Dead Heat Rules

Dead Heat in Horse RacingDead heats are relatively uncommon in betting but, as with many other aspects of betting on sport – including what happens if a match is postponed or suspended – forewarned is forearmed.

Dead heats may only occur from time to time but even so, having a knowledge of what they are and how they impact your bets will mean you can avoid any unpleasant surprises when it comes to your bets settling. Here we take a look at what a dead heat is in general terms, what dead heat betting rules are and how both of these apply to a range of sports where dead heats may occur, giving examples for the sake of clarity and understanding.

What is a Dead Heat?

In the simplest terms a dead heat is when two or more participants in an event finish level in such a way that for betting purposes they cannot be separated. In effect this means you have more than one winner in a given betting market, with two or more joint winners creating a minor issue for the bookies.

As a punter you may feel inclined to argue that the bookmaker should simply pay out on all “winners” but this wouldn’t be fair on the bookmaker and is clearly covered by their terms that, for most markets, state “dead heat rules apply” or words to that effect.

Dead heats can happen in a huge range of sports and a wide variety of markets too. Perhaps the most easy to understand example of a dead heat is a situation where two horses cross the winning line at EXACTLY the same time. Where these horses cannot be separated by the human eye, nor by a photo finish, a dead heat occurs and both, or even three (or more, technically) horses jointly win the race.

What are Dead Heat Rules?

Dead heat rules are the way in which the bookmakers settle dead heats and essentially they are the same at almost all bookmakers, for all sports and for all betting markets. Of course, there may be the odd exception but certainly all major UK bookmakers have rules that are virtually identical. Certain markets, for example rugby match odds or a boxing match, or others where a tie and/or draw are offered, cannot have a dead heat but in other markets, should your returns be less than you were expecting, a dead heat could well prove to be the explanation.

Dead heat returns are calculated by dividing the stake by the number of entrants involved in the tie. At its simplest this is very easy to understand, with a two-way dead heat for one place meaning that the stake is divided by two. Effectively your bet only half won, so fairly and simply only half of your stake wins. Assuming you bet £10 at 2/1, £5 of your stake would be lost, with £5 being paid out as normal at odds of 2/1 for a total return of £15 and an overall profit of £5. Had your bet narrowly edged out the other joint winner to be the sole victor the bet would have returned £30 for a profit of £20.

Two Way Dead Heat Portioning Pie Chart

Things become ever so slightly more complex when there are more than two competitors involved in the dead heat. However, where the dead heat is just for one place, that of the winner, it remains quite simple to calculate. So, for example, if three dogs cross the line at exactly the same moment in greyhound racing and cannot be separated, the stake would be divided by three. Instead of a £10 win at 2/1 you would lose £6.67 of your £10 stake and see £3.33 settled at 2/1, meaning you would break even overall. Damn those other two dogs!

Three Way Dead Heat Portioning Pie Chart

Just to be clear, as per the stated rules and examples above, it is your stake and not the odds that are changed by a dead heat. Whilst each way bets pay out at a fraction of the odds based on the full stake, dead heat winners pay out at full odds but only a fraction of the stake (with the remaining stake being settled as a losing bet).

Dead Heat Rules and Each Way Bets

Where things do become yet more complex again is when it comes to each way or place betting. Dead heats are more common with each way bets, and especially in certain sports where you have more places in which the various competitors can possibly be tied. In some instances the dead heat will have no impact at all on your bet and you will still be paid in full (according to your full stake but still, of course, at a fraction of the odds according to the each way terms of your bet).

For example, if two horses finish in a dead heat for second place and your each way bet pays a quarter of the odds for a top four finish the dead heat would have no impact. Your selection has effectively finished half second and half third but both fall within the place terms of your each way bet and as such your bet gets paid out based on a full winning stake (at a quarter of the odds).

Dead Heat in Each Way Bets Portioning Pie Chart

However, if we consider a position where three horses finish in a dead heat for third and, as described above, each way is being paid down to four places, things are slightly – but only slightly – harder to understand.

