Dead Heat: How Bookies Handle Draws in Horse Racing

A draw can occur in competitive sports when the final result is similar or at least inconclusive. When it comes to betting, deadlocks can sometimes be very confusing, especially in a sport as complicated as horse racing. Even though they are rare, draws exist in horse racing as well and they are referred to as a dead heat.

What is a Dead Heat in horse racing

Dead heats in horse racing are when two or more runners cross the finishing line at exactly the same time. In today’s world, race organizers use photo-finish technology to get an accurate representation of each runner’s position at the finishing line. However, sometimes, there’s nothing to separate them.

Naturally, the stewards and race officials study the photographic evidence and use computer software to try and determine an outright winner as best they can. However, there are times when two or more horses (a triple dead heat) can’t be separated. In these scenarios, the race is classed as a dead heat.

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Dead Heat Rules: What Happens to Your Bet

For the participants of the race, a dead heat means any prize money/accolades are shared. For you as a bettor, dead heat betting rules come into effect. Regardless of where you’ve made your bets, all bookmakers use the dead heat rule to determine your payout.

This is a universal rule that’s used across the industry and it states that, in the case of a draw, part of your bet is classed as a win and the other part is classed as a loss. In essence, your bet is split in half. This is to account for the fact that your pick neither won nor lost the race. Therefore, you will receive some kind of return but not a full one.

How to Calculate Dead Heat Betting Returns 

Because dead heat rules are universal, all bookmakers have a standard method of calculating your payout. If you want to determine how a draw could affect your returns before you place a bet, you can use a dead heat calculator. However, this isn’t necessary because bookmakers will crunch the numbers for you.

When a draw happens and your pick is part of it: First, divide the total stake by the number of places in the dead heat. Second, multiply the above figure by the initial odds of your bet to get your total return. For, example:

⏩ You wager €10 on a horse at 20/1 (21.0)

⏩ A two-way dead heat happens: 10/2 = 5

⏩ 5 X 20 = €100 profit (your profit would have been €200 if your pick won outright)

Perhaps an easier way to work out your returns without a dead heat calculator is to half your stake. So, if two horses finished in a dead heat and you picked one of them, your bet odds would be halved. For example, if the original odds were 10/1 (11.0), they’d be reduced to 5/1 (6.0). In the event of a triple dead heat, you’d need to work out what 1/3 of the original odds is.

Calculating Dead Heat Returns if you Bet on an Exchange

betting exchangeDead-heat betting rules inside an exchange are slightly different from sportsbooks. However, as before, the formula that most exchanges use is pretty standard. To determine your returns in the event of a dead heat, exchanges will use the following:

For win markets with two runners tied:

[(Stake / 2) x (Odds - 1)] - (Stake / 2) = your profit/loss

For win markets with more than two runners tied:

[(Stake / No of tied runners) x (Odds - 1)] - [Stake x (No of tied runners - 1) / No of tied runners] = your profit/loss

For place markets/each way bets:

[(Stake x No of payouts / No of tied runners) x (Odds - 1)] - [Stake x (No of tied runners - No of payouts) / No of tied runners] = your profit/loss

Online Bookmakers and Dead Heat Betting

When you use our top-rated online bookmakers, standard dead heat rules will apply. At sportsbooks such as William Hill, Coral and bet365, payouts will be split based on the number of runners involved in the dead heat. Exchanges such as Betfair, use the same formulas as above.

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Q: What happens if more than two horses finish in a dead heat?

If two or more horses can’t be separated, the race is declared a dead heat. This means everything is shared between those involved in the draw. From the jockeys and trainers to people making bets, dead heat rules ensure no one loses out unfairly.

Q: What odds do you get for a dead heat?

The best way to think about your odds with regards to a dead heat in horse racing is that they’ll be divided by the number of runners involved in the draw. If it’s two, your odds are halved. If it’s a triple dead heat, you’ll get 1/3 odds.

Q: Can you bet on a dead heat?

In special circumstances, you may be able to bet on a dead heat in horse racing. However, because the draws are uncommon, it’s not a type of bet you can make as a standard. You may, however, be able to request this type of bet.

Q: What happens to combo bets if there is a dead heat?

If you’ve made an each-way accumulator bet, the dead heat bets count in full. In other words, if your pick is part of an accumulator and finishes in a dead heat, that part of the bet is declared a win and, therefore, the whole bet remains live.

Q: What are the most famous dead heats in horse racing?

There aren’t any concrete statistics on how often dead heats happen in horse racing. However, there have been plenty of famous results over the years. Back in 1801, Worthy and Sorcerer crossed the line at the same time in the King’s Plate at Newmarket. Worthy subsequently won the rematch. In modern times, the 2011 Irish St. Ledger ended in a draw when Duncan and Jukebox Jury crossed the line at the same time.

Q: Are there exceptions to dead heats?

In some instances, there may be exceptions to the dead heat rule. Although these typically occur in unsanctioned/smaller events, it may be the case that dead heat finishers are asked to re-run the race in order to determine an outright winner.

Q: Do bookmakers use dead heat rules to their advantage?

No. All licenced bookmakers follow standard rules with regards to dead heats. Indeed, these industry standards are well-known and established, which means bookmakers aren’t able to use draws to take advantage of consumers.

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