Introduction to Keirin Racing: Betting and How to Play

May 18, 2024

Keirin, also known as bike racing, is a thrilling and unique Japanese gambling sport. It has captivated audiences and bettors alike for many decades. With its fast-paced action and intricate strategies, Keirin offers a captivating blend of athletics and chance that has firmly established it as a prominent fixture in Japan's cultural landscape. In this introduction, we will delve into the exciting world of Keirin, exploring its history, rules, and the art of betting, providing a comprehensive guide for both newcomers and seasoned enthusiasts.

What is Keirin?

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Keirin is a form of track cycling that originated in Japan. The word "bicycle race" translates to "keirin" in Japanese. It involves sprinting races on a track typically around 250 meters in length. Keirin is a type of Japanese public gambling that involves bicycle racing. It is a public gambling run by the government and the keirin racing is regulated by strict rules regarding equipment, tactics, and conduct. Riders use specialized bicycles to compete in high-speed races around an oval track, with the order of finish determining the outcome. 

The History and Appeal of Keirin

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The history of keirin dates back to the post-World War II reconstruction period in Japan. During the post-war turmoil, new sources of revenue were sought to rebuild the national finances. Attention turned to public gambling using bicycle racing. Since the first keirin race was held in 1948, this sport has come to occupy a special position among Japan's public gambling options.

The greatest appeal of keirin lies in its sense of speed and dynamism. Riders propel specially designed bicycles around the track at speeds exceeding 60 km/h. The powerful race developments keep spectators riveted. The gambling aspect of predicting race results and purchasing betting tickets is also a major part of keirin's appeal.

Originally developed in Japan in the late 1940s as a form of gambling entertainment, keirin has since evolved into an internationally recognized sport. It has been an official Olympic event since the 2000 Sydney Games, attracting athletes and spectators from around the world. Keirin racing continues to be deeply rooted in Japanese culture, with a strong emphasis on tradition, discipline, and fair competition.

Timing and Locations

Keirin races are held at 43 velodromes throughout Japan. Many of them are concentrated in populous areas such as the Kanto and Kansai regions. Representative velodromes include Tachikawa Velodrome, Kyoei Velodrome, and Hiratsuka Velodrome. Races are held at some velodrome almost every day, allowing Keirin to be enjoyed throughout the year.

Basic Rules of Keirin

Keirin races typically feature nine riders competing over three or four laps of a 400-meter track. At the start, the riders line up in their respective starting positions (banks) and begin the race all at once upon the starting signal. During the race, riders are allowed to change course to overtake other riders, but dangerous behavior is prohibited. The order in which riders cross the finish line determines the placing.

The Appeal and Popularity of Keirin

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The reasons why Keirin continues to captivate so many people are likely due to a complex interplay of various elements. First, the speed and thrill of the races grip the hearts of the audience and don't let go. The fierce competition among the riders excites the spectators. The gambling aspect of predicting race developments and purchasing betting tickets is also a major part of Keirin's appeal. Spectators can feel as though they are also taking part in the race as they are invested in the fierce battle between the cyclists.

Furthermore, Keirin has an interesting strategic element. Riders compete not only in terms of speed but also employ skillful teamwork and tactics in pursuit of victory. The sight of riders reading the flow of the race and making accurate judgments elicits extra intellectual excitement. In addition, the individuality of the riders enhances the appeal of keirin. Each rider has a unique riding style and character, and fans find riders to support and cheer for with enthusiasm. The close distance between fans and riders, such as through rider interaction events, is also a factor supporting and continuing keirin's popularity.

Types of Keirin Races and Race Flow

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Types of Races and Differences

The types of races are as follows.

  • GP
  • G1
  • G2
  • G3
  • F1
  • F2

Keirin races are classified into six grades. In descending order, they are GP (Grand Prix), G1 (Grade 1), G2, G3, F1, and F2, with GP considered the most prestigious. Each grade differs in prize money and qualification requirements, and generally, the higher the grade, the more skilled the participating riders and the higher the level of the race.

GP races are the most prestigious and offer high prize money for the winner. G1 races are second in prestige to GP and attract nationwide attention. G2 and G3 races are important regional races, while F1 and F2 races are more locally focused.

Race Flow

Keirin races proceed as follows.

  1. Rider introductions: The riders participating in the race are introduced individually.
  2. Warm-up laps: The riders take warm-up laps around the track to check their bike condition and riding lines.
  3. Lineup: The riders line up at the starting positions.
  4. Start: The riders all start at once upon the starting signal.
  5. Race development: The riders circle the track while engaging in strategic positioning and tactics.
  6. Finish: The riders cross the finish line and the order of finish is determined.
  7. Confirmation: The order of finish is confirmed and payouts are calculated.
  8. Awards ceremony: An awards ceremony is held for the top finishers.

Popular Keirin Venues

There are several popular keirin venues in Japan, including.

  • Tachikawa Keirin Velodrome 
  • Shizuoka Keirin Velodrome 
  • Nagoya Keirin Velodrome
  • Kishiwada Keirin Velodrome 
  • Kokura Keirin Velodrome

Tachikawa Keirin Velodrome (Tachikawa, Tokyo)

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Located in Tachikawa, Tokyo, the Tachikawa Keirin Velodrome is known as the "Mecca of Keirin" due to its excellent accessibility and large capacity for spectators. It hosts numerous big races, including the annual "Keirin King Championship" held at the end of the year.

