Dead Heat Betting – What is a Dead Heat and How Does it Work?

A dead heat in sports is rare, but it’s one of those rules you need to know. It’s one of the most common rules people ignore or don’t know exists. We’ll walk you through the full process of what dead heat betting is, how bets are paid when a dead heat occurs, and strategies you can implement to maximize returns if they occur.

What is Dead Heat Betting?

A dead heat is when two or more participants finish in a tie and can’t be separated. This includes a photo finish in horse racing, a tied leaderboard in golf, and multiple top scorers in soccer, as three quick examples.

betonline dead heat rules

Most punters think the best gambling sites will pay out regardless of the result, as long as it’s a win. In reality, this isn’t the case. It’d mean the betting site needs to pay out multiple winners, which is unfair on their part.

As a cover, sportsbooks use terms such as “dead heat rules apply”, meaning a dead heat will be declared in the event of a tie within that market. It’s worth noting that dead heats don’t apply to markets where you can bet on a tie. For example, if you were betting on a soccer match moneyline bet with a home win, away win, and tie (1×2) as possible bets, a dead heat won’t apply if the game ends in a tie and you’ve backed a home or away win.

To create an even playing field for the punter and the sportsbook, dead heat rules state the original stake will be divided by the number of entrants for the dead heat before paying out at the original odds.

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Dead Heat Betting Rules

The concept of a dead heat in sports is relatively straightforward, but the practicality of it all can be confusing. We review how it works in the simplest forms before looking at real-world examples across multiple sports.

Let’s assume you’ve bet on a race, and your selection has finished in a dead heat for first place, with one other selection. The original odds were +1000, and you’ve staked $100.

Given that two selections are tied for first, we now divide our stake by the number tied, which is two.

  • New stake = $100 / 2 = $50

Our new stake for the dead heat is $50. This means our bet now pays $50 at odds of +1000.

  • Original bet = $100 x +1000 = $1,100 ($1,000 profit)
  • Dead heat rules applied = $50 x +1000 = $550 ($500 profit)

As you can see, we return half as much profit in this scenario once dead heat rules have been applied.

It’s key to note that the stake is adjusted based on the number tied for that position. So, if five were tied, the stake would be divided by five. This means a $100 bet now becomes a $20 bet.

Dead Heat Betting Example

The basics of dead heat betting can change depending on the sport you’re betting on. Let’s examine popular sports where a dead heat is most common (although rare), and how markets can affect payouts.

Horse Racing and Dog Racing

Horse racing is the most commonly associated sport for a dead heat to occur. We’ve added dog racing (greyhound racing) for this example, as the two sports work similarly when this rule’s applied.

Dead heats can occur for the race winner and place bets. Positions are settled as a dead heat if there’s no clear margin between two or more horses for a single place after a photo finish.

For example, let’s assume we’ve placed a $50 bet on a horse to win at odds of +400. This would net us a total return of $275 ($225 profit) if our pick were to win outright.

The race is declared a dead heat, and there’s a unique situation where three horses are all tied for the first spot without selection included. Based on dead heat rules, we know that our bet will be divided by the number of horses tied, which is three in this case.

Our adjusted odds and returns will look like this:

  • $50 / 3 = $16.67
  • $16.67 x +450 = $91.69 ($75.02 profit)

Horse racing has a couple of unique markets where dead heat betting can still apply, with one being the place bet. This is where you bet on the horse to finish within a set number of places and get paid a fixed amount, regardless of where the horse finishes.

For example, you bet on a horse to finish first or second in a race at odds of +200. It doesn’t matter which order the horse comes, as the payouts will be the same.

Let’s say you place this bet, but the horse finishes in a dead heat for second place with another horse. The rules would work the same as you’d divide your stake by the other horse that’s also in your position.

Golf

Dead heats occur in golf betting more frequently than any other sport. Ties for multiple spots are common, but instead of being for the winner, it’s usually to do with places. This is because when a tie occurs for first, most tournaments have a playoff to decide the winner, which is paid out with sportsbooks.

