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When bookies break up a ‘Dead Heat’

Ties in finishing position bets from the top five to top 10s and even top 20s are called "Dead Heat" in sports betting circles.

Published on 17 May 2022

All sports events produce a winner however close the nature of the competition may be. While these may be the case in individual or team sports, determining the final positions from second to tenth places and so on do end up in ties in some sports.

Ties in finishing position bets from the top five to top 10s and even top 20s are called “Dead Heat” in sports betting circles. For a bettor, if his bet ends up tied with other players for the same position, his bet ends up in a “dead heat.” A bettor wins part of his bet and loses part of his bet under a “dead heat” bet.

Learn more as to why some sports wind up with dead heat bets that denies a punter more money for his winning bet.


Dead heat bets usually occur in golf, although it also happens (but mostly rare) from horseracing to greyhound racing, draw horse racing, swimming and motorsports. So basically, dead heats are seen in sports where multiple athletes are jockeying for a position.

Most golf fans do remember how Tiger Woods, with one good leg, defeated Rocco Mediate in a sudden-death playoff as they ended up tied after 91 holes in the 2008 US Open. While golf tournaments require a playoff to determine a champion in major or regular tournaments, no such thing exists if three to seven players end up within the top five, or 13 players wind up within the top 10, and so on.

In such situations in terms of sports betting, punters have to settle for most sportsbooks’ decisions for the bet amount to be usually cut depending on how many players are tied for those spots. Basically, part of a bettor’s bet is a loser, while the remainder stands at the original odds.


The next sport where “dead heat” bets often occur are in horse racing, due to the close calls among entries who end up in the finish line.

Unlike golf, horse racing now has a technology that determines “photo-finish” positioning among entries that limits the occurrence of dead heat bets, as some bets win “by the hair” in close races.

Most of the sportsbooks determine dead heat rules by paying win and place bets as the same, though payout rules vary from state to state.

Win and place pools are combined, the track receives its percentage, while the cash pot is divided into two pools that are paid to bettors who hold win and place tickets on each horse.

If a punter places his money on a horse that had longer odds with fewer ticket holders, he would receive a bigger payout than someone who had to split the pool with more bettors.


Bookmakers apply dead heat rules in golf tournaments where, for example, two players were tied for second place, three players tied for fourth, three players tied for seventh, and five others tied for 10th place.

In such situations, the total stake will be divided by the number of players in a tie at normal odds. If a punter bets on Woods to finish in the top 10 with a 100 US dollar bet on 12/1 odds – and Tiger was one of the five players tied for 10th place. The bettor’s 100 US dollars stake would be divided by five, meaning his stake would be cut to 20 US dollars.

Here’s how sportsbooks make the calculation for such situations:

* Reduced stake x betting odds + reduced stake = total winnings; or

* 20 US dollars x 12/1 (odds) = 20 US dollars = 260 US dollars.


Let’s place an example of a horse racing result that offers a dead heat payout:

Final results Odds
1. Big Blue (2/1)
T-2 B Judge (5/1)
T-2 D’Admiral (10/1)
4 Viking Fleet (20/1)

A punter bets 20 US dollars on B Judge to finish second but there are two horses ending up tied for second. His stake will now be cut in half (due to a tie between two horses) and then he will still get his regular odds. Thus, a 20 US dollar bet becomes a 10 US dollars bet but he will still earn his 5/1 payout, so he would take home 50 US dollars for that bet.

Just like dealing in any other bet, punters should first try out reputable bookmakers and study thoroughly their terms and conditions before looking out for their dead heat rules that will often be applied in golf or horse racing.

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