What is the Across the Board Bet? – Complete Guide to the Win/Place/Show Bet

Across the board is not a traditional bet type because it’s not made up of a single wager. Instead, it’s made up of three bets that can be placed on the vast majority of horse races worldwide.

We’ll show you how the market works, how to place an across the board bet, and how to increase profitability with a solid betting strategy.

What is an Across the Board Bet?

Horse racing has three key markets in the form of place, win, and show bets. These are referred to as straight bets, and the across the board bet comprises all three.

The win bet is where you bet on the horse to win the race. The place is betting on the horses to finish first or second in any order, and the show is first, second, or third in any order.

When you bet across the board you place three singles on each market. Some racebooks will combine them as one bet, but most keep them separate to allow bettors to choose different stakes on each bet.

The bet is designed to cover multiple outcomes for a single horse. Done correctly returns can be big. But, if you fail to win one or two of the bets, you could still make a loss.

Let’s run through a quick example of how this might work.

Assume that we want to back a horse in the Kentucky Derby across the board. We know that we have to place three bets on each of the win, place, and show markets. We decide to place an even $50 on each, making our total stake $150 for the bet.

Each market uses the parimutuel betting system, where you bet into a pool and are paid based on a dividend. Let’s assume the following payouts:

  • Win = $6 per $1 wagered
  • Place = $4 per $1 wagered
  • Show = $2.50 per $1 wagered

The result of the race now impact how much we win. Below, we’ve created a series of scenarios and the payouts linked to each.

  • If the horse wins = $475 profit
    The math: $50 x $6 (win dividend) + $50 x $4 (place dividend) + $50 x $2.50 (show dividend) = $625 = $475 profit
  • If the horse finishes second = $125 profit
    The math: $50 x $4 (place dividend) + $50 x $2.50 (show dividend) – $50 (losing win bet) = $275 = $125 profit
  • If the horse finishes third = $125 loss
    The math: $50 x $2.50 (show dividend) – $50 (losing win bet) – $50 (losing place bet) = $25 = $125 loss

From this, we can see that we profit on the horse finishing first or second, but if it comes third, we make a $125 loss.

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Across the Board Bet Example

We wanted to expand on the example to show how this works in a real race with a real racecard. The race that we’ve chosen took place at Churchill Downs and had nine runners. One of the reasons we’ve used this race in particular is that an unfancied horse won the race and, as a result, was an ideal pick for an across the board bet.

across the board bet (1)
Image: Equibase

The card has a lot of information, but for this bet, we only need to look at the dividend paid for the result of the win, place, and show bet.

We will highlight how $150 bets wagered equally across the first three horses (One Red Cent, Stormy Mesa, and Charleston) would each pay.

To start, we will address the winner, One Red Cent. The dividends are big, so this horse was unfancied before the start of the race. We will wager $50 for each bet on the win, place, and show.

When the card displays the dividends like this, the easiest way to get the total payout is to add the dividends and multiply by the total stake.

  • $40.72 + $16.32 + $9.42 = $66.42 * $150 = $9,969 – $150 (total wager) = $9,819 profit

As you can see, there is a huge return for One Red Cent from our $150 across the board bet. This is about as good as it gets for these types of bets, especially in non-major races like this one at Churchill Downs.

Let’s focus on Stormy Mesa and see how a $150 ATB bet would get on. Note that our winning stake is $100 as the win bet has been lost.

  • $5.30 + $4.02 = $9.32 * $100 = $932 – $150 (total wager) = $782 profit

There is still a tidy profit to be made here worth $782, but compared with the One Red Cent bet, it is less than 10% of the total amount made.

Finally, we look at how the across the board bet would work with Charleston. We lost the win and place wager here, so our total stake is just $50 on this result.

  • $4.68 * $50 = $234 – $150 (total wager) = $84 profit

The numbers continue to tumble. However, we’ve made a profit, even though our pick failed to win or place and ended up finishing third in the race.

It’s worth noting that this is quite an extreme racecard, highlighted further by dividends for other exotic horse racing bets such as the pick 3/4/5, daily double, exacta, and superfecta payouts. But it shows what is possible if you can find less fancied horses.

across the board betting example
Image: Equibase

To level the playing field, we want to quickly touch on scenarios where these bets won’t be as profitable. The above image shows another race taken from the same meeting, and we want to highlight Lord Grantham in third.

If you’d placed the same $150 across the board bet here, Lord Grantham would have lost you $31 for the privilege even though it finished third.

