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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

Your first 30 days for just £1

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.

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 = 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.

Matt

Your Questions, My Answers

Last week, I invited you to send in your questions. About geegeez.co.uk, about racing, about betting. And you did. In your droves. So today, I've recorded a video to answer them all. It's long - two hours - so underneath the video box is a list of the questions and subject headings, as well as some resources to which I've referred in the recording. I hope you'll find (at least some of) it useful.

Matt

p.s. I've also managed to create a podcast version should you prefer to listen to the audio.

n.b. The number before the questions below is the point in the video at which you'll find that answer.

Your Questions

The number before the questions below is the point in the video at which you'll find that answer.

*Race Types and betting*

1:45 - How do you work out handicaps? - Kevin Clarke

Click here for a blog post about how to look at handicap races

22:55 - My Question is I am not sure what I am looking for in looking for winners.  I use first expert to sort out horses that fit the greens this is the dogs. Then I look at pace to see if the selection has the credentials then I go to draw if flat and look at that. Then I pretty much lose the plot what do you look for after this.  Thanks love the videos learnt so much From Geegeez. - John A

27:40 - I am a massive Placepot nut , any advice on this type of bet with regards to Gold would be much appreciated.  What do you think of Colossus Bets which now offer this bet and any advice on the Cash Out option ? - Simon B

How to win the placepot

Geegeez placepot ABCX ticket builder

How to use the ticket builder

36:15 - I wonder if you could come up with a good query tool to able to lay a short price horse successfully.  I do lay, I am down money and I need to turn things around. - Gerry M

Your first 30 days for just £1

- First up I enjoy reading your articles. My question is what feature in geegeez you would use and how would you use it to find small priced lays if that is possible. - Murray S

43:00 - Would you kindly expand on the relative values of Pace in Chase, Hurdles and NH Flat. I'd find that very helpful. Many thanks. - Keith B

Article on pace in 'speed' handicap chases

46:55 - What do you do to improve your strike rate - James T

49:35 - I would like to see more guidance on how you as an expert would go about picking a selection or 2, maybe a guided bet for a Saturday and big meetings. - Steve S

51:25 - Breeding and sales data snippet there is numbers after the stallion name, like 6,7f. What that figure means? What is your personal opinion about a very big break before start? Like over 200 days. I mean in the betting perspective. Is it better to leave those kind of horses without a bet? Thank you for excellent site! - Jussi A

54:15  - Hi Matt, forgive me if I’m wrong but I didn’t notice the ‘bringing it all together’ section on your last web tutorial thingy.  I’ll admit to still struggling with gold as there is so much to look at & whilst i feel like I understand all of the individual components of full form, pace, draw & the reports,  I’m still really struggling to know which ones to give the most weight/credence to & which ones to ignore as obviously they’re all pointing at different horses. If you could show how you sit down & attack a race cold or what starting points you use that lead you to a bet then that would help somewhat I think. I feel like you say ‘that horse could be of interest depending on other factors’ for example but then we didn’t really see you carry on that selection process to the end in any of those web shows. I appreciate you may have reservations about doing that as there’s so many different ways of using gold & you don’t want to ‘prescribe’it to us but I feel, if like me, you’re a new member who has previously tried & failed to make gold work for them, it’s incredibly frustrating to know that the relevant information is in there but i just can’t land on it with any confidence! - Iain M

59:07  - So, all in all, I’m probably in the mode of not being able to see the wood for the trees, almost too much information and not knowing how best to use it.  I’m also probably guilty of looking for big priced winners rather than just winners and of the old fear of missing a winner so backing it regardless. As a rule, I have always been led by Horses for Courses, Ground specialists and runners back to a winning handicap mark and since joining Geegeez I do like the TJ combo. So, I guess this is a very open ended ‘question’ and probably not one you can easily answer, but given all of the above (and below) can you give me a steer to start making this excellent service pay for me a bit better please?  I’m not looking to retire early or win a million, just nice steady returns and a bit of fun along the way. - Lee

