How to Bet and Enjoy Boat Racing: A Comprehensive Guide

May 18, 2024

Boat racing is a popular public gambling sport in Japan. It involves thrilling competitions with motorboats and offers a variety of betting options. In this article, we will provide an easy-to-understand explanation of the basic rules and betting methods of boat racing for foreign tourists visiting Japan. Even beginners can easily participate, making it a perfect new experience to enjoy during your trip to Japan, so please use this as a reference for a new and unique time in Japan!

What is Boat Racing?

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Japanese boat racing, also known as "kyotei" or "motorboat racing," is a popular form of public gambling in Japan. It involves high-speed races between small motorized boats, typically held on man-made lakes or bodies of water specifically designed for the sport. Below is an overview of what boat racing in Japan is like.

Basic Rules of Boat Racing

Boat racing is a sport where six boats start simultaneously and compete over a three-lap course. Races are held 12 to 15 times a day, with six racers participating in each race. To determine the starting positions, the racers enter their assigned lanes during a designated exhibition time. At the starting signal, the racers start simultaneously from their starting positions and compete in a three-lap race.

Racing Methods and Participating Racers

The racing methods in boat racing are divided into three categories: preliminaries, semi-finals, and finals. Preliminaries consist of 4 to 6 races. The top 18 qualifiers are typically divided into three races for the semi-finals, and the six racers who finish in first and second place in these races advance to the final race. The final is a single race that determines the winner. The participating racers are professional racers affiliated with boat racing stadiums in various regions. These racers, called boat racers, undergo rigorous training before participating in races.

Race Progression and Determining the Order of Finish

The race starts simultaneously from the starting positions, and the racers compete over a three-lap course. It is crucial for the racers to secure their lanes and gain advantageous positions from the start to the first corner. From the first corner to the second corner, the racers engage in strategic maneuvering, and from the second corner to the final corner, the racers' skills and stamina are put to the test.

The order of finish is determined by the order in which the boats cross the finish line. The top three finishers are considered winners and are awarded prize money.

How to Bet on Boat Racing

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From here, we will introduce the types of bets in boat racing, as well as the specific procedures. We will explain the enjoyment of boat racing in an easy-to-understand manner for those who want to start boat racing or are interested in betting.

Types of Bets

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There are various types of bets in boat racing, and you can choose according to your strategy. The following are details of representative types of bets.

Win (単勝)

In boat racing, a Win bet involves accurately predicting which boat will finish first among the competitors. In this type of betting, you select which boat will reach the finish line first from those participating in the race. Win betting is easier to understand compared to other more complex betting methods, making it recommended for beginners. Although it may be difficult to expect a large payout from a winning bet, the advantage is that it tends to offer more stable returns due to its predictability.

Place Show (複勝)

Place bet is a type of wager where you predict that your chosen boat will finish in one of the top positions in the race. Specifically, it involves betting that the boat will come in first, second, or third. This bet is easier to win than a "win" bet, so the payouts are generally set lower, but it carries the advantage of less risk. Because place bets are relatively easier to predict, they are particularly popular among beginners and those who prefer more conservative betting.

Exacta (2連単)

Exacta is a type of bet where you predict the exact order of the 1st and 2nd place finishers. Although it may seem simple, it requires accurately predicting the order, making it a high-difficulty bet. Therefore, the payouts are often set higher compared to other types of bets. It is known as a high-risk, high-return type of bet.

Quinella (2連複)

Quinella is a type of bet where you predict the combination of the 1st and 2nd place finishers, regardless of the order. Since the order doesn't matter, the probability of winning is higher than Exacta. However, the payouts are slightly lower. It is a popular type of bet among beginners as it is relatively easy to predict.

Trifecta (3連単)

Trifecta is a type of bet where you predict the exact order of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers, making it one of the most difficult types of bets. Since you must accurately predict the entire order, the probability of winning is low, but the payouts are often extremely high. It is recommended for bettors seeking thrills.

