Daily Double Horse Bet – How the Bet Works and How to Maximize Profitability

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The Daily Double has been around since 1931 and is still one of the industry’s most popular horse racing bets. The magic lies in its simplicity – picking the winners of the first two races at a meeting.

We’ll walk you through placing a Daily Double horse bet, highlight how odds and payouts are calculated, and provide expert betting strategies to increase profitability and minimize losses.

What is the Daily Double?

The Daily Double is centered around picking winners in horse racing betting. It’s a simple concept, but it comes with a twist. Bets must be placed on consecutive races from the same meeting, and both horses must win for the bet to pay out.

Betting on the first two races of a race meeting is the most common format. However, the process can be altered to include a different combination of doubles from other races. We expand on how this works later.

Bets are placed into a single pool and paid out based on the number of winners. This is a parimutuel betting style, with dividends equally distributed based on wagering amounts.

Let’s run through a quick example.

First, we need to choose the race meeting. Let’s pretend that our bet is on the Kentucky Derby, and our Daily Double will be linked to the first two races of the meeting. The first race has eight runners, and the second has six.

We decided to back Horse 1 in the first race and Horse 3 in the second. Our total stake for the bet is $10.

Both horses win their respective races, and as a result, we win our Daily Double. It’s worth noting that if only one horse won, the whole bet would lose.

The total amount wagered into the pool was $10,000, and 25 winning tickets had placed the same $10 stake. To determine the payout, we divide the total pot of $10,000 by 25 to get 400. This means each winning ticket won $400 from their $10 bet.

As you can see, the bet’s very simple to use, and its popularity is based on this. Payouts can be huge, especially if you get less fancied winners, which creates fewer winning combinations.

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Real-World Example of a Daily Double Horse Bet

Let’s expand on our example above to see how this works in the real world. The bet we place is with BetOnline but the process will be similar regardless of which racebook you want to bet with.

daily double bet example

The image above is from an upcoming meeting at Del Mar Racecourse in California. This Daily Double includes the first two races of the meeting. You’ll notice that the racecard has a section titled M/L, which stands for morning line.

The race handicapper sets the morning line and is used as a guide for the starting price if no bets were wagered. Due to all horse racing markets in the United States using parimutuel systems (pool betting), you won’t know the odds or payout until the race has been run and bets have been counted.

In Race One, we picked Magazine to win, and in Race Two, we picked Uncle Juju. The only way this bet pays is if both those horses win. Any other results and the bet will be a loss.

At the bottom of the image, you’ll notice that the racebook has limits for this market. For this meeting, bets are limited from a minimum stake of $1 to a maximum of $20,000. Payouts are limited to $50,000 per bet.

The cap on the max limit payout will range, depending on the racebook you use. It’s worth noting that racebooks will accept stakes that would pay higher limits than the max payout.

For example, if you bet on Shezmisbehaving in the first, which is a 15/1 price on the morning line, and Bear Coast in the second, an 8/1 price on the morning line, the payout dividend will be huge. These are the two least likely horses to win their respective races, so the number of winning tickets will be small.

It’s impossible to know the payout without knowing exact bettor numbers and the number of tickets sold, but it’s safe to say you’d be looking at a huge return. If you’d bet the max limit of $20,000, you will, without question, hit that max payout limit of $50,000. As a result, you’d be losing a lot of money due to being limited in how much you can win based on your stake.

Granted, this is an extreme example, but some sites will be a lot lower, meaning you hit limits with much smaller stakes. This applies to all exotic bets and is worth noting before you wager, as it can change from race to race.

Different Types of Daily Double Bets

The main Daily Double bet is picking the winner of the first two races in a meeting. However, there are variations of the bet that have expanded the market somewhat, as we’ve outlined below:

  • Early Daily Double: This is the standard bet, using a different name. It’s where you need to find the winners from the first two races at the meeting.
  • Late Daily Double: The late Daily Double is where you need to pick the winners from the last two races of the meeting. For example, if there are eight races, you pick a horse to win from races seven and eight.
  • Running Daily Double: Some racebooks allow you to pick horses from consecutive races. Instead of just the first or last two races, it might be second and third, third and fourth, fourth and fifth, and so on. They’re allowed as long they are from the same meeting and run concurrently.
  • Multiple Daily Doubles: The least common of the variations is the multiple bets. This is where you can choose multiple horses to win from the same race. For example, you can have two horses to win from race one and two from race two. The more picks you make, the higher the cost of the wager.