*Technology *

1:03:30 - Can you see yourselves developing a geegeez mobile app in the future? Roy N

*Features*

1:05:15 - First time headgear (report, and QT)

1:07:20 - Is it possible to add to the racecard, a going filter, to see if any of the red/green figures are changed, and the form figures can relate to such an update? Instant expert does show most of this but not if the trainer's or jockeys record without having to use full form screen. - Terry S

1:10:30 - why does the contextual breeding data/trainer data etc update so late in the day before the race?  Before I used Geegeez I used to pick my horses at around 11am (just after declaration) and then place the bets in the evening. My mornings and evenings are busy so this worked best for me. I understand that you obviously wouldn’t change the way you do things just or me, but is it possible for this data to be uploaded earlier in the day? - Tom F

1:12:20 - would it be possible to add in a horses current Official Rating onto Full Form? Just that when you're looking at its past ratings, you need to minimise the window to look at the race card to see its current OR. - Eddie K

1:12:40  - Hi Guys, can I check the previous high /low prices of horses inplay ..ie if a particular horse has generally shortened in running - Michael M

*Staking / Tipsters*

1:13:30 - I am really  disappointed with SOTD , I am a yearly subscriber, it is very difficult to get BOG without being gubbed , however I do like you and your apparent honesty that's why I rejoined, but this service Stat Of The Day, leaves a lot to be desired, as I understand SOTD is found using your stats , so what does it say for using your stats. I hope that this does not come across as a knee jerk reaction , but this has been a long time coming, you asked for comments so here is mine ! - David H

1:18:40 - Do you have a forum/ group chat where you and other members send out their selections for the day? - Joe D

1:19:30 - I follow 3 or 4 racing tipsters, all have long term profitable records. However often they will tip different horses in the same race. What strategy should one adopt? Cover all, (split stake or not?) and therefore reduce overall return. Or if they tip same horse, should i increase stake? I would use separate betting banks, but wonder whether better to focus on just one tipster? - David E

1:21:28 - For many years l believed that doubles, trebles etc., were a mugs game and always stuck to win only successfully until l read somewhere that if you knew what you were doing with your selections they could be lucrative so brought this into my betting and found this so far to be true. What is your opinion on this? - Thomas

1:24:35 - I believe that you once wrote that raising stakes during a losing run was better than raising them during a winning run. Is my memory right. If not, what are your thoughts on staking. - Barry C

1:28:30 - When a new service goes live, why do all the tipsters I follow, have to blitz it, day afterday after day? It's blimmin annoying ,and 9times,out of 10, it turns out to be less than useless. But I'm at the stage now, where I am just deleting, and unsubscribing;  so you can guess that I've missed some of the ones that, actually work.  Could you just tell me, are they being paid ,for mentioning that service(which they've said they have proofed for infinity years)??  Actually, my own service is amazing: You'll never get any winners, but at least I'm up front, about it!! - Steven S

*Regulation*

1:34:10 - Around the time of Goodwood Matt Chapman suggested that there were several odd SPs. Who determines the SP? Is this something the Bettor's Forum is concerned about. I think most bettors will put up with the occassional horse which wins out of the blue having been well backed. They like the idea of an old fashioned coup landed. The idea that the whole system is skewed against them is a different ball game. - Ben S

1:38:20 - As I consider the going on the day to be very important.Is there a way to get round the lies that most Clerks and the Bha are sending out. All the best and thanks for all the help over the years, - John

1:43:30 - I was told that Sportsbook at Betfair was covering single bets, with a pay out of up to £500.00 without having your account closed, is this really true? If so what about multiples, would they stand a higher amount on these? I am thinking mainly of football bets. By the way who owns Sportsbook or managers it? - Philip P

1:44:30  - Could I ask if you have heard of any bookies who have gubbed or restricted accounts offering reasonable bets on Class 1 or 2 races? - William J

