## Exotic Betting in 2024: 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 almost 15 years ago now - I outlined how to play, and win, the tote placepot. The principles outlined in that post remain true now. Let's recap.

**tl;dr** Give yourself a better chance of catching awesome placepot, jackpot and Scoop 6 scores by using a clever bit of staking software

### 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 Day 3 of 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 nowadays bet in multiples from a penny 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=] 0.949^{6} 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 jackpot - 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

Probably the most common approach is to select two horses per race in a permutation (or perm for short). Twice as much coverage per race gives a far better chance of finding the right answer, but it also invites the player to invest a lot 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 = 2^{6} = 64

3 horses per leg = 3^{6} = 729

4 horses per leg = 4^{6} = 4096

and so on.

As you can see, this quickly becomes eye-wateringly 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, 'caveman' players are aiming to get lucky rather than playing smart.

#### Bankers

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 = 2^{5} = 32 bets

3 horses per leg with one banker = 3^{5} = 243 bets

4 horses per leg with one banker = 4^{5} = 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 = 2^{4} = 16 bets

3 horses per leg with two bankers = 3^{4} = 81 bets

4 horses per leg with two bankers = 4^{4} = 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 it may 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?

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', published in 2006. It's quite hard to get hold of nowadays, especially this side of the pond, but is well worth about £35 if you'd like to get seriously into multi-race (or intra-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 invites 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 place 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 many of the handicap chases or, quite often, 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 more than one ticket (virtual betting slip, if you like) to optimize my staking for almost two decades now; 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, there is a tool that does all the grunt work - which **you can access for free right here**. 🙂

#### Staking multiple tickets using ABCX

As I say, the heavy lifting will be done by an app/piece of software I co-developed, called **Tix**. But it is good to have at least a passing familiarity with the maths of ABCX. Alongside the different combinations of A's, B's and C's, there are staking considerations, too. We call these 'multipliers'.

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: 3x unit stake

- Mostly A's with two B picks: 2x unit stake

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

Let's take a recent example from a jackpot - predict six consecutive winners - at Plumpton. My ABCX (the X's not shown) looked like this:

To be clear, the green column is for A picks, the yellow is for B picks, and C picks are in the right hand sandy coloured column.

As you can see, I had a single A in legs 1 and 2, with lots of supporting coverage on B and C tickets as well as more A options after the opening two races.

I should add that there's always a bit of shuffling around after the initial placement of my fancies - and I have moved winners off tickets many times! [This, of course, is an issue however you play placepot/jackpot/Scoop 6 type bets]

In leg 1, #1 was the 1/4 favourite in a short field of hurdlers, the smart novice Through The Ages.

The image above shows my picks in the **Tix** app. What it doesn't show is the part-permutation tickets the app 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 you can decide which combinations of ABC selections you want to play. In this case, and indeed most cases, I have selected all of those possible options.

Alongside each combination option is a further quartet of check boxes where users may amplify stakes. For example, ticket 1 (all A's) has a 4x amplification, tickets 2 to 6 (any 5 A's with 1 B) are 3x unit stake, tickets 7 to 16 (any 4 A's with 2 B's) are 2x normal stakes, and tickets 17-21 (any 5 A's with 1 C) are 1x stakes.

The total amount wagered across these 21 tickets was £47.46, and **everything was worked out by the Tix app!**

Ignoring the absolute cost and its relation to your own level of staking, consider that cost against a full perm 'caveman ticket' covering all the picks I played across A, B and C of

4 x 6 x 6 x 9 x 7 x 11 = 99,792 bets, at 1p = £997.92

It is not the £950 (approximately 95%) saving in absolute cost that is the smartest component here, although that is obviously very smart. Rather, it is the fact that my stronger fancies - and the more likely sequences of winners - are all multiplied for more than 1p, the unit stake in the calculation above.

We'll cover the use of unnamed favourites in part 2 of this article. For now, suffice it to say that this is a means of a) keeping more tickets alive, and b) playing up your perceived merit of the favourite. I use this tactic a lot in multi-race tickets and encourage you to introduce it into your play once you're up and running.

* It takes a few seconds for me to place 21 tickets as per the above*. I just click the 'PLACE ALL BETS' button on Tix.

The winning sequence at Plumpton looked like this:

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

Leg 2: #3, 9/2, a B selection

Leg 3: #8, 10/3, an A selection

Leg 4: #8, 9/2, an A selection

Leg 5: #7, 9/2, an A selection

Leg 6: #5, 5/1, an A selection

All six winners were 5/1 or shorter, so this wasn't the toughest sequence ever devised! The dividend, to a £1 stake, paid £13,520. My 3% unit was worth £405.61.

*Incidentally, the SP accumulator would have paid £5365.59 for £1, and the Betfair SP accumulator (good luck trying to place these multiples there!) would have returned £10,206.47.*

*Paying more than two-and-a-half times SP, and 30% above BSP, made the jackpot the clear value play on this day. It doesn't always, so keep that in mind.*

===========================

Total payout: £405.61

Total profit: £310.15 (including -£48 in Betfair hedges)

Approximate odds: 9/4

===========================

There is an important note in the totals above. The approximate payout on this bet was 9/4. Not 100/1 or 1000/1 or another big number.

With the safety net of spreading around and insuring/hedging via Betfair, I am happy to stake more, relatively, in search of a bigger absolute (i.e. cash money) 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, and, of course, Tix.

**That second part is available to read here >>**

Matt