Trio (3連複)

Trio is similar to Trifecta, but you predict the combination of the top three finishers, regardless of the order. Since the order doesn't matter, the probability of winning is higher than Trifecta, but the payouts are slightly lower. It is a well-balanced type of bet that is easier to predict than Trifecta while still aiming for decent payouts.

Quinella PlaceWide (拡連複)

Quinella place bet involves predicting that two chosen boats will finish within the top three positions in the race. Specifically, the two selected boats must finish in any order in first, second, or third place to win. This type of betting is more challenging than a simple win or place bet, and therefore tends to offer higher payouts.

Quinella place betting is characterized by its ability to cover many possibilities, as it broadly predicts race outcomes. Since the selection of the two boats is flexible, strategically choosing combinations is crucial. For example, you can combine a boat with a high probability of winning with another boat that carries higher risk but offers the potential for a larger payout. This approach requires a deep analysis of the race dynamics and a detailed consideration of each boat's capabilities and condition, making it suitable for more experienced enthusiasts.


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Here, we will introduce the detailed procedures for betting on boat racing.

Step 1. Gathering Race Information

It is important to obtain the race program and prediction information to understand the race details. The race program includes information such as the racers' names, affiliations, grades, and recent performance. Prediction information includes predictions by experts and data-based predictions.

Step 2. Making Predictions

Analyze the racers' win rates, conditions, lane positioning, and much more to make predictions. Racers with high national win rates are proof that they can consistently achieve victories, so they can be judged as simply strong racers. It is also important to check each racer's pit departure, entry course, starting timing, etc., during the starting exhibition.

Step 3. Selecting Betting Tickets

Based on your predictions, decide the type and amount of betting tickets to purchase. Choose betting tickets with high expected values, such as Win, Exacta, Quinella, Trio, etc. When aiming for a big upset, focus on betting tickets with high odds.

Step 4. Purchasing Betting Tickets

Purchase betting tickets at the automated ticket machines at the boat racing stadium or off-site sales offices. Fill in the corresponding sections using the mark sheet method to purchase. You can also purchase online using the online betting site "Teleport."

Step 5. Watching the Race

Watch the actual race to see if your predictions were correct. By observing the race progression, you can use it to make predictions for the next race.

Step 6. Payouts

Receive payouts based on the race results. You can receive payouts at the boat racing stadium or off-site sales offices. If you purchased a voting ticket online, the payouts will be transferred to your designated account.

Recommended Betting Methods for Beginners

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For beginners, there are many betting options, and it can be confusing to know where to start. Therefore, we have summarized the recommended betting methods for beginners in boat racing below.

Start with win bets on boat number 1

Boat number 1 has the innermost starting position, giving it an advantageous position in the race progression. Also, experienced and strong racers are often assigned to boat number 1, increasing the chances of winning. Therefore, Win bets on boat number 1 are suitable for beginners to try first.

Challenge Exacta or Trifecta as you gain experience

Exacta and Trifecta have more combinations to predict, lowering the probability of winning, but the payouts tend to be higher. It is recommended to start with Exacta bets and challenge Trifecta as you become more familiar with predictions. This will expand your betting options and allow you to enjoy more excitement.

Limit your budget to 1,000 JPY per race

In boat racing, it is important to control your betting amount. For beginners, setting a budget is crucial. By limiting your betting amount to 1,000 yen or less per race, you can minimize losses and gain experience while enjoying the races. Avoid excessive betting and enjoy within your budget.

Prediction Methods for Boat Racing

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To win in boat racing, it is important to thoroughly understand how to make predictions. Therefore, we have summarized the prediction methods for boat racing below. By understanding these basic approaches, predicting race results will become enjoyable.

Analyzing racers' conditions and characteristics

By analyzing the racers' conditions and characteristics, you can use them to predict the race outcomes. For example, some racers excel at starting, while others specialize in late charges. Additionally, factors such as the racers' weight and physical condition can also be used for predictions.

Predicting based on boat performance and adjustment status

Another method is to predict based on the boat's performance and adjustment status. For example, new boats or well-adjusted boats may have an advantage. Factors such as the boat's weight and propeller type can also be used for predictions.

