The Tote has been around since 1928, so the likelihood is that you’ll have noticed signs for it if you’ve ever been near a racecourse. That doesn’t mean that you automatically know what it is, though, and even some people who have been going to race meetings for years aren’t 100% sure. Sometimes even the most seasoned of racecourse attendees limit their bets to Win and Each-Way bets with a big bookmaker that they’ve heard of.
A trip to the Tote needn’t be scary, however. It’s not some mythical place that’s impossible to understand. This site exists for numerous reasons, including telling you all about the Cheltenham Festival, bookmakers that we trust and terminology that you might not know otherwise. By the end of reading through this page you’ll be an expert, running up to the Tote full of excitement the next time you go to the races. Just don’t blame us if you get escorted off the premises.
Betfred Previous Tote Owner, Best Depth & Experience
The Tote was a nationalised pool betting service until 2011 when it was bought by Betfred. In 2018 the Tote was sold again and there are many bookmakers that are syndicated to the tote and therefore are allowed to offer totepool bets, however, Betfred still boast the most experience in this area and provide a fuller range of tote markets. This includes higher jackpots not available elsewhere.
Even since the Tote came off monopoly in 2018 it exists as a single entity and is owned by the UK Tote Group. If you place, or want to place, totepool bets on a regular basis online however it is still the best option to go with Betfred.
Bet365 Best Syndicated Tote Bookmaker
If you want an alternative you could consider a mainstream bookie like Bet365. They have every tote and totepool bet available as Betfred and other bookies have. In fact they offer far more if you like betting more widely as they cover pools on race meetings in other countries too.
Bet365 is also a good option for conscientious customers as they are a UK company that spend a lot of money sponsoring UK horse racing. Registration required.
What is Tote and Totepool Betting?
In simple terms the Tote is best described as being a betting pool. It’s different from a traditional style bookmaker that offers betting as fixed odds, with the amount of winnings you take home from a Tote bet dictated by the number of people who pay into it. This is known formally as Parimutuel betting, where all of the same types of bets get put into a pool. At the end of the race the ‘house’ takes a cut of the stakes and the money is then split between the winners. How much you get back is decided firstly by how much money is in the pot, secondly by how big your stake was and thirdly how many other people win.
Just because the way the winnings are decided is a bit different to what you might expect, don’t think that means the entire betting procedure is unusual. You can still place an accumulator with the Tote, for example, or place a Win or Each-Way bet if you want to. The only thing you need to bear in mind is that the bets have different names, so when you go up to the Tote and look to place your wager you’ll want to know the correct terminology. We’ll cover this in a bit more detail shortly.
Totepool Bet Types
The number one thing to look out for is whether or not the bookmaker you’re placing your bets with is part of the Tote Syndication.
There are both syndicated and non-syndicated bookies when it comes to Tote bets, you see, with the former paying into the overall Totepool pot and the latter not doing so. Not all bookmakers offer Tote bets and the ones that don’t do all offer the same Totebet types.
For that reason you’re always best looking to place your bets with Betfred. Why? Because they bought the Tote in 2011 and still own a lot of it even now it is part of a consortium.
As we’ve just said, the Tote tends to use its own language in describing the types of bets that you can place. Get intimidated and you’ll feel as though you haven’t got a clue what’s going on. Thankfully it’s actually quite easy to get your head around once you know what you’re looking for.
This is, as the name suggests, a Win bet. Normally you’ll need to wafer a minimum of £1 here but you’ll be rewarded with odds that are typically better than most of the industry. If you don’t know the name of the horse that you’re betting on then its number is fine, or you can simply choose the favourite.
This is another bet where there’s a £1 minimum stake involved. You’re betting on your horse placing here, so this is a good option for those of you that like to hedge your bets. One thing to bear in mind is that your money will go into a different pot than Totewin bets, with the winnings shared out between everyone who has put on a Toteplace bet.
The name gives you a big clue, here. This is the Tote equivalent of an Each-Way bet but it works slightly more favourably for you as it’s essentially two different bets. The minimum you can place is £2 because half of your bet goes into the pot with the Totewins and the other goes into the Toteplace pot.
Totedouble / Totetreble
We’ve linked these two together as they’re similar to each other. A Totedouble is a bet on the winner of two separate races, whilst a Totetreble is betting on the victors in three separate races. In both instances the minimum bet you’ll be asked to place is £1.
This is a fun little bet that can see big rewards for small stakes. Here you’ll need to guess which horses are going to come 1st, 2nd and 3rd in order in a race. Your minimum stake will be £2 but the likelihood is that there will be less winners because it’s so difficult to do. Ordinarily this bet is limited to races with at least eight horses running. It’s not to be confused with…
Here you can pick two horses in a race that you think will finish in the top three. You don’t have to pick the order this time, which means you’ve got a bit more of a chance if there are two favourites, for example. Sometimes called an Exotic Bet, we’re still on a £2 minimum here.