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How to Place a Daily Double Horse Bet

Placing a Daily Double horse bet is relatively simple. Most of the best gambling sites have a dedicated section for the bet that adjusts the racecard only to include the first two races or, if betting with one of the variations of the market, the two applicable races.

We’ve used BetOnline to highlight how this works below:

1. Create a new account

betonline join now

You need to create an account if you don’t already have one. Click the green “Join” button at the top of the page to begin. You’ll be prompted with multiple forms you must complete before email verification.

2. Make a deposit

cashier for betonline

Once the account is live, head to the cashier to make a deposit. The range of payment options may differ based on your location but will include cryptocurrencies and card payments, for the most part.

3. Choose a race from the racebook

Betonline daily double

Use the menu section on the left to choose a race meeting within the racebook. You need to place your bet before the start of the first race, so any meetings that have already started may not have the option to use this market.

4. Select the Daily Double market

daily double market

At the top of the racecard will be a series of markets to choose from. Click “Daily Double” to open the correct one.

5. Make your picks

daily double racecard

The racebook will highlight the two races you can place your bet on. Use the boxes to the left of the race card to make your selections. Enter your stake at the top of the card. Once done, click “Add to Betslip” and confirm your stake within the betslip.

How to Calculate Daily Double Odds and Payouts

A Daily Double horse bet uses a parimutuel betting system. This is where all bets are entered into a pool and paid as dividends based on the stake and the number of winners.

Unlike fixed odds betting, where you know the price when placing the bet, pool betting can’t determine payouts until the race has finished. All bets must be taken, counted, and paid, which takes time.

The best online sportsbooks will state the Daily Double payouts once the result of the race has been confirmed and bets have been counted. To do this, they apply several calculations, which include:

  • Total amount wagered
  • Total amount wagered per winning ticket

All wagers go into a single pot, regardless of which horse is picked from each race. The winning combination is then broken down into the number of tickets. This creates a dividend that is paid out on the dollar.

For example, let’s assume there’s been $50,000 wagered on the Daily Double market. Of that $50,000, there’s been $3,000 wagered on the winning combination.

  • $50,000 / $3,000 = $16.67

This means that for every $1 wagered, it would return $16.67. So, if someone had placed a bet worth $300 on the Daily Double horse bet, it would return $5,000.

It’s important to note that the money is paid out per winning ticket to create a dividend on the dollar. It works like this because everyone bets different amounts and can be paid based on that. The dividend is essentially the odds for double, but unlike fixed odds betting, you only find out what this is after the race.

Daily double horse bet

The image above is a real-world example from a meeting at Churchill Downs. You can see that the winner from Race One was Intermittent Fast, and the winner from Race Two was Tizzy Indy. You would need both of these winners to win the Daily Double.

At the bottom of the card for race two, under “Wager Type,” is the dividend for the Daily Double. As you can see, this is set as if it were a $1 bet and would return a dividend of $17.59.

Daily Double v Pick 3/5 Bets

Several markets have betting features similar to the Daily Double, the most notable being the Pick 3 and Pick 5 bets. With each bet, you must choose the winner of the first three or five races, depending on the bet.

betonline pick 3 bet

The image above is taken from a Pick 3 bet. You’ll notice the layout is similar to the Daily Double market, but there are three to choose from instead of two races. We’ve made three picks: Violet Storm in the first, Eddie’s Wave in the second, and Bella Vienna in the third.

For a Pick 3 bet to win, we need all three of these horses to win their respective races. No other combination will suffice.

The payouts for “Pick” markets are much larger than Daily Double horse bets, given that you’ve added an extra result. The tradeoff is that they’re much harder to win. Picking a single winner in horse racing is a tough ask, but picking three from three consecutive races increases the difficulty again.

pick 3 bet payout

To give you an idea of how this might look from a real-world meeting, we’ve expanded on the example using a race meeting at Churchill Downs.

