Tag Archive for: Exotic Betting

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.

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.


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.


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 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.


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!


Exotic Betting: Multi-Race Bets (Part 1)

There are lots of ways to bet on horses. Win, place and each way are just the beginning: such bets involve a reliance on one horse winning or nearly winning, the outcome of which provides players with a (usually) known return.

I've long mixed up my 'singles' betting with more elaborate plays. Known as exotics in the States, such wagers tend to involve predicting a sequence of events: either the first two (or three or four) home in a race, or the winner (or a placed horse) in each of a number of consecutive races.

Incidentally, although this article will not explicitly cover bets such as fourfolds and accumulators with traditional fixed odds bookmakers, the principles can be applied and, where readers are able, best odds guarantees leveraged.

In this previous post - written ten years ago now - I outlined how to play, and win, the tote placepot. The principles outlined in that post remain true now and, of course, they extend to Colossus Bets place pools, Irish Tote placepots and indeed any multi-race place pool bet. Let's recap.

What are pool bets, and why are they of interest?

Pool bets involve all players' stakes being invested into a pot, from which winning players are paid a dividend after the pool owners have taken their commission. That means the objective is not only to find 'the right answer' but also for that correct answer to be less obvious than most players expect. It generally is.

Multi-race pool bets can offer an interest throughout the afternoon for a single ticket; and, if a few fancied runners under-perform, they can pay handsomely in relation to fixed odds equivalent wagers.

Let's consider an example of such a bet, in this case a placepot from Thursday's card at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. The gross pool - that is, the total bet into the pool - was £823,150.20. After takeout, the pool operator's advertised commission from which all costs are paid, of 27% the net pool was £600,881.40.

That pot would be divided between the number of remaining - and therefore winning - tickets after leg six, with the dividend declared to a £1 stake. Players can bet in multiples from 5p upwards.

In the first race that day, the favourite, Faugheen, ran third, with 4/1 Samcro winning. 361,390.13 units went forward to leg two.

In the second race, all four placed horses were towards the top of the market, including the unnamed favourite. 146,064.28 units went to leg three.

The third race, the Ryanair Chase, saw 2/1 second favourite Min beat 16/1 Saint Calvados with the 7/4 favourite in third. Most of the remaining pool money prior to the race, 114,468.48 units' worth of it, went forward to leg four, the Stayers' Hurdle.

In that fourth race, around 83,000 units (nearly three-quarters of the remaining pool) were invested in Paisley Park, who ran a clunker and was unplaced. This race was the kingmaker on the day, just 2,198.41 units (less than 2% of the running-on total) successfully predicting any of 50/1 Lisnagar Oscar, 20/1 Ronald Pump, or 33/1 Bacardys.

As the warm favourite won leg five, 854.56 units contested the final leg, the Mares' Novices' Hurdle. Here, the very well-backed second choice of the market, Concertista, beat stable mate and 9/1 chance Dolcita, with a 100/1 shot back in third.

From a total of 823,150 tickets, and a net pool of 600,881.40, there were just 235.01 left standing after the six races. Thus the dividend paid

600,881.4 / 235.01 = £2,556.83

Because of something called 'breakage', see TIF's explanation here if you're interested, the dividend is rounded down to the nearest 10p, meaning every winning £1 ticket was worth £2,556.80. A 5p winning line would be worth 5% of that amount, or £127.84.

Let's talk about the takeout

The commission a pool operator levies for hosting the pool is usually referred to as the 'takeout'. In multi-race bets, some people consider that the takeout - 27% in the example above - is too high. But it needs to be considered in the context of the number of legs in the bet, and the perceived difficulty of landing the bet. The first part is more easily quantified.

For example, if the place pool for a single race has a 20% deduction - which it currently does in UK (ouch!) - then a six race accumulator in the place pools would result in 73.8% of stakes being 'taken out'. Double, triple and even sextuple ouch!

The actual per leg takeout on the tote placepot is around 5.1%, or 0.051, compounded six times; which leaves a 'live stake' of [1.00 - 0.051=] 0.9496 which equals 0.73 (1.00-0.73 = 0.27, 27% takeout).

