What Is a Tote: In-Depth Guide To Tote Betting

by D. Djokic  ·  April 2, 2021

The horse racing tradition in the UK goes back centuries while betting on horses also has a long history. Over the years, bookmakers and bettors invented various wagering systems and methods, including tote betting. So what is a tote? How to use this type of betting to earn money on horses? Is a tote bet better than a traditional fixed-odds bet at the best UK online betting apps?

You’ll find the answers to these and other questions below, so let’s dive deeper into the world of tote bets.

Eight Quick Facts About Tote Betting

  • Tote betting was established in the UK in 1928 as a state-owned enterprise.
  • Winston Churchill had a prominent role in establishing tote betting systems.
  • Betfred bought Tote in 2011, but it sold it back to Tote Group in 2019.
  • In February 2020, Tote Group launched its online tote betting platform.
  • Every tote bet goes into a cumulative prize pool.
  • The payout on tote bets (the dividend) is a percentage of the money in the prize pot.
  • In 2020, authorities introduced the Tote Guarantee mechanism.
  • Tote Guarantee ensures the dividend is never worse than the starting price (SP).


If you’ve ever been to the races or watched horse racing events on TV, you’ve probably heard of tote betting. Nonetheless, many people don’t know what a tote is or how to bet on the tote. Despite the popularity of betting on horse racing, some terms remain a mystery for lots of bettors.

Even so, punters worldwide put millions on the tote, no matter if they don’t fully understand the concept. They love the prestige associated with this betting method, alongside the simplicity of the betting process. So, without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about tote bets.

What Is a Tote?

In tote betting, all the stakes for a particular selection go into a cumulative pool. For that reason, the alternative name for this system is parimutuel betting, a French term still being heard at the races.

In a way, a tote is like a betting exchange because players are betting against each other, not the house. Likewise, the tote’s odds are changing and fluctuating while the market is live, i.e. until the start of the race.

So if someone asks, ‘what is a tote,’ you can say that a tote bet is a wager where your stake goes into a massive prize pot. If your selection wins, you’ll receive a percentage of the total money collected in the pool.

As a betting system, a tote is on the menu in both online and land-based betting houses. Of course, the house profits by taking a commission on every winning bet. After those deductions, the rest of the prize pool goes to the winners. The payout in tote betting is known as the dividend.

How To Place a Tote Sports Bet

Although tote betting intimidates many bettors, the wagering process is straightforward. Even though it shares similarities with fixed-odds betting, a couple of differences separate tote betting from traditional betting in the UK.

No matter if you are betting online or in a land-based establishment, the process starts by selecting a horse. After that, choose the type of tote you wish to place. Check the tote minimum bet requirements and finish the process either by handing over the money or clicking on the suitable button.

In essence, the process requires only a few minutes or even less. Yet, this is only the tip of the iceberg in parimutuel betting. For instance, it’s impossible to know the potential winnings before the race. That’s why a tote is like a lottery ticket. But unlike games where you only rely on luck, some elements of the tote can sway the chances in your favour.

So if you want betting on the tote explained, here’s what you should keep in mind. First, remember that a horse on which it was less staked on will come at longer odds than a favourite. Less-fancied horses offer better payouts because you’ll share the spoils with fewer punters. For that reason, the unofficial holy grail of tote betting is to be unique and go against the crowd.

Second, know that tote betting provides a variety of betting opportunities. You can place various wagers on a tote, and here are the most prominent ones.

Most Common Types of Tote Bets

The simplest way to answer the question ‘what is a tote’ is to see how this method behaves in action. In other words, we should look at the options you’ll have at your disposal when betting on the tote.

Currently, the following bet types are on the menu at the official tote website: Win, Place, Each-Way, Exacta, Trifecta, Placepot, Quadpot, Jackpot, Scoop 6, and Swinger.

Of course, it all starts with the Win bet, the most common market with UK bookmakers. Nonetheless, a to win bet on the tote differs from the traditional option. On the tote, the minimum bet is £2, and you don’t know how much you could win in the end. Conversely, the math is simple with fixed-odds betting. You only need to multiply the odds with your stake.

To place bets are also at your disposal with the tote. Depending on the size of the race, place positions can include up to four finishers. Again, every bet affects the pot, changing the prices and impacting your potential winnings.

Another noteworthy tote sports bet is the each-way option. Like the place bet, this market also improves your margin of error. Precisely, an each-way bet combines two wagers: to win and to place. By ticking the box on the bet slip, bettors can activate an each-way proposition. Keep in mind that two parts included in this bet require a double stake rather than a single unit.

Now that we examined the most common types of tote bets, it’s time to step up the game. Here’s how the situation looks like when you opt for exotic tote bets.

What Is a Tote Placepot Bet?

Believe it or not, tote placepot is the most popular pool bet in the UK and Ireland. The average payout on this betting market is around £400, but in 2019, a bettor collected £182,567.80 on a £2 stake!

To win a tote placepot, you need to pick a horse that places in the first six races at a horse racing meeting. Therefore, this bet will keep you entertained for the entire afternoon.

If you ask how to bet on the tote, i.e. the Placepot, it all starts by finding the horses. In Placepot jargon, punters use the term lines instead of selections. You can add multiple lines to the tote to improve winning odds. But the more horses you choose, the higher the stake. The number of lines determines the wagering amount, making the tote Placepot a balancing act.

The minimum bet with a Placepot is £1, with a 10p being the minimum stake per line.

What Is a Tote Jackpot Bet?

If the Placepot feels too easy, step it up and try the famous Tote Jackpot. After all, this wagering proposition comes with a minimum £10,000 prize pot (at tote.co.uk). Yet, you’ll need to predict six winners at a specified Tote Jackpot meeting.

Like with the Placepot, the number of lines determines the stake. Multiple selections increase the odds of predicting the first horse to come home, but they also raise the amount you need to invest. But on this type of tote, the minimum bet is 1p per line, allowing you to cover a broad range of possibilities for a relatively low stake. The minimum total stake is £1.

Of course, the Tote Jackpot bet’s dividend can be jaw-dropping, but it’s tricky to predict all six winners. As with all tote bets, the winners split the pot, minus the 27% deduction from the total prize pool.

Even though favourites might seem like the obvious choice, remember that underdogs bring much higher odds. Thus, experienced bettors often combine a couple of banker bets with several outsiders when placing the Tote Jackpot. Again, the goal is to be as unique.

Tote Explained: The Pros and Cons of Tote Betting

Tote bets are an exciting option for any punter looking for a bumper payout for a small outlay. In a way, the massive potential payouts are the essential advantage of betting on the tote. In particular, high-profile horse racing festivals are an ideal opportunity to opt for a tote bet.

Likewise, fluctuating odds are an element that attracts many bettors. Parimutuel betting is a volatile arena, and you can seldom know precisely how much you’ll win.

Yet, some bettors wanting to know ‘what is a tote’ shy away from this method because of its unpredictability. Many prefer knowing how much money awaits at the end of the race if they predict the results correctly.

Also, tote bets on the favourites are not the most profitable option. When compared to fixed-odds straight bets, a tote win bet will often give a smaller return. Of course, the Tote Guarantee mechanism will prevent the prices from slipping below the SP line. Even so, tote bets on outsiders and less-fancied runners are a much better option than betting on the favourites.