Exotic Betting: Multi-Race Bets (Part 2)

In the first half of this two-part mini-course we looked at the basics of multi-race bets, as well as the key area of staking. In this concluding part the focus will be on strategy and tactics: what to consider when framing your bets, and how to manage your position once your tickets are 'live'.

You'll also find a video tutorial on my Ticket Builder, as well as a link to access it.

When to play: Value Considerations

Any day is a good day to play a multi-race bet from a fun perspective; bets such as the placepot or Win 6 promise to keep a player engaged in a race meeting for as many as six races, and for a smallish stake.

Everyday tote placepot pools have around £50,000 to £60,000 in liquidity, but they also have their share of sharp players. Because of the nature of multi-race place pools - where players typically have two, three or four chances to get a horse into the frame - a big dividend probably requires something unexpected (in market terms) to occur in more than one race.

So, in order to play placepots semi-seriously, I believe a player must have a contrarian view in at least two of the six races, ideally more. Using the previously discussed ABCX approach, it is possible not to over-stake or poorly stake a bet which recognises the likelihood of most races being 'chalky' (i.e. the fancied horses making the frame) while still allowing for a less anticipated result which can make the bet.

Here is an example of a Place 6 (Colossus Bets equivalent of the placepot) where the first race set things up. It was a small pot, a feature of much of my betting as it allows for the prospect of 'scooping the pool', that is, winning the lot.

The opening race on this Yarmouth card was a low grade 0-60 handicap with a couple of handicap debutants and the market heavily skewed towards a single runner. The unexposed three-year-old Herringswell won, at 10/1 on his first start in a handicap. He'd been third last time out over course and distance, beaten half a length, so was hardly impossible to find.

As you can see from the green bars bottom right in the image, this result lopped the remaining tickets from nearly 3,000 to little more than 250.

The next three legs all saw top of the market horses (favourite or second-favourite) placed, but in leg five - where I'd gone four horses deep - the two outsiders of six placed. That said, Merhoob - my placed pick - was only 5/1, behind 3/1 joint-favourites, a 7/2 and a 9/2 shot.

Less than ten units went forward to the final leg, in which the third-, fourth- and joint-fifth-ranked horses in the market filled the places.

That left just 3.54 units to share the payout, of which this syndicate ticket - which was a caveman play, incidentally - comprised all of them! We shared out over three thousand pounds. Again, I need to make the point that the winning odds - return vs stake - was 'only' 9/1.

Is SP or the exchange a better bet?

Before placing a multi-race bet - or indeed any pool bet - we need to consider whether the return might be greater via another market medium. Specifically, will the SP (especially if Best Odds Guaranteed can be leveraged) or exchange accumulator pay more?

We obviously cannot know the answer to this in advance but, generally, when playing win pools it is prudent to stay close to the top of the market. As an example, if a 20/1 shot wins any race in the sequence I will almost certainly not have that runner selected. The reason is that, when multiplying the odds of the other five winners in a six-leg bet by 21 (20/1), it is somewhere between quite and very likely that the pool dividend will pay less than an SP or exchange accumulator bet on the same six races.

The exception to this rule is when there is a large rollover or a highly liquid pool, such as the American pool for the Breeders' Cup Pick 6, or indeed many of their Pick 4/5/6 pools, which are often guaranteed to $500,000 and more.

For your average Redcar jackpot, however, we need to stay close to the head of the market, or bet another way, or pass the opportunity.

In the example below (5.00 to 7.30 races), there was a rollover and the jackpot pool swelled to £30,000 for a Wolverhampton evening card. The SP accumulator paid £19,305 compared to a tote jackpot dividend of £20,153.20. But the Betfair SP accumulator (at 2% commission, which you should all be getting - see this link) paid £33,798. And the biggest priced winner in this sequence was 8/1 !

The Betting Market

Market Rank vs Market Price

One of the features of multi-race pools, more so than single race win markets, is the heavy domination of the top of the market. This is largely a function of poor staking and/or poor bankroll management and/or insufficient bankroll, whereby players who take one or two per leg (see part 1) rarely go beyond the third or fourth in the betting lists.

Moreover, when they do, it's typically a 'Hail Mary' pick at big odds staked exactly the same as a short-priced runner. Clearly, this is heavily sub-optimal; and it is precisely what gives smarter punters their edge. Those longshots belong on a C ticket or in the bin, generally.

A good example of this was leg five in the above Yarmouth ticket. 83% of remaining units went out there even though a 5/1 shot was placed; he was 5/1 fifth-favourite of six, and it was his market rank rather than his odds which blew most remaining ticket holders out of the pool.

