The tote is a tatal bet system run by the authorities where all bets placed are “banked” in a pool for that bet. For example every bet taken on the “Win” bet for a particular race will accumulate to the win pool. If the bets cost £1 each, and 10,000 bets are laid the pool has £10,000 in its account. From this figure an amount is charged to cover the administration fees of running the tote and any betting tax if applicable, depending where in the world the tote is placed. The net amount then represents the win pool. Let’s assume administration fees and betting tax are 20%, £2,000 of the pool goes to paying expenses leaving £8,000 to be distributed equally amongst the number of winning tickets.
With the tote you don’t know what the odds are. You don’t know with any degree of certainty what you will receive if you win. Most race courses have boards displaying the approximate odds at the time, but if a lot of bets are placed on a particular horse just before the off, the odds can change significantly.
The tote can never lose. It’s not in the business of gambling. It takes a fixed % of every bet laid. There will be a separate pool for each type of bet on each race. If there are no winners the terms and conditions of the tote apply, but the amount will usually be carried forward to the same bet type on the next race, or to the same bet type on a specified race at the next meeting (where for example the carry over relates to the last race of the day).
THE BOOKMAKERS The bookmakers are a very different kettle of fish. Here you are betting directly against the bookie. You place your bet at the odds offered by the bookie at the time the bet is placed. It does not matter what happens in the betting market thereafter as you have fixed your odds. The bookie tries to balance his books, hedging his bets with other bookies where possible. However he is exposed and if he has a high number of bets laid on the winning horse can find himself incurring a substantial loss.
HORSE COUPLING Very often there may be more than one horse in a particular race from the same trainer. Where this happens very often the “horses are coupled on the tote”. What this means simplistically is that if you bet one horse to win, you get the other one for free. If the horse you bet does not win but his stable companion does your bet still wins.
You should check your race card carefully to determine if horse couplings apply or not. Couplings don’t only apply to wins. Often they will apply to the “exotic” bets, like the jackpot, pick six, scoop six, place accumulator etc.