What is a World Pool, and how does it work?

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

June 14th, 2021

Once in a while, you might hear the term “World Pool” pop up in reference to international horse racing. Have you ever wondered what it means?

To explain it simply, a World Pool is a pari-mutuel wagering pool where betting dollars from around the world are commingled into a single pool. According to the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which hosts the World Pools, this commingling provides “liquidity, stability, and smaller fluctuations in odds.”

These benefits mark significant improvements from betting into regional pools, which can be small if interest in a specific international event is limited. If you’re betting a nondescript race in South Africa, the regional pool might be small enough where a $100 win bet significantly shifts the odds.

This is much less likely to occur in a World Pool like the one available for the five-day Royal Ascot meeting in England. Per the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the 2020 Royal Ascot World Pool drew over £137 million in wagers, which—according to conversion rates at the time—equated to approximately $170 million. Exotic wagers are correspondingly more viable; if there’s only $500 in a pool, you know that’s the maximum you can win minus the takeout. Wouldn’t you rather bet a trifecta where there’s $500,000 up for grabs?

Of course, the World Pool comes with a few quirks and restrictions. For starters, the betting menu looks a little different from your typical U.S. slate. The following wagers will be available for betting at the 2021 Royal Ascot meet:

  • Win: You cash if your horse finishes first.
  • Place: You cash if your horses finishes in the top two, three, or four, depending on field size.
  • Quinella: Pick the top two finishers in either order.
  • Quinella Place (Omni/Swinger): Pick two of the top three finishers in any order.
  • Tierce (Trifecta): Pick the top three finishers in exacta order.

All wagers except the tierce and treble carry takeout rates of 17.5%. The rate for tierce is 25%.

Another difference involves field sizes and coupled entries. In U.S. horse racing, it’s rare to see more than 14 horses start in a race, with the 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby (G1) standing as the upper limit. But some international races feature more than 30 starters.

Since the U.S. pari-mutuel wagering system is not equipped to handle more than 24 betting interests, races featuring more than 24 starters require special handling. The solution at TwinSpires is simple: all horses numbered 24 or higher (25, 26, 27, etc.) are offered together as a single, coupled betting interest. These horses all start at the same odds, and if you bet one, you’re betting them all. If you place a $10 win bet on #26, but #33 wins, you’ll cash your ticket.

So the next time you see a World Pool on the agenda, be sure to take advantage and place a few wagers!