Don't deviate too far from the market

The market is generally right, or at least not far wrong. It is an excellent indicator of a horse's chance, so much so that there is strong linearity between the two. This chart shows win strike rate by odds. Ignoring the price of 18/5, which has very little data and is the big outlier, this chart very well illustrates the robust relationship between price and win chance.

And this time by market rank, 1 being favourite, 12 being the twelfth in odds rank:

In Britain in the last five years, the favourite has won a third of all races, the favourite and second-favourite have collectively won a bit more than half of all races, and the first three in the betting have won two-thirds of all races.

Thus, in a random sample of six races, we might expect four of them - two-thirds - to be won by the first three in the betting. The further implication is that we may need to be looking further along the lists for a couple of the legs in a six-leg wager.

What does this mean in practice? It means that, across A's, B's and - usually in multi-race win pools only - C's, you should have reasonable coverage of the top of the market; and, somewhere in the race sequence, you should be risking a few longer priced horses - but usually in addition to, not at the expense of, the top of the market.

Steamers and Drifters

This section should come with a wealth warning: drifters DO win!

In case you're not familiar with the terms, a 'steamer' is a horse being backed - usually showing with a blue background on odds comparison sites, while a 'drifter' is a horse which is weak in the market, usually with a pink background on odds checker sites.

As a general principle, in races where form is fairly well established, I will note the market but follow my own form study. The exception is in bigger field handicaps where horses priced between 8/1 and 16/1 (approximately, not hard and fast) have taken notable support.

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I tend to look at the markets in the morning, and then again an hour or so before the first race, which is the time when I'm starting to frame my bets.

In the example above, where the second favourite is weak and the third favourite is strong (favourite not shown), assuming I could see a reason for this in their form, I would quite likely put both runners on B. If I couldn't understand the weakness of the 'pink' runner, I'd probably play it on A.

There is quite a bit of 'feel' associated with this. Players need to get to know trainers and owners, too. For example, horses owned by J P McManus are often put in at defensive prices: odds which reflect the fact they might become subject to a gamble rather than which indicate the horse's true form chance.

Horses owned by large or wealthy syndicates - for instance, Elite Racing Club, Owners Group, or Highclere Thoroughbreds - are often overbet; consideration of the support for such runners needs to approached mindful of who might be backing it.

Equally, horses doing something notably different - first time in a handicap, coming back off a layoff, stepping up/down markedly in trip, etc - merit at least a second glance. Does the trainer have 'previous' in such a scenario? Is the horse bred for this extra distance? And so on. Geegeez reports have plenty of assistance in this regard, and the inline snippets in the card are instructive.

Using Unnamed Favourite

This is a great tactic and heavily under-utilised. It can be deployed in a number of different scenarios, of which these are just a couple.

Doubling up on A

Plenty of races, especially non-handicaps, have a very short-priced favourite and an obvious second-choice. Sometimes these races can be 10/1+ bar the front two. Depending on how the rest of your ticket looks - mainly, in how many other races you've got B and/or C picks - and how much bankroll you have, it can be a smarter play to double the favourite on A, rather than place the jolly on A and the 'second in' on B.

In this example, the favourite was Karl Der Grosse. He was 8/15 favourite, with Silver Star 4/1, Sweet Flight 5/1 and it was 16/1 and bigger the rest.

This was the first leg of a big rollover pool and I wanted the best chance of managing a profitable situation in the latter part of the sequence. So, rather than play the favourite as a banker, or put Silver Star on a B (or C) ticket, I went three deep on A, covering Karl twice (once with his racecard number and once as 'Favourite', unnamed favourite) and Silver Star once.

As can be seen, Karl Der Grosse won, which doubled the number of units the syndicate had running on to all subsequent legs. It cost three times as much as banking on the favourite, for two-thirds of the running-on equity (2/3 winning picks rather than 1/1 if just selecting Karl), but was the right play in the circumstances.

Extra pick on B (or C)

A tactic I sometimes use - and, to be brutally honest, I'm not certain that the maths support it - is to play unnamed favourite on B or C. I do this in one of two situations, as follows:

Weaker favourite that I like

Let's say the favourite is around 2/1 or 5/2. Mathematically, and assuming a) the market is correct and b) they bet to a 100% overround [they don't but go with it!], this horse has a circa 30% (28.57% to 33.33% if you like) chance of winning. If I think he's value - that is, he should be a little shorter - without necessarily feeling he's a very likely winner a la Karl Der Grosse above, I can play his racecard number on A and 'unnamed favourite' on B along with (an)other contender(s).