1:46:30  - I have had my account with Skybet restricted although I don't think I have won much from them. Is this common as for the stakes I am using I cannot imagine I am much of a threat. I do only bet a small number of bets per year, maybe 70-80. - Geoff W

*Research*

1:47:15 - I'd like to be pointed in the right direction regarding using the query tool please. I am sure this is a feature I do not use due to not understanding it - Paul E

1:49:05 - Thanks for being so open with your wealth of knowledge … much appreciated . I am a “systems” man and was just wondering what I should be accepting as a minimum figures for my systems if I would want to make it work on a more professional basis  =  win % /  roi % sp / roi % bfair /  “ a/e “ and or “chi”  ?? (are the last 2 the same ?) - Brian C

1:53:35 - Would it be possible to re-do the QUERY TOOL recording I get the gist of it but your teaching has a lot to be desired. I take you have never taught in a class room as you have no synchronisation what so ever or lesson plan talk about wing and a prayer Or as you put it WINGING IT - Frank R

1:55:15 - I understand A/E and I/V at least in so much as anything over 1 is good. But if A/E is say .81 and I/V is say 1.3 does  that indicate a  negative stat .....I'm presuming that it does. - Mick S

Pool Betting: Placepot / Jackpot / Win6 Techniques

Welcome to Oc-tote-ber!

Welcome to Oc-tote-ber!

In the first part of an Oc-TOTE-ber series of articles on tote betting, I'm going to look at multi-race tactics. This post is specifically focused on selection methods, whereas part 2 - which will follow tomorrow - will look into optimal staking strategies. Both hemispheres will improve your ability to navigate the choppy waters of a competitive race card and identify value plays in their midst.

Here are my top eight tips for making placepot selections:

1 Make sure you have time for this

The thing about the placepot, or the Pick 3, or the jackpot, or the Pick 6, is that it involves a number of races. Three in the Pick 3, four in the Irish version of the jackpot, six in lots of other bets. The implication is that it also involves a significant amount of study time to make an informed bet.

The implication is real. It does take time.

If you're in a rush, you'll slip into lazy habits, like looking at the recent form string to the left of the horse's name; or checking for top trainers and/or jockeys; or using the odds forecast to choose your selections.

That is abdicating responsibility, and it puts daylight between your form study ability and your chance of making a successful multi-race wager. Don't do this, unless you know that you're essentially having an 'action' bet, and you're entirely comfortable with that.

If you have very good tools - like the Pace Analysis, Full Form Filters and Instant Expert in Geegeez Gold - then you can get away with around ten minutes a race. If you don't, it's probably more like half an hour per race. Make time, and subscribe to good tools.

-

2 Ignore the recent form string

As I've said above, using the recent form string next to a horse's name is lazy. Not only that, it is the same lazy tactic used by the vast majority of multi-race (i.e. placepot, Pick 6, and so on) punters. If you do the same as them, you're more than likely to end up on the same horses as them. If you're on the same horses as them, one of two things will happen:

i) You'll all be right and the dividend will pay next to nothing; or

ii) You'll all be wrong, and someone who took a bit more time will scoop up all your collective cash

Either way, there is little or no value in this approach.

Now, let's be clear on something here. I'm NOT saying that you won't end up on the most logical horse from the form strings. Not at all. In fact, quite often you will. But you'll arrive at that destination via the form book, and having assured yourself that the pick is a genuine contender whose recent form was achieved under similar conditions and who has no obvious barriers to progressing again.

-

3 Look for the fancied P00/ horse

Fancied P00/ horse? Eh? Let me explain. The market is the best guide to the likely outcome of a race, of that there is no doubt. But, luckily, it is far from infallible.

Some of the best plays in multi-race tickets are the fancied nags with no form. Perhaps they're coming back after a long break. Maybe they've got the 'duck egg bracelet' of 000-000. Or perhaps they have more letters than numbers in the string, like PFFU20.