Takeout takeaway: You don't need to understand the maths, you just need to know that there is relative value in the placepot compared with single leg win or place pool bets.

How can this be value?

Pool bets are another market, along with fixed odds and exchanges, framed around the same product, horse racing. Thus, they do not always offer the best value.

If you want to back the favourite, doing it on the tote is probably not the best option (though UK tote are currently offering an SP guarantee match, which locks in some insurance for the majority of times when the tote dividend on a winning favourite will pay less than SP). Still, you'll generally get better value on an exchange than either the tote or a fixed odds bookmaker can offer.

But if you want to bet a longer-priced horse, it will normally be the case that exchanges or the tote offer better value than fixed odds bookies.

And if you want to play a sequence of win or place bets - let's call them a placepot or Win 6 - you may get better value with a pool operator.

If you only like fancied runners in the sequence, you will have no edge in a pool and are better off betting either a fixed odds multiple or parlaying your winnings in exchange markets.

But if you have an eye for an interesting outsider - and, as a Gold subscriber, you are far better placed to see such horses than the vast majority of bettors - then multi-race sequences are for you!

Remember, the objective is not just to be right; but to be right when the vast majority of others are at least partially wrong.

Basic Staking: how players get it wrong

The nature of multi-race betting means that optimal staking is almost as important as picking the right horses. Again, I've written about this before but it's plenty important enough to reiterate here.

Smart pickers of horses often confound their own attempts to take down big pots by either under- or over-staking. A six-leg sequence involves the player selecting one or more horses per leg, the total number of 'bets' on the ticket being a multiple of the number of picks per leg.

Thus, a player picking one horse per race will have 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 bet. He or she will also have a very small chance of correctly predicting the required outcome unless he or she is either very lucky or most of the fancied horses make the frame/win. The former is not what this mini-course is about, the latter is generally self-defeating in the long-term.

This, then, is not an optimal way to bet such sequences.

'Caveman' Permutations

A very common approach is to select two horses per race in a permutation (or perm for short). Twice as much coverage per race gives a better chance of finding the right answer, but it also invites the user to invest far more cash in a somewhat arbitrary manner. We can write the calculation for the number of bets by using 'to the power of six' (representing the six legs in the wager). Thus:

2 horses per leg = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 26 = 64

3 horses per leg = 36 = 729

4 horses per leg = 46 = 4096

and so on.

As you can see, this quickly becomes expensive. Moreover, it is deeply sub-optimal. We won't necessarily feel we need the same amount of coverage in an eight horse race with an odds on favourite as we will with a twenty-runner sprint handicap, so staking them the same doesn't make a lot of sense. Again, such players are aiming to get lucky rather than playing smart.


A way to whittle the number of perms in one's bet is by deploying 'bankers', horses which must do whatever is required - win, or place - as a solo selection. Adding a 'single', as they're known in America, to a six-leg sequence can make a lot of difference to the number of bets. Such an entry makes a 'to the power of six' bet a 'to the power of five' one, as follows:

2 horses per leg with one banker = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 1 = 25 = 32 bets

3 horses per leg with one banker = 35 = 243 bets

4 horses per leg with one banker = 45 = 1024 bets

and so on.

Using two bankers ratchets up the risk of a losing play but also dramatically further reduces the numbers of units staked:

2 horses per leg with two bankers = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 1 x 1 = 24 = 16 bets

3 horses per leg with two bankers = 34 = 81 bets

4 horses per leg with two bankers = 44 = 256 bets

and so on.

So, for instance, a ticket with two bankers and four selections in the other four legs would amount to 256 bets, whereas four horses per leg through a six-leg sequence would be 4096 bets. At 10p a line, that's the difference between £25.60 and £409.60!

Any single ticket perm, where all selections are staked to the same value (e.g. 10p's in the example above), is known in the trade as a 'caveman' ticket. This is because it still doesn't properly reflect, in staking terms, how we feel about our selected horses and can be considered unsophisticated or a blunt instrument.

Advanced Staking: How to get it right

So if those approaches are varying degrees of how not to stake multi-race bets, how should we do it?