In this instance you could view the horse as having finished one third in third place, one third in fourth place and one third in fifth place. As each way bets (in this example) are paid to four places and your bet has effectively finished two thirds in the places, the stake would be settled two thirds as a winner and one third a loser, whilst also being subject to the standard each way terms applicable to your bet regarding the odds.

Dead Heat in Each Way Bets Portioning Pie Chart

This sort of complex dead heat is far more common in golf, where several players often finish on the same score towards the top of the leaderboard. We will explain in a little more detail exactly how your returns are calculated in the golf section below.

Horse Racing and the Dogs

Many of the terms and rules relating to dead heats originated in the world of horse racing. When it comes to dead heat rules, as with many other aspects of betting on the two sports, horse racing and greyhound racing can very much be considered together.

As alluded to above, dead heats can happen either for the overall winner of a given race, or for the places relating to each way bets. Dead heats may feature two or more horses and whilst there have been a number of three-way dead heats there has yet to be a four-way tie, although probability dictates that eventually this will occur.

Dead heats, though rare, happen several times a year globally in horse racing and in 2006 a single meeting at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York City saw an amazing three dead heats. Naturally three-way ties are even rarer, although the most recent (at the time of writing) of those happened in Hobart, Australia, in 2015.

Dead heats may be hugely exciting for those watching the race but they can come as a very unwelcome and unpleasant shock when it comes to collecting your winnings. Now, should you not receive the full payout you were expecting, you will at least have a good idea why and, moreover, how your returns will have been calculated.


You may be wondering how a dead heat in football can occur, given that the draw is offered as an option when it comes to match odds, goals are always accredited to an individual rather than shared and outright tournament bets will always have an ultimate winner even if it comes via extra time or a penalty shootout. Indeed, none of those markets can ever have a dead heat but there are a good number that can.

Perhaps the most interesting market in this respect concerns top goalscorer bets, be they for the World Cup, Premier League or even League Two. Bets such as these, and others, for example, on which side will earn most points in tournament qualifying campaign or who will get most yellow cards, can indeed be subject to dead heat rules.

Let’s say you place a bet on who will be the top goalscorer at the World Cup, as well as an each way bet on an outsider you fancy may just cause an upset. Your top bet finishes joint top goalscorer with one other player and, as discussed above, is paid out based on half your stake. Your secondary bet finishes tied third on three goals, but is tied with five other players. With each way only paying down to fourth place this wager will be settled according to the slightly more involved rules mentioned above and expanded on below in the golf betting section.

An interesting top goalscorer dead heat caught many punters and indeed the odd bookmaker unawares during the Euro 2012 tournament. Amazingly the top scorers in the tournament managed just three goals and with that total being so low, it was no surprise that several players finished as joint top scorer.

Euro 2012 Top Goalscorers

  • Fernando Torres – 3 goals
  • Mario Gomez – 3 goals
  • Alan Dzagoev – 3 goals
  • Mario Mandzukic – 3 goals
  • Mario Balotelli – 3 goals
  • Cristiano Ronaldo – 3 goals

Many punters had backed one or more of these players and were dismayed by the low returns they received, especially given several of the above were very much outsiders before the Euros began. For example, a £30 wager at 10/1 would have seen the stake divided by six, meaning a payout of £55, not the £330 returns some bettors may have been hoping for. Each way bettors, assuming top four each way terms, would also have been disappointed, with the each way portion of their bets only being paid at 4/6 (two thirds) of the stake and the win portion just one sixth.

Where waters were even further muddied here was that some bookmakers had priced the market not as “top goalscorer” but instead as “Golden Boot winner”, the official prize for the top goalscorer. In the event of ties the Golden Boot was not shared, meaning a dead heat, but instead was decided on first the number of assists created and second by the number of minutes played.

Fernando Torres and Mario Gomez were tied on goals and assists but the Spaniard played just 189 minutes compared to 281 for the German forward. As such, Torres won the Golden Boot (based on his superior “goals per minute” ratio) and some bookies settled him as the outright winner of the market. Great if you backed the former Liverpool striker but not so great if you backed one of the others and expected a payout. Conversely, other bookies paid out on a dead heat, much to the chagrin of Torres backers who will have been ruing their choice of bookmaker.