Often, these horses are no-hopers whose form string is a perfectly fair reflection of their ability and chance. But sometimes, it is not. Here's an example from yesterday at Navan. In the last leg of the placepot, a horse called Madeira Classic was running for the first time in 701 days. It had form of 005/. And yet it was a well backed 4/1 second favourite. This horse demanded closer scrutiny. Here's what I discovered when I 'lifted up the bonnet':

Madeira Classic was a stone better off than her previous form...

Madeira Classic was a stone better off than her previous form...

Madeira Classic last ran on the flat three years ago, in September 2011. That day he ran in the Curragh Amateur Derby off a mark of 70. And yet here he was with a rating of just 55, having taking significant and sustained market support, for a trainer (Christy Roche) known to be able to ready one for a gamble.

This horse was largely overlooked by the placepotting public, as the pool shows going into the last leg:

Just 7.5% of the remaining tickets were on the second favourite!

Just 7.5% of the remaining tickets were on the second favourite!

Just 7.5% of the remaining tickets were on the second favourite! As it happened, my A tickets had him, along with #8, and Madeira Classic failed by only a neck to wear down Rocky Bleier, also well gambled (20/1 into 9/1), at the line.

In what was an unremarkable sequence of results - the other five favourites, two of them odds on, all placed - the placepot paid €69.30 to a €1 stake. My €46 investment returned €242.55. For five favourites and a second favourite.

Easy pickings for easy picking!

Easy pickings for easy picking!

That's the full set of tickets there, including the losers which formed part of the perm. In tomorrow's post, I'll explain more about how I structure my bets.

Onwards...

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4 Have an opinion!

I'm often guilty of this myself. I'll decide I want to do a placepot today. That decision is made completely ignorant of whether the conditions suit such a bet. In other words, without an opinion, I'm wading in. Careless. Reckless, sometimes.

So what constitutes an opinion? Various things can help make the decision to bet, such as:

i) A good looking rollover or pool guarantee

I'm usually happy to 'force' an opinion when there's OPM (other people's money) making up my potential return. If a bet was not won on its most recent run - for example, this afternoon's Pick 6 at Tramore has a rollover of €42,766 having not been won for a few days (including when I and a couple of other geegeez readers had a crack on Tuesday) - then other people's losses (including ours in this case) are in the pot to be claimed by today's potential winners.

Obviously, if it looks impossible or you have a short bankroll it probably still doesn't make sense to play. But the odds tilt in your favour with every penny or cent of other people's cash propping up the pool.

ii) You have a strong counter-market view in at least one race

Maybe it's a dodgy jumper in a steeplechase. Maybe you feel the favourite won't act on the ground; or the step up in class pitches him against seasoned and proven animals at the new level. Whatever it is, if you have at least one solid view that swims against the market tide, you'll be disproportionately rewarded if you're correct.

Obviously, there's still the chance that the market leader will oblige. And, worse still, in placepot bets there is the constant spectre of being right, only to see the outclassed dodgy jumper that didn't go on the ground sneak the last place in a photo from a 33/1 shot. Trust me, it happens. Often. Such is the 'potter's luck.

iii) 'Chalky' plays

In America, when a race looks likely to be dominated by the top of the market, it is referred to as 'chalky' (a phrase whose etymology likely harks back to the days of bookies' boards being chalk boards).

Sometimes, like that Navan placepot yesterday for instance, it looks like the favourites will all - or almost all - run solid races. In those cases, if correct, it is possible to chart a very narrow course through the sequence, and stake higher than normal.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Using the Navan example yesterday, you can see that the €1.50 perm was a 1 x 3 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 2 perm. In other words, six lines (€9). The other winning line was a €1 1 x 4 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 2 perm, for eight lines (€8).

Navan yesterday looked chalky. And it was chalky. For it to pay €69.30 was a gift, constructed from a single interesting nag in the last race, Madeira Classic.

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The key to making any bet is, as Michael Pizzola, a smart American punter, likes to say, "Let the bet make you". In other words, if you see an angle, play it. If you don't, don't.

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5 Back your opinion!