Shizuoka Keirin Velodrome (Shizuoka, Shizuoka Prefecture)

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The Shizuoka Keirin Velodrome, situated in Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture, is renowned for having the steepest banked track in Japan. This unique feature allows for thrilling high-speed races that captivate many fans.

Nagoya Keirin Velodrome (Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture)

Image Source: Google Street View

Nagoya Keirin Velodrome, in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, is recognized as the birthplace of keirin. Despite being a longstanding venue, it remains popular due to its modern facilities, ensuring a comfortable race-viewing experience.

Kishiwada Keirin Velodrome (Kishiwada, Osaka Prefecture)

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Kishiwada Keirin Velodrome, in Kishiwada, Osaka Prefecture, is known for its passionate fan base. The annual festival "Kishiwada Keirin Matsuri" held in May attracts a large number of spectators and creates an exciting atmosphere.

Kokura Keirin Velodrome (Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture)

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The Kokura Keirin Velodrome in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, is the largest entertainment facility in the region. It is particularly popular for its night races, drawing many fans to enjoy the races under the lights.

Each of these keirin venues has its own unique characteristics and enjoys a strong following among keirin enthusiasts, making them some of the most popular destinations for the sport in Japan.

Beginner's Guide to Betting on Keirin

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Basic Betting Methods

There are various types of bets in Keirin. Some major and popular ones include:

  • Win: Predicting the rider who will finish first.
  • Place: Predicting a rider who will finish in the top three.
  • Bracket Quinella: Predicting the bracket numbers of the first and second place finishers.
  • Exacta: Predicting the rider numbers of the first and second place finishers.

Each of these bet types has a different odds set. The odds reflect the likelihood of that betting ticket being a winner, with more difficult predictions having higher odds. When betting, it is important to refer to these odds while comparing them to your own predictions to select appropriate betting tickets.

Recommended Betting Methods for Beginners

For those new to Keirin, we recommend starting with simple betting methods. Win and Place bets are relatively easy to predict correctly and offer steady payouts, making them ideal for beginners. As you become more accustomed, it can be interesting to gradually challenge yourself with more advanced bets such as Bracket Quinella and Exacta. However, avoid betting large sums right away. It is important to experience keirin while enjoying it within the scope of your disposable funds. Manage your own budget and strive to bet in a planned manner.

How to Purchase Keirin Bets

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Purchasing at Keirin Tracks and On-Site Betting Booths

If you visit a Keirin track in person, you can purchase betting tickets at on-site betting booths. Simply tell the window your desired betting ticket type and amount and pay in cash. The biggest advantage of purchasing at a Keirin track is being able to directly feel the thrill of the races. You can watch the heated competition among the riders up close together with a large audience.

Purchasing Online

In recent years, it has also become possible to purchase keirin betting tickets via the internet. By registering on an online betting site and charging funds via credit card or bank transfer, you can buy betting tickets from the comfort of your own home. The biggest advantage of online betting is its convenience. You can purchase betting tickets anytime 24 hours a day without needing to visit a Keirin track. However, when using online betting, you need to pay close attention to security. Choose a reliable site and take the utmost care in managing your personal information.

The System of Keirin Payouts and Refunds

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Keirin payouts are the total amount of purchased betting tickets divided by the number of winning tickets. In other words, the more people that purchase the same betting ticket, the lower the payout tends to be. Conversely, if there are few winners, the payout can be high. The refund amount is the purchase amount multiplied by the payout. For example, if you purchase a 100-yen betting ticket and the payout is 10 times, the refund amount will be 1,000 yen. Payouts fluctuate with each race, so they are always a focus of attention.

Points to Note When Enjoying Keirin

Mindset to Avoid Addiction

As keirin is a highly gambling-oriented sport, care must be taken in order to not become too absorbed. It is important to enjoy it within the scope of your disposable funds, and it is strictly forbidden to borrow money to bet. Knowing your own limits and participating in keirin in moderation is of the utmost importance.

In the unlikely event that you feel you have become too absorbed in the wins and losses of keirin, we recommend consulting a specialist early on. Gambling addiction can be overcome with proper treatment and support.

The Importance of Moderate Fund Management and Planned Betting

To enjoy keirin in a sound manner, proper fund management is essential. The amount you bet should be kept within a range you can tolerate. To minimize the impact of losses, it is wise to keep each bet to a portion of your overall budget. In addition, betting in a planned manner can help avoid impulsive behavior. One method is to set a target amount for each race and stop once you reach it. It is important above all to make calm judgments while enjoying yourself with a long-term perspective.


To enjoy keirin, beginners should start by thoroughly understanding the basic rules and betting methods. Then, gradually immerse yourself in the world of keirin at your own pace. The thrilling and exciting races are sure to captivate you. However, do not forget that keirin is ultimately gambling. Participate in moderation and enjoy it within a sound scope. Discern your own limits and strive to bet in a planned manner. Fully savor the appeal of keirin while learning the proper way to engage with gambling. That is the secret to enjoying keirin for a long time.

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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