Nature Strip - Expert Horse Racing Tips

Tote or Fixed Odds – Which Should You Choose?

One question that racing punters often ask is what is the difference between fixed odds betting and tote betting and which should be chosen when betting on horse racing

What is the Difference Between Fixed and Tote?

Fixed odds betting is quite simple. The price you take at the time of placing the bet is the price you get. The only way it can change is if there is a scratching in the field and a deduction applies (check out our guide to racing deductions to learn more). 

Tote betting, also known as totalisator or parimutuel betting, is different. A tote works by pooling the money bet on a race and sharing the proceeds among the winning bets, with a commission taken by the pool operator. 

This means that the odds on the tote can, and will, change until betting closes when the race jumps. 

The tote odds that are displayed on TV broadcasts and on the TAB website are a representation of what the pool is paying out at that time, and they can often change significantly in the last minute or two prior to a race. 

Typically, tote odds will move closer to the fixed price as the race gets closer, but this is not always the case. 

How Does the Tote Work?

In Australia, there are three major tote pools. These are NSW, SuperTAB (covers Victoria, WA and ACT), and UniTAB (SA, Tasmania, Queensland and NT). In every state and territory of Australia except for WA, these pools are run by Tabcorp, through their TAB brand. The WA TAB is owned by the state government. 

If you walk into a TAB agency in one of these states, you will be paid out at the odds of the respective tote in that state, although the TAB also offers their own fixed odds service. 

However, online bookmakers can offer what is known as best tote odds. Bets placed at best tote get paid out at the biggest dividend of the three national totes. Often they will include the SP (the closing fixed odds price) as well. Naturally, this is a far more attractive betting option than just betting into one of the TAB owned pools. 

So Which is Best?

There is no hard and fast rule to say whether fixed odds or tote betting is better. However, a good rule of thumb is that if you are betting in the last five minutes prior to a race, best tote odds are the way to go. 

Be sure to check out Betseeker’s free racing tips for best bets each day of the Australian racing calendar.

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Tim is a wagering industry veteran, having spent more than a decade at Sportsbet, BetEasy, TAB and William Hill working in trading and content.