Inscrutable handicap with multiple favourite contenders

I will quite often include FAV when I go five, six or seven deep in an impossible-looking handicap: it's a degree of insurance against wide coverage being scuppered by a winning jolly. What I really want is for one of my longer-priced picks - more correctly, one of the least-covered horses in the pool - to win. But if the horse that the market ultimately sent off shortest wins, I will have all tickets containing that horse's racecard number as well as any ticket containing FAV for that race.

There were two races where I played variations of this tactic in an example I published in Part 1 of this mini-course, replicated below.

You can see the use of FAV in races 3 and 4. In race 3, I'd nominated the expected favourite on A, but I wanted to amplify him a little so added FAV to B; and in race 4, where I had far less certainty about which horse would be sent off favourite, I didn't want to lose my C investment because the jolly prevailed.

As it turned out, the favourite won race 3 and a C horse - not the favourite - won race 4.

Syndicates, Consolations and Cash Out

If you play at Colossus Bets, they have three features which make varying degrees of appeal.

Syndicates

The ability to create a syndicate ticket means one's bankroll goes further because, essentially, we are sharing the financial outlay - as well, of course, as any return - with other people. Alongside my own bets, I create a lot of syndicates on Colossus and we've had some fantastic paydays, the pick of which is shown towards the bottom of this post.

I started out taking only 10% of my syndicate tickets, the minimum a 'captain' must take, but these days I am usually invested for 50%, the maximum allowed. It is my understanding, and great hope, that the new team at tote are working on similar functionality. It will be a game changer for them in terms of liquidity, I believe.

Cash Out

Many of you will be familiar with the concept of 'cash out', which apparently was first offered by Colossus. Regardless, the simple maths are that it rarely makes financial sense to cash out, or even partially cash out, a ticket if there are other 'insurance' options available. I'll talk about those in the Insurance section.

I have very occasionally cashed out my stake on a ticket where there isn't really a smart or cost-effective way to hedge the bet, but I know I'm getting a rum deal when I do.

Consolations

Conso's are a curate's egg: good in places. On the up side, players in a six-leg win pool will receive a dividend for getting five out of six, and even four out of six. These can often cover the cost of what, in tote jackpot terms, would be a losing bet. They are good for cashflow and confidence, but...

The downside is that half of the ticket cost goes into the consolation pool, which means the base bet is twice as expensive as if there was no consolation pool.

On balance, I like the added aggression I feel I can play win pools with as a result of having that safety net. Even if I get the first race wrong, I've still got a chance of making a small profit, getting  my money back, or getting something back. That keeps players in the game and it's a lot better for the soul than getting short-headed in the only race you didn't have!

It always needs bearing in mind that one needs to halve the dividend for a £2 stake when comparing with a £1 accumulator (naturally).

Insurance

Insurance is a term for managing a position between the start and end of a multi-race bet in order to mitigate for the chance of a losing outcome. In other words, it's a way of covering more eventualities than you have on your ticket, albeit at fractionally greater expense. As I've said, it is generally better to control the level of insurance you take rather than be dictated to by the cash out value.

There are a good number of insurance options, some of which are below:

Place lay

When betting a multi-race place pool, banking on the shortest priced horse in the sequence is normally a good strategy - unless you plain don't like it. Even then, it makes sense to try to overcome any prejudices you might have associated with the horse or its connections. Assuming you have banked on that runner to make the frame, you can then lay it for a place on an exchange.

An even money favourite would be around 1.2 (give or take) to lay on Betfair. If your placepot stake is £50, you can insure the bet for £10 or so. That makes your overall commitment £60 and needs to be factored into your P&L. I will usually place lay for less than my stake: if I think the horse is very likely to get placed I don't want to spend what amounts to 20% of the ticket price buying insurance on one leg. But at the same time, I don't want to lose my entire stake. So I might place lay to get half my money back for example.

Last leg options

If you've been smart and/or lucky enough to get to the final leg, you will have some options. Depending on the type of race, and whether it's a win or place pool, the first option is to lay or place lay your pick. I would do that if I was on a short-priced runner as a banker.

Exacta

If you have, for instance, the top three in the betting in a six runner race, you can place exacta bets on the remaining trio. As with the actual multi-race bet itself, we should not be placing a combination exacta (three picks equals six bets), as that is not a smart way to stake. Supposing the unsupported runners were 6/1, 8/1 and 20/1, we might legitimately place a reverse exacta to the same stake on the first two; but our stake should be smaller on each of the shorter pair beating the outsider, and smaller still on the outsider beating either of the other two. We're not looking for a 'lucky' payoff, we're just covering our existing bet.