Interpreting the water surface conditions and weather

You can also interpret the advantages and disadvantages of the water surface conditions and weather. For example, on windy days, starting may be disadvantageous. Also, on days with high water temperatures, the racers' stamina may decline more easily.

Precautions and Tips to Enjoy Boat Racing

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Here are some points to maximize your enjoyment of boat racing and precautions to keep in mind.

Live Spectating and Recommended Locations

Live spectating is recommended for boat racing. The race stadiums have large video screens, allowing you to watch the thrilling races. The stadiums also have restaurants and shops, so you can enjoy meals while watching the races. The recommended seating is near the finish line. Seats near the finish line provide a clear view of the race progression and allow you to experience the excitement of the races.

Enjoying Betting with Moderate Amounts

It is important to enjoy betting with moderate amounts in boat racing. Determine your betting amount based on your budget. Also, even if you win a bet, it is important to stop at a moderate amount without getting greedy.

Observing Manners at the Race Stadium

When visiting the race stadium, it is crucial to observe manners. To truly enjoy boat racing, maintain a comfortable spectating environment by observing manners. Avoid shouting or engaging in behavior that disturbs other spectators. Also, don't forget to properly dispose of trash. Always throw trash in the trash cans or take it with you to keep the stadium clean. By keeping your manners, you can make the time at the race stadium wonderful not only for yourself but also for those around you.

Popular Boat Racing Stadiums in Japan

There are 24 boat racing stadiums in Japan, also known as Kyotei. Each stadium has its own characteristics, varying based on regional features and facility amenities. Here is a brief description of the six requested boat racing stadiums.

  • Boat Race Suminoe (Osaka Prefecture): Located in Osaka, it is one of the first boat racing stadiums built in Japan and has a long history. The facility is large, and popular races are frequently held.

  • Boat Race Tamagawa (Tokyo): One of the boat racing stadiums in Tokyo, it features a spacious facility and a stable water surface. Located along the Tama River, it is conveniently accessible from the city center.

  • Boat Race Kiryu (Gunma Prefecture): Located in Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture, it is characterized by its atmosphere that blends with the surrounding natural environment. Night races are also held, and the beauty of the location is its charm.

  • Boat Race Heiwajima (Tokyo): Another boat racing stadium in Tokyo, it is easily accessible and popular as a tourist spot. It can accommodate a large number of spectators, and various events are held.

  • Boat Race Hamanako (Shizuoka Prefecture): Located on Lake Hamana in Shizuoka Prefecture, it features beautiful scenery and a spacious facility. In addition to races, there are many tourist attractions, making it enjoyable for families as well.

  • Boat Race Gamagori (Aichi Prefecture): Located in Aichi Prefecture, it is known for its active night races. It is also famous for its beautiful night views, such as illuminations.

These boat racing stadiums each have their own unique charm and characteristics. Since the environment and facility structure differ by region, you can have a new experience each time you visit.


Boat racing is an exciting sport that we highly recommend foreign tourists visiting Japan to experience. It is a unique Japanese entertainment where you can feel the excitement of the race stadium while enjoying the thrill of gambling. The key to enjoying boat racing is live spectating. Experience the powerful atmosphere of the race stadium firsthand and enjoy moderate betting. Also, it is important to observe manners at the boat racing stadium. Keep your manners and be respectful to fully enjoy the Japanese boat racing culture. Boat racing is a sport that even beginners can enjoy, so please take this opportunity to experience the charm of Japanese boat racing. It will surely become an unforgettable memory.

PIJ Writer
PIJ Writer
PIJ Writer, a seasoned connoisseur in his 40s based in Japan, boasts an unparalleled depth of knowledge and experience within the vibrant landscapes of both drinking and gambling, alongside his well-documented ventures into various red-light districts. This extensive exploration encompasses not just the nocturnal delights of Japan's red-light areas but also its myriad of bars, horse racing, pachinko, and many others. Drawing on his firsthand experiences, he conveys the appeal and characteristics of Japan's diverse adult entertainment districts and his enjoyment of the nightlife scene through his writing for PIJ.

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