Another one similar to the three that have gone before is a Toteexacta bet, with a £2 minimum. The word ‘exact’ in the title gives you something of a clue here as you need to guess the horses that will finish 1st and 2nd in a given race. There’s an alternative bet known as a combination exacta, which lets you pick two horses to finish in the top two places in any order. A Banker may also be tempting if there’s a definite favourite in a race – here you pick one horse that you reckon will definitely win and then several horses that can finish 2nd. If any of them then do, you win.
A minimum bet of £1 can go quite far with this particular wager. In times gone by you’d need to pick all six winners from the same meeting, but that changed back in 2015 and now you need to do it from different meetings across the course of a day. If no one wins then this bet rolls over.
Here you’ll be asked to bet at least £2 per line and you’ll need to guess at the winners of six races from different meetings and of different types. This is often reserved for Saturdays, special occasions such as Boxing Day or high profile meetings.
Select six horse that you think will place during six races at one meeting. You stick this bet on before the first race has gone off and then keep your fingers crossed. This is one of the most confusing bets for the simple reason that you don’t just bet £1 and then walk away. You need to place at least 5p per line, but you can choose as many horses as you want for each race. For example, let’s say for argument’s sake that you choose to bet on three horses in all six races. That would be 3x3x3x3x3x3, or 729 lines. Given it’s 5p per line that would equate to a £36.45 bet.
This is aimed at people that turn up late to meetings or whose Toteplacepot has gone off the rails. Here you’ll need to pick a horse that you think will place in the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th race of the meeting. The cost of the bet is similar to the Toteplacepot, so you can bet on multiple horses but it will be a pricier wager. That’s especially true because the minimum bet here is 10p per line.
History of the Tote and Totepool
Just to give you some idea of why the Tote came about… In 1928 the Racecourse Betting Act, under the direction of Winston Churchill, created a statutory corporation called the Racecourse Betting Control Board. This was in response to the illegal bookies that were being set up away from the racecourses themselves and was designed to give the British government some control over the industry.
In 1961 The Betting Levy Act was passed, with the Board renamed as the Horserace Totalisator Board. Eleven years later and the ‘Tote’ as it had become known, opened its own high street betting shop and in 1992 Tote Direct was set up, allowing other bookies to offer bets that would be paid into the Tote’s pool. It was government owned up until 2011 when it was bought by Betfred, beating off competition from most of the big bookmakers who all wanted to get in on the action. The bid that won it for them was rumoured to be worth about £265 million.
In 2018 that monopoly ended and despite initial fears the tote would be broken up into multiple pools an agreement has been reached to keep the Tote alive as a single pool, under the same name, until at least 2025.
Under the new arrangement the old tote is owned by the UK Tote Group (formerly the Alzeti consortium). Betfred, however, will continue to run the shops, online Totesport site and marketing. A company called Britbet will run the tote at 55 UK racecourses with new tech and their own staff, but under the Tote name. Therefore from a punter perspective it looks very much the same as before.
Both the UK Tote Group (run by trainer and owner Alex Frost) and Britbet seek to see more money from the tote going back into racing. Already from the initial deal the levy from the tote to UK tracks has doubled, with Britbet run courses due to receive £50 million by 2025. The commission taken on the tote will also reduce, meaning punters win more of the pot, and the number of £1,000,000 jackpots and promotions will also increase. For more about this new arrangement see our Tote news article.
How To Use It For Cheltenham
When it comes to Cheltenham, the way to make use of the Tote is reasonably self-explanatory. Here you’re talking about a big Festival with seven races each day, or 28 races in total, taking place. You can obviously place whatever type of bet you like during that time, given that the Tote allows for both single and multiple types of wager.
One thing that you might want to look at, however, is the idea of placing several ‘normal’ bets with a fixed odds bookmaker before turning to the Tote for a few big ones. The likes of the Totejackpot and Totescoop6 must surely be tempting, with a small outlay liable to bring home some decent cash. It’s absolutely worth remembering that the more people that bet on the Tote the bigger the share of the winnings is likely to be. The number of people that will be betting on the Cheltenham Festival is huge, with the meeting typically seeing more money wagered on it than most others throughout the rest of the year.
Cheltenham Punter Wins £182,657.80 Totepool Placepot
If you need any evidence of how lucrative a totepool bet can be then take a look at the punter who won over £182k during the 2019 Cheltenham Festival opening day.
The racing fan placed a £2 bet on a single line that included one selection in each of the first 6 races. With only one favourite winnings and many big names dropping out most other peoples placepot bets were scuppered early doors, but this bettor stayed in the game.
Despite winning the pot with just 4 winners and 2 places the fact so many results were unexpected meant the punter was still paid out a dividend of £91,283 per £1 staked.
It’s not unheard of for there to be some exciting and interesting promotions exclusively on the Tote. Obviously these sorts of offers aren’t available all the time and they’re normally limited to a bookmaker like Betfred that part-owned the Tote, but it’s worth keeping your eye out just in case you’re able to take advantage. The Tote Group themselves are also worth a look as they run the occasional offer.
Combine it with some sensible betting at Cheltenham in general and you could be in for a very nice March indeed!