Swim in the Right Pool: An Alternative Way To Wager

September 3, 2019

SWIM IN THE RIGHT POOL: An Alternative Way To Wager

By Adam Dodge

You’ve printed your PPs. You’ve studied. You have a couple of really strong opinions on what to bet and you cannot wait for your sequence to start. You’re chomping at the bit to get to the windows and fire away with a wager! Like most horseplayers in this day and age you’re a Pick 4 and Pick 5 player so that’s your focus on this day. 

Should it be, though?

As horseplayers, many of us like to post our tickets on Twitter and in our favorite handicapping Facebook groups. If you pay attention, the vast majority of the tickets posted are Pick 4 and Pick 5 plays, and for good reason. Those pools typically have the most money in them. Takeout is generally lower in those pools than in others, particularly with the Pick 5 wager. Those pools also happen to be the primary betting focus for television and simulcast talent. 

It seems as though we are all programmed to focus on these two pools, when we should be focused on the pools that best fit our handicapping opinions. In many cases, it would be wise to bypass a Pick 4 to instead invest more heavily in a Pick 3 or even a Double pool. 

Below is a Pick 4 ticket that a horseplayer posted on Twitter in January, 2018:

Race 8- 7

Race 9- 5

Race 10- 1-6,8-12

Race 11-1-12

Clearly, this bettor had extremely strong opinions on Gulfstream Park’s eighth and ninth races that day. Equally apparent, he had no opinion in either the tenth or eleventh races. 

The player’s Single-Single-ALL-ALL Pick 4 returned just more than $2200 – a super return on a $66 bet! Not one of us would be disappointed with the result or that wager. 

Was it a good bet? I won’t pass judgement on that. Perhaps the horseplayer just wanted to gamble. If he catches a 50-1 shot in one of those last two legs I wouldn’t be using this ticket as an example for this piece on pool selection. That said, what if he had taken a different strategic approach to his, once again, incredibly strong opinion? If he had played a $66 Double in races 8 & 9 his return would have been $5082 (minus the extent to which his $66 impacted the pari-mutuel payout.)

Former Daily Racing Form employee and podcast host Mike Hogan consistently hammered on the topic of pool selection, both on the now cancelled DRF Players Podcast and on Twitter. If I understand it correctly, his simple point is: if you don’t have an opinion at the beginning of a sequence or the end of a sequence, you shouldn’t play that sequence and instead, modify your approach based on your strongest opinions. In other words, why invest $50 into a Pick 4 that you can only hit once for 50 cents when you can invest that $50 into a Pick 3 Pool and hit it ten or more times for 50 cents? In the end you’ll make more money on your winning wager.

Your homework for the next couple of weeks is to pay attention to the multi-race tickets horseplayers, including yourself, post online. 

Step 1 – Specifically look for winning tickets which use more horses in the first and/or last legs of the pool they represent than in the legs in between. It shouldn’t be difficult. We love to post our winners! A common ticket will be some variation of ALL (10) x 2 x 1 x 5. This would be a $50 Ticket for a 50-cent minimum.

Step 2 – Take the total dollar investment of the ticket and reinvest it into a different pool within the same race sequence. For the ALL (10) X 2 X 1 X 5 example, this might be a $25 Double in the middle races or a $5.00 Pick 3 in the last three races. 

Step 3 – Do the math. Did the $25 Double or $5 Pick 3 pay more or less than the 50-cent Pick 4 wager? 

Step 4 – Adjust your own play accordingly!

Always check with Past the Wire for the latest horse racing news and more…..

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