Hardcover Exotic Betting : How to Make the Multihorse, Multirace Bets That Win Racing's Biggest Payoffs Book

The answer is a strategy known as 'ABCX' which has long been used but was first expounded in print - to my knowledge at least - in a book by Steve Crist, the US writer and punter, called 'Exotic Betting'. It's quite hard to get hold of nowadays, especially this side of the pond, but is well worth about £25 if you'd like to get seriously into multi-race (or multi-horse in a race, i.e. exacta, trifecta, etc) bets. Crist writes fluidly and with familiarity, so it's an easy read in the main, though some sections are necessarily a little on the technical side.

The ABCX approach requires players to assign a wagering value to each horse in each race, like so:

A Horses: Top level contenders, likely winners, or horses which you think are significantly over-priced while retaining a decent win/place chance. In this latter group, a 50/1 shot you think should be 20/1 need not apply; but a 20/1 shot you make 5/1 is fair game (notwithstanding that such a disparity normally means you've made a mistake).

B Horses: Solid options, most likely to take advantage of any slip ups by the A brigade. Generally implying less ability and/or betting value than A's.

C Horses: Outside chances, horses who probably won't win but retain some sort of merit. Often it is a better play to allow these horses to beat you, or to bet them as win singles for small change to cover stakes.

X Horses: Horses that either lack the ability, or the race setup, to win (or place if playing a place wager), and which are thus excluded from consideration.

This approach works a lot better for multi-race win bets than for placepots and the like. In the latter bet types, it is usually sensible to focus solely on A's and B's, with C picks going in to the same discard pile as X's. The exception to that rule of thumb would be days like the Cheltenham Festival where the pools and the field sizes are huge: the only sensibly staked way to catch one of the placers in the Stayers' Hurdle would be on a C ticket!

Once this hierarchy has been established, a means of framing the selections into a bet - or bets - is required. I have used multiple tickets to optimize my staking for more than a decade and if you are not doing likewise, you are losing money, simple as that.

The good news is that, while the mechanics I'm about to share are somewhat convoluted, I had a tool built to do all the grunt work - which you can access for free in Part 2 of this two-part report. 🙂

Staking multiple tickets using ABCX

As I say, the heavy lifting will be done by a tool, details of which I'll share in the concluding part. But it is instructive to be aware of the maths of ABCX. The way I almost always use my A, B and C picks is as follows:

- All A's: 4x unit stake

- All A's except for one B pick: 2x unit stake

- Mostly A's with two B picks: 1x unit stake

- All A's except for one C pick: 1x unit stake

Let's take a recent example from a Win 6 - predict all six winners - at Clonmel. This was actually a rare occasion when I went 3x on the 'All A' ticket as I didn't feel strongly I was playing with value in my corner. In truth, given it was the last day of racing in UK or Ireland for most of four weeks at least, I wanted the action... ahem.

My ABCX (the X's not shown) looked like this:


As you can see, I had two A's in leg 1, three A's in leg 2, nine horses spread across A, B and C in leg three (as well as unnamed favourite), three on A and three on C (plus unnamed fav) in leg 4, a banker A in leg 5, and five A's with two B's in leg 6.

In terms of the actual picks, I moved the 279F group in leg 4 from B to C to reduce stakes, and I took a contrarian view in the last race where 7/11 were the first two in the betting: I didn't especially like them but I didn't want to let them beat me completely either. The 136810 group of A's represented the next five in the market. That was a bold play which paid off this time.

In leg five, #3 was the 4/6 favourite in a short field of chasers, the smart horse Bachasson.

The image above shows my picks in the ticket builder tool. What it doesn't show is the part-permutation tickets the tool created for me, or the associated stake values. So let's introduce those now.

At the top of this image, there is a series of check boxes where a user may decide which combinations of selections he/she wants to play. In this case, and indeed most cases, I have selected all of those possible options.

Beneath each ticket is a further trio of check boxes where users may amplify stakes. As you can see, ticket 1 has a 3x amplification (would normally be 4x for me), tickets 2 and 3 are 2x unit stake, and tickets 4-6 are 1x normal stakes.