How to Place an Across the Board Bet

In this section, we will walk you through how to place an across the board bet. Most of the best online sportsbooks will have an option to use this market but to illustrate our example, we’ve chosen Bovada.

1. Open an account with Bovada

bovada across the board bet

To get started, you need a betting account. Head to Bovada and click on the ‘Join’ button at the top of the page to initiate the registration process. You will then have to follow the steps on the screen to verify your account with your email, name, address, and phone number.

2. Make a deposit

cashier at Bovada

Once your account is set up, head to the cashier to make your first deposit. You can use any payment method linked to your account, which may differ based on location.

3. Head to the racebook

Racebook at Bovada

Now that your account is funded click the ‘Horses’ tab at the top of the sportsbook. Across the top there will be a link to the next five races and access to upcoming races based on racetracks from around the world. Alternatively, scroll down to see what’s coming next.

4. Make your selections

Bovada racecard

The racecard will have a column that states ‘W/P/S.’ This stands for win, place, show. Next to the horse you want to bet on, click the ‘WPS’ button to highlight the horse. Next, click the ‘Add to betslip’ button to add the picks to your betslip.

5. Place your bet

bovada bet slip across the board

The betslip will have all three markets as separate bets. You can choose the amount you want to stake on each bet by entering the ‘Stake’ box. Confirm your bet amount, then confirm the bet before placing.

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How are Odds and Payouts Calculated for an Across the Board Bet?

A parimutuel betting system calculates the odds for betting on across the board bets. This is used for all horse racing in the US and pays dividends based on the amount of money in the pot and the number of winners.

Dividends are representative of how much you win per $1 wagered. It’s worth noting that some sites will display this per $2 wagered, but it should state this either way. You won’t know the dividend until the race has been run and all bets have been counted.

Most racecards will include a morning line price. This is the handicapper’s price for the race before any bets have been placed. You can use this as a guide as to which are most likely to win, but this might not be the returns you get as popularity plays a huge role in parimutuel betting.

All three markets are separate bets, even though they are combined for labeling across the board wagers. This means they each have a parimutuel betting pool and pay out accordingly. It’s different from markets like a daily double or exacta, with separate pools from win and place results.

This is how the online betting site calculates the odds and the payouts for each of the three markets.

Let’s assume we’re betting on a race that has eight runners. We first need to break down the total amount wagered on each horse.

  • Horse 1 = $200
  • Horse 2 = $300
  • Horse 3 = $500
  • Horse 4 = $50
  • Horse 5 = $150
  • Horse 6 = $175
  • Horse 7 = $275
  • Horse 8 = $80

We now take the total amount wagered, which we get from adding the total number of bets together. For this bet, it’s $1,730.

Next, we need to consider the racebook’s commission, referred to as the vig or juice. This will range and can be anywhere from 10% up to 30%. The commission is 10% for this race, meaning that $173 is taken from the pool to make a final balance of $1,557.

We use this total amount to create each horse’s dividend and odds. To do this, we divide the total amount in the pool by the amount wagered. For Horse 1, this would be:

  • $1.557 / $200 = $7.79

This means that for every $1 wagered, the bettor would win $7.79 ($6.79 profit). We do this for all results to get the following outcome:

Horse Dividend Odds
Horse 1 $7.79 7.79 (+679)
Horse 2 $5.19 5.19 (+419)
Horse 3 $3.11 3.11 (+211)
Horse 4 $31.14 31.14 (+3014)
Horse 5 $10.38 10.38 (+938)
Horse 6 $8.90 8.90 (+790)
Horse 7 $5.66 5.66 (+466)
Horse 8 $19.46 19.46 (+1846)

This would be how the dividends for the race look. Based purely on the amount of money wagered and not necessarily skill-based, we can see that Horse 3 is the favorite while Horse 4 is the underdog.

Let’s assume we’ve got a $50 bet on Horse 6 to win at a dividend of $8.90. This means we would get a return of $445, netting a profit of $395.

The process works similarly for the win, place, and show bet. Each market has its pool that is then paid across the board.

However, there is a key difference between place and show, as they have multiple winners. The place bet will have two winners who can finish first or second, and the show has three winners who can finish first, second, or third.

We’ve taken the same race to show how the place payout works, assuming the exact amount staked and the commission charged.

  • Horse 1 = $200
  • Horse 2 = $300
  • Horse 3 = $500
  • Horse 4 = $50
  • Horse 5 = $150
  • Horse 6 = $175
  • Horse 7 = $275
  • Horse 8 = $80

Our horses are above, and we know that the total money in the pot is $1,557 after commission.

