Last Updated on March 8, 2022 by Allison Price
A dead heat is when two or more horses finish at the exact same time in horse racing. Although it sounds unlikely, this is what race organizers dream of in handicap races. Handicappers assign horses weights based on their ability. It would be the ideal outcome for them if all horses crossed the line together as this would ensure that they had the right weights.
The main question for bettors is how their wagers will change when dead heats occur. Is everyone going to win? They are a rare occurrence so it is not surprising that very few people know what to do if a race they bet on ends in a dead heat. It will help you avoid feeling stressed if this happens, so we’ll go over it all.
Dead Heats Explained
The vast majority of horse races have one winner. This horse is either the best of all the horses and wins easily, or it is able to do something that makes the event clear. However, this doesn’t always occur. Sometimes, two or more horses can cross at the same time. It can still happen, even in today’s age of incredible technology.
You’ll have heard of photo finishes. A photograph of horses crossing the finish line will be taken by race stewards. They’ll inspect it to determine if anything can separate them. If there is nothing that can separate them from the dead heat, they will declare it. In other words, all horses in a dead-heat will be declared the winners. This is more complicated for bookmakers than one might think.
You will be a punter if you believe that three horses can cross the finish line together. Unsurprisingly, the bookmakers disagree with you. You’ll see something like “dead heat rules apply” in the small print when you place your bet. This is a bookie protecting themselves for the unthinkable.
Almost all UK-facing bookmakers follow the same dead heat rules. There’s no point in shopping around for this one. If you don’t like the idea of dead-heat rules being in play, then you will have to place your bets on markets that do not have them. These are markets that offer a draw. You’ll often find your returns lower than you expected in the world of sports with dead heats.
The return on wagers ending in a dead heat is calculated by multiplying the stake you paid by how many horses tied. If there were three horses that tied for first in a race, your stake would be PS3. This would reduce it to PS1. Because bookmakers consider your bet to have been shared with two winners, it is therefore divided by three.
If your stake money is complex, you don’t have to worry about complicated maths. The bookmaker will handle all the calculations for you. It’s still useful to have this information so you know how much you will get paid if a race ends in a dead heat. Divide your stake with the number of horses who tied, and not the odds that the horse you bet on will win.
What about if it’s an Each-Way bet?
If your Each-Way wager plays quarter odds on each of the four top places, it would not matter that the race was a dead heat between one horse and the other. Because the bet already paid out on four places, and your horse had either finished second or third, this is why it pays out. Your stake will be paid at a quarter the odds, just like if it had not ended in a dead heat.
Let’s suppose that your horse has finished third in a dead heat. It becomes more difficult to comprehend what is happening. The horse is now in third, fourth, and fifth place. However, the bookmaker that you bet on only paid out for four places has now paid. This would mean that two-thirds (or three quarters) of the bet would be settled with a winner.
It is best to think about whether your bet was a winner. You wouldn’t get any money back if your horse finishes in a dead heat for fifth place and the bookmaker you choose only pays out on four of those places. Calculate how much of your wager should win. If a fourth-place horse is in a dead heat with another horse, only one third of the payout would be made.
The next step is to consider what the payout would look like in normal circumstances. If the bookie pays one-quarter odds for the first four horses and you have PS9 on a horse with odds at 12/1, your horse would finish fourth in a three way dead heat. The odds of your horse finishing fourth are 12 divided by 4, which is 3/1. And then, your stake would be divided by 3. This would give you PS3. This would result in PS9 in winnings.
Probability of Dead Heats Occurring
There was an overwhelming feeling of surprise when Aqueduct Racetrack, New York City, hosted three dead heat finishes in one meeting in 2006. Three-way dead heats can be discussed at Hawthorne Racecourse, Illinois in the United States of America. It saw one in 2018. This was the first time the course had ever seen one in more than 50 years.
You’ll be wondering what happens to your winnings if a horse you back finishes the race in a dead-heat. You’ll be able to understand why this happens and how your winnings might have changed if you read this explanation.
Other sports that allow for positions to be tied also have dead heats. Golf, for instance, has many tournaments with dead heats. It is important to understand how they work as they are applicable for different markets.