Tote betting (also known as Pool betting and Pari-Mutuel betting) differs from fixed odds betting in that the odds on your bet are not known until the event has closed for betting, usually when the event starts.
This is because in Tote or Pool betting all the stakes are totalled up and then a house percentage removed from the total. The remaining sum in the pool is then split between the winning tickets.
It follows that the dividend pays less on the most popular horses as they attracted the most money – there are more winning tickets to pay if a favourite wins. However if an outsider wins the event then it follows the odds, or dividend, paid is large as there were less people people backing that selection and they share the pooled money between them.
In the UK Tote betting was run until 2012 by the government owned sportsbook, called for much of its life ‘The Tote’. It has now been sold off to the private company Betfred but it is still the only place to do your pool betting and it is called Totesport.
Pari-Mutuel is exactly the same thing, but the term is the French phrase for Tote betting. In France the Pari-Mutuel is state owned.
The term Pool Betting is extremely descriptive and explains the process in a nutshell. All bets are pooled and then the winning tickets or bets are paid the sum of the pool of bets.
There are a variety of Pool bets, not only simple win bets. There are also Place bet pools (In America they have Win, Place & Show pool bets) and many more exotic pool bets such as: Exacta, Quinella, Trifecta, Superfecta, Box bets, Doubles, Trebles (also sometimes called Triples and Pick Threes), Quadrella (also known as Quaddie or four-leg accumulator), Sweep (either a Pick Four or Pick Six etc).
What you will find is that the terms will change according to the country you are in, but the bet types are generally the same.
In the UK you can place Tote bets via a top site like Bet365 Bookmaker as they do link into the Tote-owned system and offer that service.