Your betting education continues here at MyTopSportsbooks, and we will touch on a topic that comes up in sporting events that the sports bettor should be aware of. The result of most bets is a win or a loss, but there are times when a game, a tournament or an event ends in a tie. We bet at online sportsbooks or bookmakers for certitude, either on a straight play or through some variation of handicapping to declare a winner or a loser to cash winning betting slips to build our bankrolls. A tie in sports betting is referred to as a dead heat, and it doesn’t happen much, but the sports betting world is prepared when it does. We will examine the rules governing dead heat events to give every sports bettor a clear understanding of the rules that govern dead heat events.

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What is a Dead Heat Result?

In simplest terms, a dead heat is a tie in some races. Horses, cars, running races, greyhound racing, and the like can end in ties that constitute a dead heat designation. Golf sees its share of dead heats, where players tie at the end of the tournament in the top 5, 10, or 20, but not first place. Rarely do you ever see a dead heat in an NFL, NBA or NHL game because the game goes into overtime. For MLB matchups, they play extra innings until a team wins.

Why the Term Dead Heat?

Dead heat originated at a horseracing track back in the 1600s. In those days, horses ran many races or heats, and clear winners weren’t, so the results were declared dead. Using the term heat is a reference to a qualifying race – think 100M races at track meets – but the term dead heat continues to tell the betting public no clear winner has been declared.

Dead Heat Rules, What Are They?

Dead heat rules govern the payout for sports bettors in the event of a tie. The easiest way to understand dead heat rules is like this: you win part of your bet and lose part of your bet. Most sportsbooks have rules governing dead heat results, and a small cadre of sportsbooks don’t. It is as rare as the veritable tie in sports betting.

Dead heat rules take into consideration two things: the stake and the odds.

Dead heat rules take into consideration two things: the stake and the odds.

The stake is divided by the number of tied participants and multiplied by the odds. A two-way tie is split evenly, and an extremely rare three-way tie is divided by 33.33 percent. If the sportsbook or bookie you gamble with offers ties on their betting menu, they will payout ties in full. Different rules govern different sportsbooks; instead of cutting the payout, the sportsbook may cut the odds, reducing the payout.

Dead Heat Results, How Often Does it Happen?

The frequency of the occurrence happens for two reasons: sport type and the precision of the technology available. Photo finishes at the racetrack or track meet to reduce the chances of a dead heat. Horse racing has the highest occurrence of dead heats or two-way ties in the first place.

Dead heats are Common to Which Sports?

  • Horse racing
  • Greyhound racing
  • Draw horse racing
  • Golf
  • Swimming
  • Motorsports

What are the Golf Dead Heat Rules?

You never see a tie for the top spot in any golf betting event, they go to extra holes to crown the tournament champion, but you can have ties after the top spot. In golf, the dead heat depends on the total number of players tied and the places on offer.

What Happens When a Dead Heat Occurs in Golf?

What Happens When a Dead Heat Occurs in Golf?

What is the payout if your golf bet ends in a dead heat? Your stake is cut down based on the number of golfers tied. Some sportsbooks cut the odds, and it is possible to lose money on a dead-heat finish. Rory McIlroy can finish tied for sixth, and the total return will be cut down because of the number of participants that have tied. The only time the finishing position must be settled with a winner is when two golfers tie for the tournament championship.

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A Stakes Cut

You bet $10 on a certain golfer to be the first-round leader one at 100 to 1. The golfer you are backing ends up tied with another golfer. Your payout would be $500 – a 50/50 split – instead of a $1000 payout for sole possession of first place.

Horse Racing; Dead Heat Rules

The same as golf, the number of ties is divided by the stake in horse racing betting.

Here is What Happens in a Dead Heat at the Racetrack

  • Second-place bets and third-place bets pools are combined
  • The track gets paid
  • The pot winnings are divided in half, and winning tickets – bettors holding win and place betting slips – are paid.

The Money Split, Golf, Dead Heat

If you bet $100 and five golfers tied, your stake is reduced to $20 and multiplied by the odds. See the example below.

Reduced Stake x Betting Odds + Reduced Stake = Total winnings; or

$20 x 10/1 + $20 = $220

The Money Split, Horse Racing, Dead Heat

Two options:

  • Pick a winner.
  • Pick place and show results.

A win with two horses tied:

[(Stake/2) x (Odds – 1)] – (Stake/2) = profit

Do Sportsbooks Take Advantage of Dead Heat Results?

Most, if not all, sportsbooks have rules governing dead heat results, so they don’t use the results to their benefit. But they can use the results in other ways, like the vig or vigorish, if you prefer. The sportsbook collects the fee for handling your bet, and they get paid on win, lose, or dead heat. Line movement is another area where sportsbooks can gain an edge when the algorithm is triggered based on public money coming in, an injury, or, in the case of horse racing, a scratch.


Frank Lorenzo
Frank Lorenzo
MTS Co-Founder
Geoff Johnson
Geoff Johnson
MTS Co-Founder