The most common scenario for dead heat comes in the place positions. This is where multiple players have the same scores and are tied for positions.

Golf dead heat rules

To showcase how this works, we’ve taken the final leaderboard from the 2023 Masters. As you can see, John Rahm has comfortably won the tournament by four shots.

Let’s assume we placed a bet on Jordan Spieth to finish in the top four spots. He finishes tied for fourth, along with Patrick Reed and Russel Henley. Dead heat rules will be applied.

The process is the same in that we divide the number of places remaining (in this case, one) by the number of participants in the dead heat (in this case, three).

A $100 bet now needs to be divided by three to get an adjusted stake of $33.33. Don’t forget, whatever the original odds were, stay the same. It’s only the stake that’s adjusted.

In this scenario, if the bet were to finish in the top six, it’d pay in full as there’s no overflow in terms of the number of people who qualify for that market. However, if the bet were paying the top five, we’d take the number of places, which would be two, divided by the number of players, which is three. Our $100 stake gets adjusted to $66.66 as a result.

Soccer

One of the most popular bets in football is the match result, which includes a home win, away win, or tie. As stated earlier, dead heat rules don’t apply to markets where a tie is possible.

So, how does dead heat betting apply to soccer?

The most common markets come from top goalscorer bets for league and cup formats. The World Cup top scorer is one of the most popular markets to bet on the tournament, and where a tie can be common.

One of the most interesting scenarios of this occurring came about in 2010 when there were four players all tied on five goals at the end of the tournament.

  • Thomas Muller (Germany) – Five goals
  • Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands) – Five goals
  • David Villa (Spain) – Five goals
  • Diego Forlan (Uruguay) – Five goals

If you’d have bet on the winner, dead heat rules would apply. In this scenario, there’d be four winners for one spot. This means we’d get a quarter of the original odds for our bet. Assume we’d placed a $100 bet on any of these picks, then our adjusted dead heat betting stake would be $25.

Let’s assume we’ve placed a second bet on this market for David Silva to place, which the sportsbook paid out three places. We’re now in a spot where we’ve four selections going into three spots. We get ¾ of our original stake (3 / 4 = 0.75) with a $100 bet adjusted to $75.

A caveat to this specific market of World Cup top goalscorers is that some sportsbooks will market it as the winner of the Golden Boot, which is simply the player with the most goals. However, this market has no ties, as there’s always a winner.

soccer dead heat rules

If two or more are tied, it comes down to the player with the most assists; then it goes to the player with the lowest minutes-per-goal ratio if they’re still tied. If you’d bet on the 2010 Golden Boot winner, this would have only paid out for Thomas Muller, who won the award with three assists, two more than the other three players.

Motor Sports

Dead heats don’t come rarer than in motor sports. There’s only been a handful of times where a dead heat was declared in professional racing, including Formula 1, Indy Car, and Superbikes.

But it has happened, and we wanted to cover how that might work.

The most common dead heat in motor racing comes from the race-winner market. This is where two or more drivers/riders are tied in a winning position for the bet.

There’s only been one official dead heat in Formula 1, which came in 1967 at the Syracuse Grand Prix. The drivers were Parkes and Scarfiotti, who finished in a tie for first, with both drivers then being awarded the win, and the official result as a dead heat.

The lack of technology was the main reason for a tie in this race. These days, F1 is timed to a thousandth of a second, meaning the chances of a tie or dead heat are slim. In 1967, races were timed to a tenth, with the clock unable to split the two.

Concepts remain the same for motor racing as it would any other sport. Stakes are divided between the number of drivers tied for the paying positions.

Athletics

Athletics has more dead heats than most sports. It’s common for events in the Olympics to end in a tie, where they ultimately award the same medal to two or more competitors.

One of the most recent occurrences of this came about in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games when high jumpers, Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy, and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar, were in a jump-off for the gold medal when both men excitedly agreed, after multiple successful and failed attempts, to share the prize.

From a betting perspective, dead heat rules would have been applied in this scenario, with stakes being halved due to two competitors for one medal. It’s worth noting that no silver medal was awarded, only a bronze.

