Exploring the Excitement of Horse Racing (KEIBA) in Japan

March 26, 2024

Let's explore the exhilarating realm of Horse Racing, known as KEIBA in Japan. It is similar to Japan's public gambling den, similar to pachinko, boat racing, or auto racing. So, if you are interested in a thrilling or exciting game, then this guide is for you.

What is "Horse Racing (KEIBA)"?

Horse Racing is one of the most popular forms of gambling worldwide. Well, in Japan, it is called KEIBA. KEIBA is a type of public gambling that is officially approved by the government. Alongside KEIBA, Japan offers other forms of public gambling like boat racing, bicycle racing, and auto racing. However, people often recognize KEIBA as the most captivating one! After all, it offers the biggest dividends of them all.

On August 4, 2012, there was a record-breaking payoff of 29,832,950 Japanese yen for a trifecta! The payoff represents the money you receive when your horse ticket is a winning one. During that race, the odds for the trifecta were 298,329.5! Odds indicate the multiplier that a horse ticket will have when it becomes a winning ticket. Moreover, the internet-only voting format called "WIN5," launched on April 24, 2011, paid out a staggering 554,446,060 Japanese yen on March 14, 2021!

KEIBA offers a dreamlike experience where you can win such high dividends, and the best part is, you can join in with as little as 100 Japanese yen! It's an activity that anyone can easily participate in, and everyone has an equal chance of winning big.

And the excitement of KEIBA is available every day at various racecourses. That means the opportunity to win a substantial amount of money is right in front of you each day. How amazing is that? Haha!

So, what do you think? Are you eager to give KEIBA a try? If so, let us guide you on how to participate.

How to Enjoy Horse Racing (KEIBA)

  1. Purchase a horse ticket at the racecourse: At the racecourse, you'll find automatic ticket vending machines where you can buy horse tickets using cash. There will be a mark sheet for voting nearby, so fill in your predictions and insert it into the machine. Once you submit the mark sheet, you'll receive your ticket. Just remember not to miss the deadline; otherwise, your vote will be invalid. It's essential to buy your horse tickets well in advance, as the ticket machines tend to get crowded near the deadline.
  2. Buy a horse ticket at WINS (Off-site Horse Ticket Office): Japan has more than 40 off-site horse ticket offices called WINS. These locations have mark sheets similar to those found at the racecourse, along with automatic ticket vending machines. If you're unsure about the process, the staff will gladly assist you. Even if it's your first time, you can buy a ticket without any worries.
  3. Purchase Horse Tickets Online: The most popular way to buy horse tickets nowadays, especially among young people, is through online platforms. You can buy horse tickets using your PC, smartphone, or any device with an internet connection. This means you can buy horse tickets from anywhere in Japan, making it incredibly convenient. For central KEIBA, it is recommended registering for the internet voting service called "Soku PAT." While other voting methods are available, "Soku PAT" stands out as the most convenient option. As a member, you can purchase horse tickets on the same day you register, without any necessary fees, and even from your mobile phone. To register, make sure you have a bank account compatible with "Soku PAT."

These methods offer convenient ways to participate in KEIBA, so you can choose the one that suits you best.

Types of Horse Tickets

Let us introduce you to nine different types of horse tickets in KEIBA:

1. Win

This is the simplest and most basic type of horse ticket. A win ticket is purchased for the horse you believe will win or come in first place in the race. The most popular horse has about a 30% chance of winning.

2. Place

Place tickets allow you to bet on a horse that you think will finish within the top three. It has the highest chance of success, but the payoff isn't as high. If there are fewer than seven horses in the race, the top two horses will be considered winners, so be mindful of that.

3. Quinella

Quinella tickets involve guessing the horses that will finish in first and second place. If you correctly predict the top two horses, regardless of the order, you win.

4. Exacta

Similar to quinella, exacta tickets require you to guess the first and second-place horses. However, in this case, you need to get the order correct to win. Due to the increased difficulty, the payoff for exacta tickets is usually higher than that of quinella tickets.

5. Bracket Quinella

In KEIBA, races are divided into brackets, with each bracket containing a group of horses. Each bracket is represented by a specific color, usually matching the jockey's hat color. If there are eight or fewer horses, each bracket will have one horse. If there are nine or more horses, multiple horses will be assigned to each bracket. With bracket quinella tickets, you guess the bracket numbers of the horses that will finish in first and second place. Similar to the quinella, you can win even if the order of arrival is reversed.

6. Quinella Place

Quinella place tickets combine two horses that will finish within the top three positions. There are three winning combinations: "first and second," "second and third," and "first and third."

7. Trio

Trio tickets involve guessing the combination of horses that will finish in the top three positions. Like quinella, the order of the first three horses doesn't matter.