Once you have a view, it is important to have the courage of that conviction. The curse of the multi-race perm bet is fear of failure, whose symptoms are flabby perms, and either over-staking or diluted staking.

You have to be prepared to lose if you're wrong. After all, isn't that the fundamental premise of striking a wager?

So if you fancy the long absent 8/1 chance who was formerly useful and looks favoured by conditions, back your judgement. If it places, and the favourite doesn't, whoop. If it places and the favourite places too, unlucky. If it doesn't place, and the favourite does, no drama - after all, that hardly helps the dividend.

Also, it's no use having a view almost for the sake of it. In other words, if you think the favourite has a very strong chance of making the frame, but you consider the long absent 8/1 shot to have a bit of a squeak if x and y and z happen, play the favourite. Or maybe play them both (though not equally staked, more on this tomorrow).

If the key to making a multi-race bet is to "let the bet make you", then the key to making it pay is not to ignore or dilute your opinions to meaninglessness.

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6 'One Brave Race'

I have the notion of 'One Brave Race' when making multi-race wagers. That is, somewhere in the sequence, I have to hang my hat on some sort of banker play. In a placepot, that will almost always be a single horse carrying my wagering hopes through at least one leg. I may, as in the example in 4 above, take multiple bankers, which affords more aggressive staking, or perming elsewhere (or both).

But a pre-defined 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 64 bets staking strategy is, frankly, destined to get what it deserves. That is a bookmaker's bet, plain and simple. It denies any prospect of having an imbalance of opinion through six different punting puzzles which is, naturally, faintly preposterous. If you bet placepots like this, please, stop doing it! 😉

A brave race might mean taking two selections on A in a big field, with no B or C plays (more on this tomorrow). It might mean singling (i.e. taking one horse) an odds on shot. Not that brave, granted, but it at least slims down the total permutation.

Remember, every horse at or very near to the top of the market that you can successfully include or exclude reduces your stake and increases the prospective dividend. When I find it hard to isolate a single brave race - usually because of a fiendish hyper-competitive card with a big pool - I will arbitrarily go short on leg one.

Some people like to have a bet running for as long as possible, for the enjoyment of it. And that's fair enough. For me, I'd rather take an early bath than go out in leg six of a whopper. Different strokes for different folks.

Luckily, there are ways to mitigate one's bravery, because we can...

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7 Insure a position

Nobody ever said that a multi-race bet has to be made in isolation. If there's an odds on shot in leg one of the placepot, and it looks solid, single it and lay it for a place on Betfair. That's a very cheap way of covering your stake. If the horse places, your bet has cost slightly more. If the horse fails to place, you had a free go into the trappier part of the sequence, and claimed a refund.

If you're still rolling in the last, you can lay your shortest option for a place to return either some or all of your initial outlay, depending on how the dividend is shaping up and how confident you are in your remaining picks. Or you can calculate the smallest winning (for you) dividend, and 'green up'.

And, in short final leg placepot fields, how about taking the uncovered runners in exactas? For instance, let's say we have a five runner race with the first two in the market covered. If the dividend is looking decent, perm the other trio in exacta bets. As with everything, don't do a simple 'box' (i.e. all ways exacta), but rather place slightly more on the better fancied horses to beat the 'rags', and less on the 'rags' to beat the shorter-priced nags.

Note, in each of these cases, it is super-important to check the non-runner situation. If an eight runner race drops to seven runners, you'll get two places in the placepot but still be laying three places on Betfair. Be careful!

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8 Have fun!

I unapologetically bang on about this all the time. I don't care if you're a seasoned pro punter who won't eat if you don't find enough winners (how sad, actually), or a 10p patent player. If it's not fun, there's no point: it's just a job, and a dull unrewarding job at that. A form of prostitution, no less.

No, betting is about having fun. Which is not to say it should be about losing. Those who believe that winning and enjoyment are mutually exclusive in horse racing betting really are hopeless cases, clinging on to the badge of 'pro punter' as if their lives depend on it. They don't. If it's that close to the wire, get a proper job and do us all a favour.