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Dead Heat Betting Rules

Dead heat betting rules follow a general theme across all sports. For the most part, you divide the number of places remaining by the number of participants. But these rules change and adjust slightly across all sports.

In this section, we’ve included an overview of the rules across multiple sports. Any rules stated go against what we consider industry-standard and are specific to each sport.

Horse Racing and Dog Racing

  • Race stewards decide dead heats on the completion of the race. The steward has the final say in the decision, and bets are paid accordingly.
  • Prize pots are evenly distributed between each horse/dog.
  • When a dead heat occurs for second place, and subsequently first place is disqualified, horses involved in the dead heat are promoted to the win.
  • A dead heat can be applied to each way bets, with deductions applied accordingly.
  • The stake is returned if the original bet offers the same rules.

Golf

  • A dead heat can be declared for any position other than a win, assuming a winner has been announced.
  • If a tournament gets canceled before the initial maximum number of holes is completed, with two or more tied, and no playoff is possible, dead heat rules apply.
  • The number of places paid will be subject to the terms of the sportsbook and market you wager on.
  • Each way bets will pay the place part of the bet, and adjust odds accordingly. For example, an each way bet pays at 1/5 and is then adjusted for a dead heat based on the number of ties for that position.

Soccer

  • A dead heat is only applied to markets that don’t include a tie (draw).
  • Dead heat won’t apply to markets where a single outcome is declared the winner, even though scores are tied. For example, the Golden Boot winner at the World Cup will always have a result, even though two or more could be tied for the same number of goals.

Motor Sports

  • Once set by the stewards, the final result will be applied for dead heat rules. Any changes made after this result won’t adjust the payout for the race.
  • A dead heat will only be applied to the official result.
  • In Formula 1, times must be taken to the nearest one-thousandth of a second.

How to Calculate Dead Heat Betting Returns

The key thing to note about calculating dead heat returns is that the stake will be the adjusted variable, not the odds. Whatever odds you took when you placed your bet will be the odds that pay, with any dead heat applied.

There are four things to note when calculating returns:

  • Original odds
  • Original stake
  • Number of selections in the dead heat
  • Number of places remaining

A simple formula to determine the payout is:

  • Number of places remaining / number of participants in the dead heat

For example, you place a $200 bet on a horse to win a race, and it finishes in a dead heat for first place with one other horse. We know we have one place up for grabs with two participants in the dead heat.

  • 2/1 = 2

So for this scenario, we divide our original stake ($200) by two to make an adjusted stake of $100. Our stake for the bet, regardless of the original odds, is $100.

How Does a Dead Heat Work with an Each Way Bet?

Each way betting is not a common bet type with US sportsbooks, who prefer to split the bet between single bets, of win and place. However, some sites allow you to bet each way, especially with horse racing, so knowing how it works is important.

Before we dive in, we need to touch on what an each way bet is.

An each way bet is two bets in one. The first part of the bet is on the selection to win. The second is on the selection to place. The odds for the place bet are a fraction of the win bet. Most of the best online sportsbooks set this at a quarter or fifth of the original odds, depending on how many runners are in a race.

There are multiple stipulations on how this works for a dead heat.

The first thing to note is that if a horse finishes as a dead heat for a place, but fails to win the race, the stake won’t be adjusted as the horse is within the original finishing positions. For example, if the place bet includes the top four, and the horse finishes in a dead heat for third with one other horse. No stake adjustment would happen here.

A dead heat would come into play if three horses finished in a tie for third, with four horses paid as part of the place bet. This would mean there are three horses for two places.

All you need to do is use the dead heat formula of “number of places remaining / number of participants in the dead heat”.

  • 2/3 = 0.66

Essentially, this would be 2/3 of our original stake or 66c on the dollar. This adjustment would be applied to the place part of the each way bet. So, if you bet $10 each way (total stake $20), your $10 on the win would lose, and $10 on the place would adjust to $6.66.

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FAQs

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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.