Betting to “show” means you are wagering that your horse will finish first, second or third.
The payout of any pari-mutuel pool works the same way. First the track subtracts the “takeout” – a percentage of the total amount wagered – to cover its cost of putting on the races. The remaining amount is then distributed to players holding winning tickets for that pool. The price paid on the winning ticket depends on how many players made the same wager; the fewer people who have winning tickets, the more money yours will be worth.
Here’s an example: Say you bet $2 to show on the No. 4 horse, Alwaysrunsthird. The race is run and Alwaysrunsthird finishes second, a neck behind Neverwins and two lengths clear of Up the Track, who finishes third. The track’s Tote system will deduct the takeout from the show pool, then equally divide what’s left among the three betting interests. If Up the Track was the 6-5 favorite, lots of people probably also bet him to show, so bettors holding $2 show tickets on him might only collect $2.40. But Alwaysrunsthird, on the other hand, was not fancied by the bettors and left the gate at odds of 30-1 in the win pool. Since those odds generally are reflected in the show pool as well, a $2 show bet on him might pay $8.80.