Quinella Betting Guide: How to Bet Quinellas

by | Feb 26, 2019

What is a Quinella Bet?

Quinella betting requires you to select the first two finishers in a race in either order. For example, a $2 Quinella bet of 4-5 would pay off if the first two finishers in a race were 4-5 or 5-4. The minimum denomination for a Quinella bet at most tracks is $2. There is no maximum bet amount.
Quinella wagering provides bettors who like to combine horses with an option other than Exacta betting, at half the price.

For example, a $2 Quinella 4-5 costs $2 and pays off whether the order of finish is 4-5 or 5-4. To bet a full $2 Exacta including the same combinations of 4-5 and 5-4 would cost you $4. Of course, most tracks now offer Exacta wagering in a minimum denomination of $1.

A $1 Exacta box of horses 4-5 would cost you the same as a $2 Quinella including the same horses and would also pay off if the order of finish was 4-5 or 5-4, but a $1 Exacta ticket pays only half of the displayed $2 Exacta payoff as listed on the tote board. With the Quinella bet you would get the full $2 Quinella price displayed on the tote board.

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There are three different methods of betting Quinellas as follows:

Straight Quinella Betting

The first method of betting Quinellas is straightforward. A $2 Quinella 4-5 returns the full $2 Quinella payoff if the final order of finish in the race is 4-5 or 5-4.

Quinella Wheels and Part-Wheels

Quinella wheels and part-wheels allow you to wheel a horse (or more than one horse) with a number of other horses. For example, if you like the 3 horse to finish first or second but cannot decide among horses 4,5,6 which one will complete the Quinella you could play a $2 Quinella part-wheel of 3 with 4,5,6 at the cost of $6. Essentially, you would be playing three $2 Quinella tickets of 3-4, 3-5 and 3-6 which would pay off if the order of finish was 3-4, 4-3, 3-5, 5-3, 3-6 or 6-3.

A full Quinella wheel would include one or more horses with all the remaining horses in a field. For example, in an eight-horse field, a $2 Quinella wheel 2 with ALL would include 7 combinations: 2-1, 2-3, 2-4, 2-5, 2-6, 2-7 and 2-8 at a cost of $14 and would pay the full $2 Quinella payoff if the order of finish was 1-2, 2-1, 2-3, 3-2, 2-4, 4-2, 2-5, 5-2, 2-6, 6-2, 2-7, 7-2, 2-8 or 8-2.

If you are wheeling multiple horses with multiple horses in a $2 Quinella, such as 2-3 with 4-5-6, you can calculate the cost of the ticket by multiplying the number of horses in the first half of the Quinella wheel by the number of horses in the second half of the Quinella wheel and then multiplying that number by $2. In the aforementioned example a $2 Quinella wheel of 2-3 with 4-5-6 would result in 12 possible winning combinations at a cost of (2 * 3) * $2 = $12, and pay off if the order of finish in the race was any of the following: 2-4, 4-2, 2-5, 5-2, 2-6, 6-2, 3-4, 4-3, 3-5, 5-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Quinella boxes are a favorite among many players. They require less thought (you don’t have to pick the winner) and allow for multiple combinations on one ticket. You can combine an entire field into one Quinella box if you like, although this would likely be a highly unprofitable wager. Many casual bettors will play three or four contenders in a Quinella box when their handicapping fails to turn up a solid win play, or simply because they want to make sure they cash a ticket. To calculate the cost of a Quinella box, you multiply the number of horses in the box by the number of horses in the box minus one. For example, a $2 Quinella box 3,4,5 would cost (3 * 2) = $6 and include the combinations 3-4, 4-3, 3-5, 5-3, 4-5 and 5-4.

Below are the costs associated with $2 Quinella boxes in fields of up to 10 horses.

  • $2 Quinella box of 3 horses = (3 * 2) = $6
  • $2 Quinella box of 4 horses = (4 * 3) = $12
  • $2 Quinella box of 5 horses = (5 * 4) = $20
  • $2 Quinella box of 6 horses = (6 * 5) = $30
  • $2 Quinella box of 7 horses = (7 * 6) = $42
  • $2 Quinella box of 8 horses = (8 * 7) = $56
  • $2 Quinella box of 9 horses = (9 * 8) = $72
  • $2 Quinella box of 10 horses = (10 * 9) = $90

Profitable Quinella Wagering Strategies

Because the cost of betting a $2 Quinella box is 50 percent less than that of betting the same $2 Exacta box, many bettors think logically that the Quinella should pay only half as much as an Exacta including the same horses. This may be true in theory, but it is not always true in practice, especially at tracks where the betting pools are small.

For example, let’s say you want to bet a $2 Exacta box of horses 4-5 at the cost of $4. The tote board says the $2 Exacta 4-5 will pay $40 and the $2 Exacta of 5-4 pays $36. The tote board also says that a $2 Quinella 4-5 (which includes both combinations of 4-5 and 5-4) pays $24. In this case, you would get a better payoff by betting a $4 Quinella instead of a $2 Exacta box. A $4 Quinella would pay 2 * $24 = $48. The $2 Exacta of 4-5 included in your Exacta box would return only $40, and the $2 Exacta of 5-4 would pay only $36. A Quinella wager, in this case, would be the more profitable and smarter bet.

While the above may seem like simple math, it is missed by most casual bettors and many seasoned handicappers who have resigned themselves to thinking that Quinellas pay only half as much as Exactas. It is these same players who will also bet Quinella boxes when they cannot determine the winner of a race from among three or four contenders.

Because Quinella boxes result in the same amount being bet on each possible combination in the box, when in fact each combination does not have an equal probability of winning, they create inefficiencies in the wagering pools. Checking the probable Quinella payoffs and comparing them with the probable Exacta payoffs can offer additional insights into inefficiencies in the pools. Combinations of favorites and combinations of longshots are generally overbet and pay less than they should. Combinations of medium-priced horses generally pay more than they should.

In summary, if you really like a medium-priced horse and you think the favorites can finish out of the first two positions, you have probably found yourself a prime Quinella betting opportunity. You can take advantage of this by playing straight Quinellas or Quinella wheels with the horse you like, rather than playing Quinella boxes. This strategy requires less risk for a higher return and can provide solid long-term profits from Quinella betting.

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