The ticket breakdown is:

Ticket 1: AAAAAA - 3x stake
Ticket 2: AABAAA - 2x stake
Ticket 3: AAAAAB - 2x stake
Ticket 4: AACAAA - 1x stake
Ticket 5: AAACAA - 1x stake
Ticket 6: AABAAB - 1x stake

The total amount wagered across these tickets was £214.80.

Ignoring the absolute cost and its relation to your own level of staking, consider that cost against a full perm 'caveman ticket' of

2 x 3 x 10 x 7 x 1 x 7 = 2940 bets, at 10p = £294.00

But it is not the £80 (approximately 25%) saving in absolute cost that is the smartest component here. Rather, it is the fact that my stronger fancies - and the more likely sequences of winners - are amplified to more than 10p.

We'll cover the use of unnamed favourites later. For now, suffice it to say that this is a means of a) keeping more tickets alive, and b) playing up the merit of the favourite. I use this tactic a lot in multi-race tickets and will discuss it in more detail anon.

It takes less than three minutes for me to place six tickets as per the above. Sometimes, I have as many as 20-25 tickets and it takes 12-15 minutes. That, clearly, is more time than it takes to place a single caveman ticket; but my extra effort is frequently repaid in the return.

The winning sequence at Clonmel looked like this:

Leg 1: #3, 6/4 favourite, an A selection

Leg 2: #13, 7/1 (drifted from 7/2), an A selection

Leg 3: #6, 9/4 favourite, an A and a B (FAV) selection

Leg 4: #7, 9/1, a C selection

Leg 5: #3, 4/6 favourite, an A banker

Leg 6: #1, 15/2, an A selection

There were three shortish winning favourites in the six-race sequence, and the winner of leg 2 was a strange price, given it had been strong in the market all morning at around 3/1, 7/2. It bolted up by 17 lengths!

The dividend, to a £2 stake, paid £10,710.85. My 5% unit was worth £620.21 including consolations for four- and five-out-of-six.


You can hopefully make out in the above that there was only 0.05 winning units. That, of course, was my ticket shown above, which means there will be a £10,000 or so rollover to the next Irish race meeting, whenever that may be.

The six tickets paid out as follows:

Ticket 1: £80.43 consolations

Ticket 2: £57.42 consolations

Ticket 3: £3.80 consolations

Ticket 4: £3.81 consolations

Ticket 5: £620.21 winning ticket, plus consolations

Ticket 6: £1.90 consolations


Total payout: £767.57

Total profit: £552.77

Approximate odds: 5/2


There is an important note in the totals above. The approximate payout on this bet was 5/2. Not 100/1 or 1000/1 or another big number.

With the safety net of consolation dividends, I am happy to stake more, relatively, in search of a bigger absolute (i.e. monetary) return.

This is another subject to which I'll return in Part 2, along with when to play, using unnamed favourites, taking insurance, the value of the early markets,  syndicates/cash out features and, of course, the ticket builder. That second part can be read here.


How To Win The Placepot

How to Bet (and Win) The Placepot


Winning The Placepot

Winning the placepot bet is a great feeling. Not only does the average placepot dividend amount to over £500, and frequently go into the thousands, but the feeling it produces when you 'have' it is incredible.

And in that feeling when you 'have' it is one of the biggest drawbacks of betting this kind of wager. I'll explain what I mean in a moment, but for now, let's quickly recap what the placepot is and how it works.

What is a Placepot?

A placepot is a pool bet operated by the tote, where the player is required to select a placed horse in six consecutive races (usually the first six on the card at any given meeting).

Place positions vary depending on number of runners and type of races, but typically we're trying to get a horse to finish first, second or third in each of the six races.

As I say, this is a pool bet, which means all of the money wagered is placed into a central betting pool, from which a deduction is made (28%) to cover admin but mostly to put money back into the sport.

The remaining 72% of money in the pool is divided equally between the number of winning players. So, for instance, suppose the pool of money was £100,000, and there were 72 winning tickets.

The dividend (always declared to a £1 unit stake, though players can play multiples of as little as 5p) would be calculated as follows:

£100,000 - 28% /72 (because of the 28% deduction and the fact that we have 72 winners in this example).