8. Trifecta

Trifecta tickets require you to guess the combination of horses that will finish in the top three positions, in the correct order. The relationship between trio and trifecta is similar to that between quinella and exacta. With 18 horses in a race, there can be 4,896 possible trifecta combinations, offering the potential for huge payouts.

9. WIN5

Finally, let's talk about the highest payout bet, WIN5. It is available only in central KEIBA and can be purchased exclusively through internet voting. To participate, it is recommend to register with "Soku PAT," as mentioned earlier. In WIN5, you need to predict the first-place horse in five designated races. Essentially, you're trying to win five times in a row. Though it may sound easy, it's quite challenging.

Central KEIBA and Local KEIBA

In Japan, KEIBA is divided into two main categories: central KEIBA and local KEIBA.

While there isn't a fundamental difference between the two, there are a few key distinctions that are worth noting to enhance your enjoyment of KEIBA.

1. Differences between Organizers

Central KEIBA is organized by the Japan Racing Association (JRA), which is a special corporation fully funded by the government. It operates under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. As you can imagine, the scale and financial involvement in central KEIBA are enormous. For instance, the Arima Kinen, a prominent event held at the end of the year, recorded a remarkable 87.5 billion Japanese yen in sales for a single race in 1996, making it a Guinness World Record! Central KEIBA is conducted at ten racecourses across Japan: Tokyo, Nakayama, Hanshin, Kyoto, Chukyo, Hakodate, Sapporo, Kokura, Niigata, and Fukushima.

On the other hand, local KEIBA races are organized by prefectures and local governments. Currently, there are races held in 16 locations throughout Japan, including Obihiro, Monbetsu, Morioka, Mizusawa, Urawa, Oi, Funabashi, Kawasaki, Nagoya, Chukyo, Kasamatsu, Kanazawa, Sonoda, Himeji, Kochi, and Saga. The highest sales for a single race in local KEIBA was 600 million Japanese yen, achieved during the Tokyo Grand Prix in 2020. While local KEIBA may not reach the same scale as central KEIBA, it still offers its unique charm.

2. Differences in Dividends

The size of the sales impacts the potential dividends. You might assume that making money in smaller local KEIBA races is difficult, but that's not necessarily true. The highest payout in local KEIBA reached an impressive 2,848,150 Japanese yen on January 24, 2020! Additionally, the "Triple Quinella," a specific exacta bet offered in some local KEIBA areas, paid out 228,130,165 Japanese yen on June 21, 2021.

However, it's worth noting that local KEIBA races often have fewer horses and less money involved compared to central KEIBA. With fewer horses, it becomes easier to make accurate predictions, which can diminish the excitement of the dividends. Moreover, if you invest a significant amount of money in races with low sales, the odds can change dramatically. While placing a million Japanese yen on tickets for central KEIBA won't affect the odds, doing the same for local KEIBA might result in odds of just 1.0. In such cases, you'll only receive your money back even if your ticket wins. Considering these factors, you might lean towards participating in central KEIBA. However, local KEIBA has its own unique attributes.

3. Great Characteristics of Local KEIBA

While central KEIBA races typically conclude by 5:00 p.m., local KEIBA races are held at night. The last race of the day in night races starts at 8:50 p.m., allowing you to enjoy KEIBA well into the evening. Furthermore, while central KEIBA races primarily take place on weekends, local KEIBA races are held on weekdays as well. This means that even if you're busy with work during weekdays, you can still enjoy KEIBA when local races are conducted at night.

In recent years, the number of female KEIBA fans in Japan has been increasing rapidly, thanks in part to the efforts of JRA's public relations campaigns. With the rise of female fans, the term "Umajo" was coined to describe female KEIBA enthusiasts. So, taking a girl to a local night race might be an unexpectedly enjoyable experience. Who knows, you could hit it off and have a great time!

Who is Suited for KEIBA and Who Isn't?

Suited for KEIBA:

  • Those who enjoy gambling.
  • Fans of sports and exciting activities.
  • Individuals aiming to capture the Japanese dream through KEIBA.
  • Those who want to make money and have a great time.
  • People seeking easy ways to make money.
  • Individuals looking to connect with girls who also enjoy KEIBA.
  • Those interested in making new friends through KEIBA.

Not Suited for KEIBA:

  • Those who dislike gambling.
  • People who are not interested in sports.
  • Individuals who struggle with self-control when it comes to betting.
  • Those who don't have enough money to purchase horse tickets.
  • People uninterested in dating someone who likes KEIBA.


So, how did that sound, folks? We hope it sparked your interest in trying out KEIBA for yourself.

KEIBA is genuinely fascinating and offers much depth. It has the potential to yield substantial dividends, and, more importantly, you can make numerous friends and meet many girls along the way through your shared love for KEIBA.

In Japan, KEIBA races take place every day, offering endless opportunities to win money, make friends, meet new people, and have a blast!

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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