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A dead heat occurs when two or more participants in an event finish in the same position. It is most commonly used in the context of horse racing when two horses cannot be separated, even with the aid of the photo taken at the end of the race. It is also a common occurrence in golf when players finish on the same score.
Although there are plenty of sports where dead heats can happen, they mostly affect betting when it comes to horse racing and golf. With horses it will usually be the case that two horses may finish in a dead heat. In this case the stake of the bet will be halved to determine the returns. For example, a £10 stake at 10/1 will bring in £55 (5 x 10 + 5 stake).
Golf is different in that there can be a numbers of players finishing on the same score and if the bettor has bet on a place this will affect the amount received back. In this instance the stake is divided by the amount of players in the dead heat. It is important to note that it is always the stake that is divided meaning that that part of the returns is also split.
Before the days of the photo finish camera there were quite a few three way – and even four way – dead heats in horse racing as the judges had to rely on their own view of the race. The first use of a photo finish camera was at Epsom in 1947 and the amount of dead heats fell dramatically immediately.