiting Our baseball totals-only service is now 17-12 for 58.6% winners. Record updates at 770-618-8700, a 24-hour recorded message.


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