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What are ‘Race To’ Bets?

by February 28, 2022

A ‘race to’ bet is when you wager on a team to achieve a certain number or mark before their opposition. These bets are especially popular in the NBA and the NHL, and I will walk through an example for each sport below.

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Let’s say that the Cleveland Cavaliers are on the road facing the Memphis Grizzlies, and you follow both teams very closely. You might have picked up on the fact that the Cavaliers typically start slow out of the gate while the Grizzlies usually do very well in their first quarters.

Now say that the Grizzlies have a first-quarter spread of -3.5, but you do not want to mess around with a last-second back-door cover from Cleveland. Instead of betting on the Grizzlies -3.5, you can bet on the ‘race to’ 10 points.

In this scenario, the Grizzlies’ odds would be around (-180) to get to 10 points first, while the Cavaliers’ odds would be around (+135). So, if the Grizzlies reach 10 points before the Cavaliers, then the wager is graded as a win.

You do not only have to wager on a low ‘race to’ like 10 points, as you can usually bet the first team to reach 20/30/40/50 points as well.


Following a similar example, let’s say that the Chicago Blackhawks (+135) are hosting the St. Louis Blues (-160), and you follow the Central Division closely. You may have found a trend that the Blackhawks start games well at home but usually crumble in the third period.

If you are afraid of the risk of Chicago losing a lead as an underdog late in the game, then you can bet on their ‘race to’ two goals. In this scenario, the odds for Chicago would be (+135), so you would be getting the same odds as if they win.

Obviously, if St. Louis reaches two goals before Chicago, but Chicago comes back and wins, your wager is still a loser. Hockey is different than basketball in the sense that ‘race to’ goals bets are three-way.

By three-way, I mean that you bet the ‘race to’ two goals three different ways:

  • Chicago Blackhawks (+135)
  • St. Louis Blues (-155)
  • Neither (+1600)

If you want a long-shot wager and think that the game will end 1-0 for either side, then you can bet on neither team to reach two goals at 16/1.

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Tony Sartori is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Tony, check out his archive and follow him @tony_sartori.

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