Calculating the insurance stake

To calculate how much insurance to take, work out the worst possible outcome in terms of a winning ticket.

Placepot / Place pool

That involves adding the selection a player has with the most amount of pool tickets on it, alongside in a place pool the other best-supported runners  up to the number of places available, as well as the unnamed favourite.

Adding the number of tickets on each of those together and dividing by the net pool (see Part 1 for gross and net) will produce the 'worst case dividend'. This is the figure, multiplied by the number of lines you have, against which you should hedge/insure.

An example will help:

1 - 28.5
2 - 13
3 - 9.4
4 - 83 (F)
5 - 1.6
6 - 31
F - 12.5

Gross pool: 56,250     Net pool: 41,062.50

In this placepot example, the net pool is 73% of the gross pool.

Let's say we have horses 1, 2 and 4 in this six horse race and we currently have 80p lines running on to each of them.

Our worst winning result - two places in a six-horse race - would be:

46F (the two horses with most units remaining, plus unnamed favourite)

= 83 + 31 +12.5 = 126.5 winning units

The worst winning dividend would then be:

41062.5/126.5 = £324.60

of which we would have 80p for our one placed horse, #4.

We staked £100.

So our worst case dividend would be £259.68 in this example. That number, less our £100 stake, is what we would use to work out how much to hedge/insure for. Or we could just insure for our £100 stake.

Win pool

In a win pool, it often doesn't make sense to lay selected runners, mainly due to the cash needed. In that case, it is better to back unsupported runners assuming there aren't hordes of them!

Using our example race from above, where we have coverage of horses 1, 2, and 4, let's say the net win pool is £100,000 and we have those same 80p lines running into the final leg, from a stake of £100.

The worst case winning (for us) dividend is if the favourite, #4, wins. That leaves 95.5 units and a dividend of

100,000 / 95.5 = £1,047.12

We'd have 0.8 x £1,047.12 = £837.70 representing a profit of £737.70 (less £100 stake).

 

Suppose the Betfair odds on the other runners are 3 - 22.0, 5 - 150.0, 6 - 7.4

So we might back

#6 for £80 @ 7.4 returns £592 (commission to deduct also)

#3 for £20 @ 22.0 returns £440 (ditto)

#5 for £2.50 @ 150.0 returns £375 (ditto)

We are now guaranteed at least £837.70 back if one of our three Win 6 selections wins; and a sliding scale, based on likelihood, of returns if one of our insurance bets wins.

If the favourite wins, we'd get

£837.50 - £102.50 (insurance bets) - £100 Win 6 stake = £635 profit

If the 150.0 outsider won, it would be a tough break, but at least we'd collect

£375 - £100 (losing insurance bets) - £100 Win 6 stake = £175 profit. On a 'losing' bet.

A final word on insurance

I am absolutely confident that I've made the art of hedging/insurance sound infinitely more complex in the above than it actually is. The key is to track your position and to know roughly where you are in terms of potential payout and how much of that you're booked for. Pretty much all pool operators have 'will pay' pages on their website to show how much is running on to the next leg, and on which horses.

Often we'll be in a losing position and insurance doesn't really make sense. Occasionally we'll be in a losing position and insurance will limit losses.

You'll soon get the hang of working out where you are but only if you get into the habit of tracking the remaining units in the pool.

Be Brave, There's Always Tomorrow

Multi-race bets, especially win varietals, are not for the faint-hearted. They can involve excruciating close calls where the difference between a nose victory or defeat runs to thousands of pounds. The flip side of that is obvious: they can involve halcyon close calls when the verdict goes your way for a vast sum. That's exciting!

The consolations offered by Colossus, albeit at the expense of a £2 ticket, are good value in terms of sanity, and they allow a player to display the one attribute above all others that is required to win in the multi-race jungle: bravery.

Over-staking is an affliction suffered by most placepot / win sequence punters: the fear of not 'having it' overrides the rationality of not diluting the value of the bet. As well as over-staking there is bad staking - placing the same faith in every pick on a ticket regardless of whether it's 4/6 or 14/1.

If you can learn to overcome those two near-ubiquitous staking errors, you have a far better than average chance of catching big fish in these pools.

Being brave also means acknowledging that, no matter how juicy the rollover or how tempting the guarantee today, there is always tomorrow.

A VERY Good Day

In closing, I want to share a ticket from what was a very good day. It was a syndicate play so plenty of others shared in this whopper of a dividend, which brought together a number of factors discussed in this second part. They include ABCX - this is the winning ticket, there were a bunch of losing/ consolation tickets as well; doubling the favourite; and insuring my personal position in the last leg (not shown here, but amounted to about £150).