Golf is perhaps the sport in which dead heats occur most frequently and whilst you will virtually never have a dead heat for the outright tournament winner, dead heats on each way bets are commonplace. If more than one player is level after 72 holes of a tournament a play-off is usually the way in which the winner is decided and all bookies will settle on this result. However, should bad weather or other exceptional circumstances leave a tournament without an outright winner, a dead heat is theoretically possible, although often the governing body would either declare no winner or use some other means, such as countback, to declare an official result, which is what most betting sites would use to settle bets.

However, when it comes to each way bets, dead heats will be seen most weeks on either one of the two major tours, or on one of the lesser ones. With such a huge field and each way bets being paid down to four, five or even more places (usually for the majors and other big events), ties and dead heats that are relevant to each way bets are almost guaranteed.

Let’s say that Rory McIlroy has produced his best golf and won the tournament by a clear three shots but behind him there is a huge six-way tie for second place.

  • 1 – Rory McIlroy, -16
  • T2 – Jordan Spieth, -13
  • T2 – Jason Day, -13
  • T2 – Bubba Watson, -13
  • T2 – Sergio Garcia, -13
  • T2 – Henrik Stenson, -13
  • T2 – Matt Fitzpatrick, -13

If we assume you backed the young tyro Matt Fitzpatrick at odds of 60/1 and had bet £10 each way at a bookmaker offering a quarter of the odds for a top four finish, your payout would be calculated thus: firstly and simply, your £10 win bet has lost because Rory has trounced the field. There are three each way places available, but six players, are tied for these. The dead heat terms are thus three divided by six, meaning that only half the stake is settled as a winner.

As such, the winning stake is £5, whilst the odds are reduced from 60/1 to 15/1, meaning a return of £80. A handsome profit of £60 overall (the original £10 each way bet having cost £20) but punters unaware of dead heat rules are sure to feel somewhat aggrieved given they assumed their player finishing “second” (albeit tied) would have received a full each way return of £160.


Having said that dead heats are rare, we now consider just about the rarest form of dead heat you will find. In cricket, when betting on a Test match (or, in actually fact, any non-limited overs game) the options in the match result market are Team A, Team B or the draw, with no option for the tie.

Hang on, we hear you ask - isn't the draw the same thing as a tie? Actually, no - in cricket a draw occurs when the match is not completed. For example, if play ends due to time but one or more innings has not been completed. Ties, on the other hand, occur when the match is completed and both teams have the exact same score.

Ties are incredibly rare, especially in Test cricket, where, at the time of writing there have been just two ties in the history of the game. With just two ties in more than 2,000 Tests since 1877, the incidence of a tie is less than 0.1%, yet the issue of a tie, especially in relation to betting, is one that fascinates and interests people, which is why we have covered it here.

A tie is, from a betting perspective, a dead heat and as such bets placed on either side to win are settled as dead heats. Perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, given the match has ended with both teams as level as they possibly could be, bets on a draw are settled as losers in these circumstances.

Motor Sports

If ties and dead heats are rare in cricket they are even rarer in the high octane, high speed, ultra-precise world of motor sports. The information below is more for the interest of stattos and trivia fans than to seriously help out F1 betting fans and other petrol heads.

The first recorded dead heat came in the 1974 Firecracker 400, when even 160 laps couldn’t separate Cale Yarborough and Buddy Baker who finished in a tie for third, the only ever dead heat for any position in the history of NASCAR racing.

More recently Héctor Faubel and Johann Zarco were inseparable in the German 125cc motorcycle GP although Faubel was ultimately awarded the race by virtue of the fastest lap. We suspect most bookies would have settled this as a Faubel win, rather than a dead heat, with almost all bookmakers using the official result as the deciding factor.

Another “dead heat that wasn’t” came at the 2002 USA Grand Prix, with the legendary German Michael Schumacher doing his best to engineer a dead heat with his Brazilian teammate Rubens Barrichello. With both men happy to share the points and glory, Schumacher eased up but his maths weren’t quite right and Barrichello was awarded the race by a mere 0.011 seconds!