Moaning and groaning about 'not getting on'? Play tote pools. You can always get on, and there's always a pool big enough to accommodate your stake. Or set up a network of people to place bets for you. But either way, bore off about accounts being closed. It happens. Move on.

So yes, rant out of the way, let's have some fun! After all, what brings greater joy than a relatively small stake bet, loaded with opinions, vindicated both in the results and in the returns? That is truly the utopia of horse racing wagering. And, for me at least, it always will be. 😀

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Below you'll find part two in this Oc-TOTE-ber series, looking at optimally staking multi-race bets like the placepot and jackpot. So do look out for that. In the meantime, there's a tasty rollover at Tramore this afternoon with my name on it... 😉

Matt

p.s. if you've not signed up with Tote Ireland yet, use code geegeez1 and get a bunch of goodness, as outlined here: http://www.geegeez.co.uk/tote-ireland-review/

In fact, if you open an account in Oc-TOTE-ber using that code, and bet €25 during the month (up to 9th November)... or if you're an existing Tote Ireland geegeez customer and bet €25 into the pool during the month, you'll be eligible for a share of a €200 syndicate bet. So get registered, get playing, and remember to use the code geegeez1 when you sign up.

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Welcome to Oc-tote-ber!

Welcome to Oc-tote-ber!

In yesterday's first part of this Tote Tactics series, I showed you a number of ways to make better selections for tote pool bets.

But making good selections is only half the battle. The other part of the puzzle is staking your opinions optimally and, in this post, I want to delve more deeply into matters of staking.

There are two main staking methods - straight line, and full perm - and between them they probably account for 99%+ of all tote multi-race bets. But I'd estimate that they only account for around 75% of all tote multi-race stakes. Let's first look at what those staking methods are, and why they're almost always sub-optimal. And then we'll consider why they don't account for a commensurate amount of all stakes, and which 'smart money' approach does.

Straight Line

As the name suggests, this is the no nonsense one-selection-in-each-race-and-devil-take-the-hindmost approach. In a six leg bet, it has the following shape:

1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 bet

It lacks finesse, it lacks coverage, and it normally requires the bettor to get lucky. As a route to profit, it's weaker than most. As a harmless fun or action ticket, why not?

The reality is that in any sequence of three, four, six races, most players will have stronger views about the chances of horses in some legs than in others. Staking singly through the card offers minimal coverage for those weaker opinions. Still, it can be a bit of fun, and the bankroll remains intact if/when the wager bows out.

Full Perm

Keegan and Breitner: full perms

Keegan and Breitner: full perms

No, not Kevin Keegan's barnet of choice. Rather, a full perm is selecting multiple horses in one or more legs in the sequence, and staking every pick equally. For instance:

1 x 3 x 2 x 2 x 4 x 2 = 96 bets

We have a lot more coverage here, with each of the last five races offering at least two chances to move forward. In fact, this example contains 14 different horses. So far so good. So what's the problem?

It is simply that staking your bet this way assumes you have a similarly strong view about the chance of every horse in every leg. That is very unlikely to be the case.

Look at leg five, for example. Here, in this theoretical staking plan, we have four horses running for us. Let us further suppose that they are the 3/1 favourite, the 4/1 second favourite, and two 6/1 chances. Whilst we might feel the 3/1 favourite is vulnerable but don't want to omit it, it is unlikely that we have a similarly strong (or weak) view on the other three nominations.

In actual fact, in this case, if the 3/1 fav was considered vulnerable, I'd be happy to either leave it off the ticket completely, or demote it to a lower status. More of that in a moment.

The issue with this staking approach is that we have gone from one bet in the Straight Line to 96 bets in this incarnation of the Full Perm. This will reward us if we have enough outsiders in the frame - and manage to get enough favourites out of the frame - but we stand a good chance of not returning our initial stake should we not 'luck in' with our less popular choices.

So what to do in order to have a wide (ish) sweep through the races but not slice and dice our stakes to meaninglessness? Introducing ABCX...