 

Appendix: The Ticket Builder

Throughout this two-part series, I've referred to ABCX methodology, and to a mechanical means of computing the part-permutations. The ticket builder, which is a little 'rough and ready' but is free for all to use, can be accessed here. Please do watch the video below before trying to use it!

Matt

12 replies
  1. simon boardman
    simon boardman says:

    Excellent write up Matt , plenty of food for thought there. on Cash Outs , my experience so far has been harrowing !! you will have to trust me on this one ! i got to the 6th leg and i only had one selection in what was a 5 runner affair when i placed the bet . there was now a non -runner and my selection was now the outsider of the 4 . i was offered £60 as a cash out and my selection had drifted out on the BF market . of course you can guess what happened next , i cashed out and my selection won and my percentage of the pot would have been around £600 !! Now i guess the schoolboy error is only picking one selection in the last leg when it only had initially 5 runner but as this similar scenario has happened several times before , i have now decided that its Win or Bust ! this helps your mindset going forward and saves you from mentally beating yourself up for days like i did in that case !! i also think deciding whether you are going to be a Gung Ho Placepotter or a rather more Cautious Operator is a good idea.
    Thanks Again Matt.

    Reply
    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Simon

      I think with last legs, it is smart to either have a degree of coverage or use the top of the market.

      It’s a bugger when a 5 horse race goes to 4 and therefore win only, but if you’re on the favourite you can always either lay that (win, not place) or look at exactas with the other runners.

      If you’ve only got the outsider of four, your hands are tied. Both these points are covered in the above article, I think.

      Best,
      Matt

      Reply
    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Yes, sorry, the sound was terrible. Basically all my recording equipment is at the office, which I can’t travel to because of the lockdown. I’ll re-record this one when I can get to the office.

      Matt

      Reply
  2. Martin Colwell
    Martin Colwell says:

    Thanks for these pieces of work Matt.

    How do you place your bets as above? What sites are best to use?

    Regards Martin

    Reply
    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      You’re welcome, Martin. I’m a big advocate for Colossus Bets. The pools are smaller but they’re guaranteed to a decent sum (assuming there’s a couple of good-looking shorties in the sequence) and can represent really solid value.

      I have historically had a good go at Irish pick4 bets, confusingly called ‘jackpot’. They’re both gettable and often solid value: I still look out for the rollovers there.

      And the UK tote has some big rollover pools, though mainly on the Scoop 6 which isn’t a bet I play. (Too difficult).

      Hope that helps,
      Matt

      Reply
  3. lickybits
    lickybits says:

    A great read and my favourite bet is a placepot, been doing it some 25 years with £19,600 my largest win, most years i lose slightly overall, i have a slightly different aproach to placepots or i have until now but youve given me a lot to think about…

    im more likely to appose favs and 2nd and 3rd rated horses in handicap races..
    in smaller fieled races of between 5-6 runner ill often pick 2nd and 4 rated horse … 2 picks
    in fields of 7 runners i pick 3rd 5th and 6th priced horse …. 3 picks
    specially in handicap races has i feel smaller field races often arent true run races when you consider pace..

    i often consider leaving out the more fancied runners in the later races and including more picks, has it seems to be that often where the majority of people get thrown out of placepot pools..

    in large field handicaps im prone to look at horses towards the upper and lower end of the handicap.

    but where you bet smaller amounts on the outsiders and bigger amounts on the more favoured runners is somethink id never considered before , but after reading your write up i will be doing in future, i’ve been putting all my selections on one slip at same unit stake i.e 2 x 2 x 3 x 2 x 2 x 3 = 144 bets at 20p = £28.80
    and although i sometimes get the pplacepot up where a lot of the fancied horses have got placed i often take a loss

    Reply
  4. robertreed
    robertreed says:

    really enjoyed the tutorial it goes well with Beyer On Speed which I’m still figiuring it out

    Reply
  5. lickybits
    lickybits says:

    I’m often curious how cashout offers are arrived at, if someone has an outsider say in the last race had opposed to say a favourite would the cash out offered be less has it had a lesser chance of getting placed

    Reply
    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      It would be less, yes. The cash out algorithm takes into account the number of remaining tickets, as well as the likelihood of the remaining nominated selections being correct.

      It’s a clever and complex bit of kit, but obviously it’s weighted in favour of the house.

      Matt

      Reply
    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Carl

      The link is in the Appendix bit at the bottom. It is deliberately obscure to save me the admin!

      Best,
      Matt

      Reply

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