For most people, sport is the most intuitive form of confrontation, where only one side wins and the other loses. That's true in most cases, but not all. For sports that involve individual performance, especially horse racing, a full tie is possible where two or, rarely, more runners in a race can cross the finish line in exactly one moment. Therefore, experts have given these rare cases a specific definition, and it is called dead heats.

Whenever dead heat occurs, the results of the contestants will be considered a tie, or at least inconclusive, and it will not have a significant impact on the overall ranking of the race. However, for sports betting, the betting lines and potential payouts will vary considerably. So, if you're wondering what happens to your bets if the race ends in a dead heat, we'll explain everything in detail below. 

What is Dead Heat in Horse Racing?

As mentioned above, dead heat is a rare but still possible situation in horse racing. It happens when two or more runners reach the finish line at the same time with the same finishing time, even in percentages of seconds. Although the modernity of sports technology today can capture every moment on the track to determine the winner, on a clear day, any situation is possible.

Source: Freepik

Sometimes a tie can happen with horses not competing for the lead. For example, after the first horse has finished, the following two horses can finish in the same instant. If that happens, we have one winner and two contestants sharing second place.

So, you will be wondering what will happen to your bet if dead heat occurs. The answer is that your profit will be calculated by dividing the bet proportionally between the number of tie runners in the event. For example, say you bet on one horse to win the race, but in the end, it shares first place with another horse. In that case, your winnings will be only half of the maximum possible profit, namely the case where your choice wins outright.

In Which Sports Does It Happen?

Typically, one can find dead heat cases most common in golf and horse racing rather than all sports. The reason is that their characteristics are closely related to sports where athletes use personal achievements to compete for a place on the leaderboard. Therefore, outside of golf, horse racing, and to some extent, motorsport, you will never see dead heat in head-to-head competitions or, more generally, sports events that only determine the outcome of winning or losing.

Source: Freepik

How Are Payments Determined In Dead Heats?

To better understand how sportsbooks calculate payouts when dead heat occurs, consider the following horse racing example:

Race Result Odds
1. Lucky Star 2/1
T-2. Lady Tucker 5/1
T-2. Warrior 8/1
4. Native Dancer 15/1

Suppose you bet $100 on Lady Tucker to finish second, but in reality, two horses are sharing second place when they finish simultaneously. At this point, your payment will be halved. More precisely, you could have made $500 if the Warrior hadn't ruined everything with the dead heat situation created. In the end, you can only take home $250 on that bet.

However, if your bets are more complicated than that, you may be confused as to how dead heat can have more of an impact on your potential payout. Consider the following example for better understanding.

Race Result Odds
1. Lucky Star 2/1
2. Lady Tucker 5/1
T-3. Warrior 8/1
T-3. Native Dancer 15/1
T-3. Holy Bull 4/1
T-3. Black Caviar 13/1

Now, let's say you bet $100 on the Native Dancer at 15/1 to finish in the Top 5. Actual results show that it accomplished that goal when the horse finished third. However, the Native Dancer shared this third place with four other contestants instead of monopolizing it. So technically, three of the tie horses would have finished in the Top 5, but there will be one of them that comes in sixth place and doesn't complete the top 5 target your bet stipulates. As a result, your winnings will not be as complete as they should be.

So, how exactly is the payout calculated? In this case, your bet will be multiplied by 3/4 (75%) since only three out of four can end up in the Top 5 instead of all. Therefore, you can understand that you can only get 75% of your expected payout when the Native Dancer can only draw with three other horses instead of beating them.

Thus, your winnings will be $100 multiplied by the odds of 15 and multiplied by 75% due to dead heat. In the end, you will receive $1125 in winnings.

Calculation of Your Profit or Loss on a Dead Heat Outcome

The examples above are just exceptional cases in a series of different variations that dead heat can affect the outcome of horse races. Therefore, if you are looking for the most accurate formula to calculate profit for all cases of dead heats, you can refer to the following recipes:

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:

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

Do Sportsbooks Ever Use Dead Heat Rules to Their Own Advantage?

Although people still talk about this, in reality, it cannot happen. The sportsbook basically cannot influence the situation of the race. Therefore, it was hard for them to help a particular contestant finish first; it was even more unbelievable that they worked to help two contestants finish at the same time. So with just a basic logical deduction, you can tell the limited feasibility of this rumor.

In fact, the operators have the right to be happy if dead heat occurs, as they will reduce the payouts to players as the above formulas and algorithms imply. Even so, the calculation of the odds depends entirely on the site's automated system, and the operator cannot do anything to take advantage of the players and make more money when dead heat occurs.


We have compiled some of the most common questions from players related to the dead heats. Therefore, if you have any questions after reading our article, your questions can completely fall into the group below. Just click on each question, and the answer will appear right below them.

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

Although quite rare, it is possible. Regardless of the number of runners involved in a tie, everything is shared between the parties involved, from the competitor's performance to the bettors' payback. Therefore, no matter the situation, you are always treated fairly by the operator with other bettors through sharing the winnings.

What odds do you get for a dead heat?

The simplest way to sketch out how to calculate your odds regarding dead heat in horse racing is that they will be divided by the number of runners involved in a tie. For example, if two horses reach the finish line at the same time, you will receive half of your winnings. If the dead heat consists of three horses with similar achievements and shares the same leaderboard position, you will get 1/3 odds.

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

The answer is that dead heat bets always work no matter how you bet the accumulator. For example, if your selection is part of a parlay and the final result falls in a dead heat, that part of your bet will be counted as winning, and your entire parlay bet will remain at its value.

Do bookmakers use dead heat rules to their advantage?

In fact, operators both have no need and no way to do it. The reason is straightforward. If they cheat users just to exchange for a small profit and be found out, all their reputations will be ruined. Plus, all licensed bookmakers follow the standard rules of the sports betting industry related to dead heat situations, so they cannot manipulate the odds through stealth to take advantage of players.

Published: 06 June 2022 10:04