To start, we need to subtract the total amount of the two winners from our pool. Horses 1 and 2 have finished first and second, giving us a total of $500.

  • $1,557 – $500 = $1,007

This means that $1,007 is the profit that will be split between our two winning horses. As there are two winners, we split the profit in half, which would equal:

  • $1,007 / 2 = $503.50

Now, we divide the winnings by the amount wagered on both the winning horses.

  • Horse 1 = $503.50 / $200 = $2.52
  • Horse 2 = $503.50 / $300 = $1.68

We’re now at a point where, for the place bet, Horse 1 is paying $2.52 for a $1 bet, and Horse 2 is paying $1.68. This would give us American-style odds of +152 and -147, respectively.

The show bet works similarly, but you have three instead of two winners. This means that the profits are divided by three to get the dividend.

For example, if Horse 3 finished third, you would have total winnings of $1,000. This would leave a profit of $557 to be split by three, making $185.67. Payouts would look like this:

  • Horse 1 = $185.67 / $200 = $0.93
  • Horse 2 = $185.67 / $300 = $0.62
  • Horse 3 = $185.67 / $500 = $0.37

As you can see, the show bet pays very little when any of the favorites make it into the mix. This example includes the top three horses based on the volume of wagers, and each shows small wins based on a $1 wager.

Across the Board Betting Strategy

You need a solid betting strategy to consistently profit from across the board bets. This section will include areas you can target to be more successful within this market.

1. Avoid Short-Priced Favorites

There’s a time and a place for betting on short-priced favorites, and the across the board bet is not it. The reason is that the returns for the place and show bet won’t yield enough to make these long-term profits.

But how do you know who the short-priced favorite is if we don’t know the odds and payouts until after the race? The answer is the morning line.

We must use the morning line as a guide because that’s what others will do. Of course, there are professional bettors who likely won’t take much notice of the morning line, but for the causal bettor, this might be all they look at, so pools for that horse will be higher than others.

Take this race from Gulfstream Park as an example:

ATB bet example
Image: Equibase

You can see from the card in the column “SP” (Starting Price) that we’ve got a strong favorite to win the race based on morning line odds. Chi Chi was priced at 8/11 and hotly tipped at that price.

Gulfstream Park betting example
Image: Equibase

Chi Chi does go on to win the race, but the grim reality of betting across the board on a hotly tipped short-priced favorite kicks in when you see the dividends returned in the image above.

We get the following outcome if we apply a $100 wager for the win/show/place bet. Note that the dividends in this example are based on a $2 bet, so we have to half it to get a $1 wager.

  • Win = (1.6 *100) + (1.2*100) + (1.05*100) = $385 – $300 = $85 profit

This isn’t a bad return on a horse so well-fancied. But what if it failed to win and only came second?

  • 2nd place finish = (1.2*100) + (1.05*100) = $225 – $300 = $75 loss

Betting across the board on Chi Chi means that if the horse fails to win, it will lose us money.

You could argue that it offsets losses by doing it this way, but with it being such a short-priced favorite and the next horse at 4/1, all we’re doing with this bet is limiting profits on the win.

For fun, let’s see what would happen if it finished third.

  • 3rd place finish = (1.05*100) = $105 – $300 = $195 loss

Short-priced favorites are not the types of horses you want to be betting across the board. You need to look at longer odds to make it worthwhile.

2. Adjust Stake Across Each Bet

One of the biggest mistakes we see from this market is bettors placing the same amount for the win, place, and show bet.

The payouts will almost always be highest for the win, then the place, and then the show. The last two will be closer than the win, but that’s how it’ll work in most cases.

Many bettors who have success with the market try to adjust the stake to get a similar return for each result. It’s impossible to get this right with parimutuel markets, but you can use the morning line to give it a reasonable go.

As a rough guide, the place pays about 60% of the win odds, and the show pays about 40%. But we can’t stress enough that this is very rough.

This taken into account, if we had a budget of $100 for an across the board bet, we might choose to split it like this:

  • 20% on the win = $20
  • 30% on the place = $30
  • 50% on the show = $50

Let’s apply this theory to another random race from the Gulfstream Park meeting and see how it might play out.

ATB example
Image: Equibase

First, let’s see how it works if we’d bet the winner, Mister Moore.