You can see that the Daily Double paid $17.59 on the dollar for the first two races. In the card for the third race, the Pick 3 paid $57.75, which is over 3x as much in payouts.

pick 5 results

The table above is from the fifth race of the meeting and includes both the Pick 5 results. The dividend has now jumped to a whopping $1,901.65 for a $0.50 bet (note that the first two were from $1 bets). This highlights how big the jumps can be from adding additional picks, but as mentioned previously, the difficulty also increases.

One thing to note from the payout table above is the inclusion of the Pick 3 and Pick 4 bets. You may notice that the Pick 3 payout differs because it’s taken from the three races before the fifth. This includes the third, fourth, and fifth races, where the initial bet was the first, second, and third.

You will also see a Pick 4 result, which is not commonly found in most racebooks but is still accessible. This includes the meeting’s second, third, fourth, and fifth races. These link to the variations of Daily Double and Pick bets you can place.

Daily Double Wheels

Like many exotic horse racing markets, Daily Doubles offers the chance to wheel. This is where you select multiple or all horses of a race if you’re unsure which one to pick. There are two forms of wheels: full wheel and part wheel.

Daily Double Full Wheel Bets

A Daily Double full wheel bet is where you pick the winner in one race and select all the horses in the other. This might occur when you’ve confidently picked a winner in the first race but you’re unsure of the second race, so decide to cover all possibilities.

The tradeoff is that you have to bet on all the horses you choose for the race where you’ve chosen to wheel. For example, a standard Daily Double bet might be $2, allowing you to pick one winner from the first and the second race.

Let’s say you choose one winner from the first and wheel the second, choosing all horses. The second race includes eight horses, meaning your initial stake would multiply by eight.

  • Total stake = $2 x 8 = $16

You’re able to choose the race that you wheel. So, you can wheel the first race, picking all horses and then a single winner on the second or a single winner on the first and all horses on the second.

The bet covers all possible combinations, and you’ve got to bet on each one. Let’s assume you bet on Horse 1 in the first, and wheel all eight in the second. Your potential winning combinations would look like this:

  • Horse 1 + Horse 1
  • Horse 1 + Horse 2
  • Horse 1 + Horse 3
  • Horse 1 + Horse 4
  • Horse 1 + Horse 5
  • Horse 1 + Horse 6
  • Horse 1 + Horse 7
  • Horse 1 + Horse 8

Each bet is charged at $2, for a total of $16.

Daily Double Part Wheel Bets

A Daily Double part wheel bet is where you have more than two picks in one race but fewer than the field in the second race. Regarding the stakes, the concept is the same where you pay for the horses you’ve picked.

For example, if you choose Horse 3 to win the first race and Horses 1, 5, and 8 in the second race, you will pay $2 for each combination, totaling $6. This is how it would work:

  • Horse 3 + Horse 1
  • Horse 3 + Horse 5
  • Horse 3 + Horse 8

This is a good way to be more selective about how many horses you choose in your wheel and prevent having to bet on the whole field, limiting the amount you’ve staked. Out of the two, a part wheel will generally be a better long-term strategy and save you from wagering on horses with no chance of winning, which most races have.

Daily Double Betting Strategy

When we look at how to bet on horse racing, once we’ve understood how the market works, it’s time to make some money. You must have a solid betting strategy in place to do this, and we’ve provided some pointers below on how you can make money from betting on the Daily Double.

Use Daily Doubles Instead of Parlay Bets

One of the key things to note with all betting markets, particularly parimutuel markets, is the juice/fee the racebook charges. When it comes to pool betting, this is money taken from the pool and paid directly to them. The amount varies but can be anywhere from 5% to 20%.

We recommend using a Daily Double over a multi-parlay because you only get charged commission once. A parlay bet will have a commission taken from both results in the bet, so you’re charged more at the point of consumption.

Find Value in the First Race

The first two races of any meeting are often the most popular regarding the volume of bets. This is when bettors are most engaged, and they’ve likely been excitedly going through the form books targeting the early races to get into the action as quickly as possible.

One thing that many bettors don’t take into account is that the first two races are often the weakest. Each racetrack tries to keep people there for as long as possible, so it usually goes heavy later in the day. Finding value from the opening races is tough, as they are harder to handicap.