In other words, £100,000 - £28,000 / 72 = £72,000 / 72 = £1,000

So the dividend in this case is £1,000. Make sense so far? Good!

Now of course you might only 'have' 20p of it, or you might have £12 of it, depending on how you staked your bet.

Alternatively, you might very well have none of it, depending on how you picked horses in your bet! 😉

So that's what a placepot is: a six leg place wager where you get back a return based on how many of your fellow placepot wagerers also correctly selected six placed horses.

How to pick your horses in a placepot

This is one of two places I think a lot of people make mistakes when betting the placepot. Sometimes people - and I've been guilty of this many times myself - try to be too 'cute' in their selections.

They might put in the long odds on favourite, and also a 16/1 who they quite like, just in case.

There's nothing wrong with that per se, but... it is clear that there is far more likelihood of the 2/5 favourite placing than the 16/1 chance. So it must be equally clear that both horses ought to be 'weighted' differently in the bet. That people don't do this is almost certainly THE most common mistake in placepot (and jackpot and scoop6 and exacta and tricast) betting. More on that in a moment.

So, back to how to pick horses for a placepot. Obviously, we're picking horses that we need to place. This may mean that we actually select horses differently from the one we might pick to win the race.

Many horses have form figures like '4011816'. In other words, they either win or run nowhere if things don't go their way. If I was playing a jackpot (I never do, though I love the US Pick 3, a more achievable mini-jackpot), I'd definitely have this horse in the mix.

But in a placepot, I'd think twice, because he's as likely to finish nowhere as he is to place, and there may be more reliable place wagers.

A good example of this is in the 1.15 race at Cheltenham today (12th November 2010), where Theatrical Moment has form figures of 44116P-

He has two wins to his name, but they were sandwiched in between a number of unplaced performances. (Clearly, there is a lot more to the selection process than that, but these horses take an inappropriate amount of the pool money quite frequently).

The other problem with contrarian views - or trying to beat the odds on favourite out of the frame - is that generally you'll be wrong. But you don't want to miss out on the relatively rare occasions that you're right! So, what to do?

Well, Steven Crist in his excellent book 'Exotic Betting', has a solution to this problem. [Exotic bets are what these type of wagers are referred to in the US, and they take FAR more of the money bet than straight win, and place bets.]

Crist suggests you break the horses down in each race, according to how likely you think they are to get the required placing. He talks of dividing them into four categories:

A - horses you feel have a very high chance of being placed
B - horses you feel have a reasonable chance of being placed, and who represent value (i.e. who might be 'dark' horses)
C - horses who might just enjoy a revival today based on some element (course, distance, going, jockey, etc) coming in its favour, and who represent value (i.e. who might be 'dark' horses)
X - horses who either have no chance, or are terrible value to place at their expected odds, or on whom you have no strong opinion

As you can see, these gradings take into account two elements: your ability to read a race (reflected in terms of what you like) and the market's relative ability to read a race (reflected in terms of where you see value horses, or under-priced horses)

By breaking each race down like this, you might end up with a chart as per the below. (This example assumes six nine-horse races).

------ A                     B                            C                             X

1   3,4                                                  1,8                    2,5,6,7,9

2   1                        4,6                                               2,3,5,7,8,9

3  2,3                     9                            5,7                    1,4,6,8

4  1,3,6,7                                              2                      4,5,8,9

5   8,9                                                                          1,2,3,4,5,6,7

6   6                      4,7                                                   1,2,3,5,8,9

How to bet your horses in a placepot

The good news is we've managed to discard many of the runners in most of the races. The bad news is that if we tried to perm all the runners in our A, B and C lists, we'd still end up with 4 x 3 x 5 x 5 x 2 x 3 = 1800 lines.

Even if we did just 10p per line, that comes to £180 and, more worryingly still, we'd need some luck to get big priced horses hit all place positions in one, and possibly two races at least in order to get back more than the £180 we'd invested.

But, by weighting our opinions according to our perception of the likelihood of those horses making the frame, we can bet the horses in a commensurately weighted fashion.