  • Mister Moore = ($20*4.8) + ($30*6.0) + ($50*4.0) = $476 – $100 = $376 profit

Next, we’ve included the bet if we’d bet an even amount across each market.

  • Mister Moore = ($33.34*4.8) + ($33.33*6.0) + ($33.33*4.0) = $493.33 – $100 = $393.33 profit

If the horse were to win the race, we would make more money betting with an even spread, a 4.6% increase. Now, we need to look at the scenario if Mister Moore didn’t win the race and only came second. First, let’s take the staggered wagers:

  • Mister Moore = ($30*6.0) + ($50*4.0) = $380 – $100 = $280 profit

Let’s now look at the fixed wagers:

  • Mister Moore = ($33.33*6.0) + ($33.33*4.0) = $333.30 – $100 = $233.30 profit

This shows that the staggered stakes for Mister Moore if he did not win the race, yielded an extra $46.70. But what’s most important about this is that the number is a massive 20.01% increase.

What we’re seeing here is that, yes, you limit if they win, but it provides a much bigger cushion if they fail to win by staggering bet sizes. This random example’s 4.6% to 20.01% tradeoff speaks for itself.

3. Target Mid-High Odds

We’ve discussed the fact that you need to avoid short-priced favorites, but to be honest, we could extend this to any favorite.

These horses will get the largest volume of bets, so when they win, the dividend will usually be lower than the horse’s true chances of winning the race. Essentially, it creates terrible value.

So which horses do we target?

Anything that isn’t the favorite would be a reasonable place to start. We’re trying to find value in mid to high-priced horses that can win but will still cover with place and even show bets.

We’ve got one more example on the card from Gulfstream Park to showcase how that might look.

Bovada ATB racecard
Image: Equibase

Race 2 was interesting from the off. Harlan’s Legacy was a crazy short price early in the betting at 6/4. It’s lived up to the hype and won the race but there were a lot of doubts pre-race. On Euro-based racebooks, the horse had drifted from odds-on to 6/4, which is significant in a meeting like this.

Across the board betting strategy
Image: Equibase

A Ring Thing ran incredibly well to get second and went off on the morning line at 10/1. It had a chance to win but was an outsider that could go well.

This is a great opportunity for an across the board bet as we’re taking on the midfield against a beatable short-priced favorite at great odds. It ticks all the boxes.

If we’d combined this bet with our staggered wager structure, we’d have made a nice profit from the 9.60 and 5.40 dividends for the place and show markets.

4. Know How to Find Winning Horses

We know that betting on horse racing isn’t always easy. It can be a tough sport to continue to find success, but there are ways you can improve, and that’s with a solid foundation. Even though ATB bets cover a multitude of results, the goal is still (and always) to find a horse capable of winning.

Here are a few tips that you can include in picking winners:

  • Form: Look to see the previous results for the horse. Note how many wins and places it’s had. One question to ask here is, is the horse improving? If yes, keep it for consideration.
  • Going: The going (track condition) is the next thing to look at. Most US races are run on dirt, but there are inconsistencies for each track as to how they run, with some going faster than others. Target stamina on slow ground and top-end speed on fast ground.
  • Draw: For short flat racing, the draw can be key. Most tracks will favor one end of the stalls over the other. See past results with the most winners and concentrate on horses in those stalls for your picks.
  • Handicap: The higher rated the horse is, the more weight the handicapper will give it. You need to work out if the horse can win with additional weight. If it’s more weight than the last time out, research how well it won previously, and if it is convincing, decide if the weight will be a problem.
  • Stable/trainer form: Don’t underestimate the effects of stable and trainer form on a horse. The chances are that training methods working well will filter throughout horses within the whole yard. Training every day with in-form horses only improves the stable.
  • Course form: Some courses fit the eye better than others. Just like a race driver has their favorite tracks, horses do as well. Try to find a horse that’s run well at the track previously or at tracks that fit the same characteristics criteria as the upcoming track.
  • Pedigree: For younger horses, look to see who it’s been bred from and see what areas their parents were strong. There’s a reason why the likes of Frankel, Dubawi and Sea The Stars, command incredible figures as sires.

Use this betting strategy with the best betting odds at BetOnline for across the board bets. 

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Jonathan Askew

Jonathan is a freelance writer working with Techopedia. He has been working within the gambling sector for over 15 years and has been fortunate enough to work with brands that include Gambling.com, CheekyPunter.com, BasketballInsiders.com and Betfair. He specializes in US and UK-based sports and casino content for Techopedia.