However, the increased pool sizes play into sharp bettors’ hands. The additional money means that if a value bet can be found, it’s possible to make sizeable profits.

You only need to find a strong bet in one of the two races, as it’s possible to wheel, or part wheel, the other to cover multiple winners. Inflated pools mean payouts can be worth the tradeoff even with reduced exposure and increased initial stake.

Avoid Picking Favorites with Favorites

Regardless of the race or what the form guide might say, most bets are wagered on the favorites. Casual bettors will target the favorite as it’s an easy pick for a horse that the racebook states should win, regardless of whether it offers value.

Favorites usually offer the least value in a horse race. So, when you multiply the -EV across two races, it becomes an even worse bet.

daily double betting strategy

The returns when two favorites win will be exceptionally low and likely a long-term losing strategy because of this. The image above shows a Daily Double horse bet from a Gulfstream Park meeting where the two favorites won the first two races.

As you can see, the return for the bet was just $5.50 on the dollar. You might argue that it’s not a bad return, but when you consider you’ve had to find two winners, which is incredibly difficult, it’s not going to be a profitable strategy long-term.

Sometimes, including the favorite will be a strong play, but it needs to be combined with a horse at longer odds that offers value. For example, if you found a 12/1 shot with a legitimate chance to win in one race and the favorite was miles above in class in the second, this would create a nice payoff.

Daily double betting example

Another example (above) taken from Gulfstream Park highlights this. The payout here is $37.70 on the dollar. This came on the back of a $18.60 winner in the first (long-shot) and a $5.40 winner in the second (joint-favorite).

Target Late Daily Doubles

A classic Daily Double strategy comes from backing the day’s last two races instead of the first. There are two reasons for this.

The first is that betting pools can become a little crazy as the day progresses. As the opportunities to bet decrease, bettors start throwing silly money to try and turn their day around. Form books are out the window, and it’s time to win big on combinations that, realistically, have little to no chance.

This means we can look at favorites that offer a little more value than they would earlier in the day when bettors are willing to take smaller wins to set them up. Shorter-priced horses can create much bigger winning combinations, and the inclusion of wheel and part-wheel bets come into their own.

The second part is that the later races usually have stronger fields, making handicapping easier. Most horses will have some form to go on, and you should be able to work out who offers value and who to avoid.

The art of finding value is key to all betting strategies, but as the races improve in class, it becomes much easier. For example, if you’ve got a race where eight horses have at least ten races under their belt, it’s much easier to gauge how they might fare than a race with eight novices and no form.

Apply the Wheel to Create Value

When we find a short-priced favorite (even money or less), the value of profits is low unless you’re betting huge sums of money. Betting $10 to make $10 or less isn’t all that appealing, regardless of how nailed-on the horse is to win the race.

Using a full or part-wheel bet, we can increase the value of the short-priced favorite, making it much more enticing.

To do this, we need the second race to be relatively tight, with no clear favorite. Ideally, there would be two to four horses we think can win so that we can create a part-wheel bet.

Let’s assume there are three horses that we like, and the short-priced favorite in the first. We part-wheel the bet, turning our initial $2 stake from a standard Daily Double into a $6 stake that includes three selections from the second race.

There’s a good chance that a 3/5 favorite in the first, paired with three horses somewhere from 4/1 to 8/1, would pay $15-$20 from our initial $6 stake. This isn’t a huge return, but it offers much better value than betting on a single 3/5, even if we know it’s almost a lock to win.

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What is a Daily Double bet in horse racing?

How does the Daily Double differ from other horse racing bets?

Can I choose any two races for a Daily Double bet?

Is the Daily Double a high-risk, high-reward bet?

What strategies can I use for Daily Double bets?

Can I place a Daily Double bet online?

What happens if one of my selected horses is scratched or doesn’t run?

Are Daily Double bets suitable for beginners?

Are there minimum or maximum bet limits for Daily Double bets?

Can I cash out my Daily Double bet before the races are over?

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Jonathan Askew
Sports Betting and Casino Expert
Jonathan Askew
Sports Betting and Casino Expert

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.