In other words, if we can't get at least four of our A horses in the frame, we don't really deserve to win the bet, because we don't have a strong enough and / or smart enough opinion of the sextet of contests that form the placepot that day. Besides, getting four out of six on the placepot is easy, right?! 😉

So, if we accept that we should have at least four of our A-team selections come in, then we can write out multiple tickets where we'll collect if any of the following scenarios occur:

- A in all six races
- A in five races, and a B or C in the other
- A in four races, and B in the other two

This gives us lines that look like this, from our example above:

AAAAAA             2x1x2x4x2x1 = 32 bets
ABAAAA             2x2x2x4x2x1 = 64 bets
AABAAA            2x1x1x4x2x1 = 16 bets
AAAAAB            2x1x2x4x2x2 = 64 bets
CAAAAA            2x1x2x4x2x1 = 32 bets
AACAAA            2x1x2x4x2x1 = 32 bets
AAACAA            2x1x2x1x2x1 = 8 bets
ABBAAA            2x2x1x4x2x1 = 32 bets
ABAAAB            2x2x2x4x2x2 = 128 bets
AABAAB           2x1x1x4x2x2 = 32 bets

So we now have ten different placepot perms we're going to strike, and we could stake them differently as well. In this case, for simplicity, we won't bother to do that.

The total number of lines comes down to just 440, or less than a quarter of the initial number of plays for 'full coverage'.

We have lots of chances to win and, because it's a placepot bet where we can get more than one horse placed, we still have lots of chances to double - or even triple - up.

So, our previous 1800 x 10p bet, which would cost us £180, can now be re-struck at a cost of just £44 (440 x 10p), or we could 'go large' and play 40p lines for £176 - still four quid cheaper than the initial permutation.

In order to exemplify this further, I am (stupidly) going to attempt this on today's Cheltenham placepot... Drum roll...

------A ------------------------  B--------------------  C----------------------  X

1- 4,6,9-------------------  3,10--------------------------------------  1,2,5,7,8,11,12

2- 2------------------------  1,4 -----------------------------------------  3,5,6,7,8

3-  1-----------------------  4,7 -------------------  2,6-----------------  3,5,8,9,11,12

4- 1,5------------------------------------------------------------------  2,3,4,6,7,8,9,10

5-  11,12,17,21----------  9,18------------------------------------------  THE REST

6-  7,8--------------------  3,6-----------------------------------------  1,2,4,5,9,10

Again, we have to get four A's at least for a score. Just eight tickets this time, as follows:

AAAAAA  3 x 1 x 1 x 2 x 4 x 2 = 48 bets
AABAAA  3 x 1 x 2 x 2 x 4 x 2 = 96 bets
AAAAAB  3 x 1 x 1 x 2 x 4 x 2 = 48 bets
CAAAAA  2 x 1 x 1 x 2 x 4 x 2 = 32 bets
ACAAAA  3 x 2 x 1 x 2 x 4 x 2 = 96 bets
AACAAA  3 x 1 x 2 x 2 x 4 x 2 = 96 bets
AAAACA  3 x 1 x 1 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 24 bets
AABAAB  3 x 1 x 2 x 2 x 4 x 2 = 96 bets

The total is simply perming all A, B and C selections would be a whopping 5 x 3 x 5 x 2 x 6 x 4 = 3,600 lines. Even for ten pence a line, that's a scarcely affordable £360 which is a lot of money to recoup even if you 'have' the placepot at the end of the day.

Granted it is still not the most affordable of placepot bets even with the 'four A's' rule in play. But at least we've managed to massage that figure down to a more palatable (and affordable) 536 lines which, at the aforementioned 10p a turn, is £53.60. That's just under 15% of our full coverage, and we have very good chances of getting through at least the second and last races.

Initially, I played one each in the B and C slots in the cross country race, but it's VERY hard to envisage both Garde Champetre and Sizing Australia being out of the first three. So I've used that as the banker play in the ticket.

I have placed these bets this afternoon, so we'll see how it goes!

Cheltenham Placepot

The eight tickets for my Cheltenham Placepot

And that, dear reader, is how to play the placepot. 🙂


p.s. if you have any clever ways of whittling the number of perms down, do please leave a comment...