ABCX

In any sequence of races, as I've written, we will almost always have stronger feelings about some horses than others, and we will consider some outcomes more likely than others based on the odds. It makes no sense, then, to weight all of our selections equally given the unequal sentiment in which we hold them.

For example, we might put a Pick 3 (a US bet requiring the player to pick the winner of three races, bizarrely enough 😉 ) perm together as follows (horse numbers, and odds), ignoring the notion of 'one brave race' (which I discussed in yesterday's post) for the purposes of this scenario:

Leg 1 - 1 (3/1), 3 (8/1), 4 (6/5)

Leg 2 - 2 (2/5), 7 (4/1)

Leg 3 - 4 (2/1), 5 (7/2)

The purest form of permutation would be 3 x 2 x 2 = 12 bets. You would be forgiven for thinking, "Well, it's only twelve bets, at $5 a throw is $60". But if you have a winning ticket with 6/5, 2/5 and 2/1 on it, you'll do well to get your money back. And, according to the market, that's the most likely outcome.

[Note, it doesn't matter if we're talking dollars, pounds, euros, or roubles. It's about the number of units and the division of funds]

So how can we better utilize that $60 stake? By using a weighted perm structure, of course. The one I favour, though by no means the only one, is ABCX. Essentially, we separate all of the horses in our sequence of races into:

A - main fancies, strong chance
B - fair chance, quite like
C - dark horses, value at the price
X - not interested

Let's apply that rationale to our initial bet, noting that all horses not selected have been discarded as 'X'

Leg 1 - 1 (3/1 B), 3 (8/1 C), 4 (6/5 A)

Leg 2 - 2 (2/5 A), 7 (4/1 B)

Leg 3 - 4 (2/1 A), 5 (7/2 A)

Leg 1 has one each of A, B and C; Leg 2 has an A and a B; and Leg 3 has two A's.

When using ABCX, we are saying that some combinations of outcomes are more likely than others. Specifically, it is most likely that we will win with our A selections; it is next most likely that we will win with two A choices and a B; and it is least likely that we will win with either an A and two B's, or two A's and a C.

Importantly, we are saying that if we are sufficiently wrong in our weighting analysis that the result comes back with an A, a B and a C, we have to accept that we lose, despite selecting those horses in our initial wide sweep. This can be a difficult outcome to accept, especially for newcomers, but it is crucial to prevent players from habitually over-staking: throwing cash at the wall and hoping some of it sticks.

Remember, if we haven't got at least one strong opinion, we shouldn't be playing. So, if we snake our way out of a winner by optimizing our staking, we wipe our mouth and move on.

Let's now look at how the original $60 bet might look using the above ABCX ticket distribution.

A much better 'weighted' spread of funds

A much better 'weighted' spread of funds

As you can see, we've spent the same $60 across five tickets.

Ticket #1 has a unit stake of $12 per line, and includes all of the A selections.
Tickets #2 and #3 have a unit stake of $6 each per line, and include two A's and one B each.
Ticket #4 has a $3 unit stake, and includes the C pick from race 1, with the A's in races 2 and 3
Ticket #5 has a $3 unit stake, and includes the B picks from both races 1 and 2 with the A's in race 3

Now, we have an optimal combination of likelihood of success and multiples of the dividend. In other words, if the most likely horses win, we'll have more units of a skinnier divvy, and if some of the less likely horses win we'll have less units of a bigger payoff.

If that sounds complicated, well, it is to a degree. But the good news is, as you might have guessed from the image above, there's a tool to help you with this. Based on American multi-race guru Steven Crist's ticket builder tool, I had my own geegeez variant built.

That tool can be found here:

Geegeez Multi-Race Ticket Builder

And instructions on how to use it (it's pretty simple) can be found here:

How to use the Geegeez Multi-Race Ticket Builder

Although perhaps 1% of UK-based multi-race bettors use a weighted staking method, that tiny minority probably accounts for a quarter of the total pool size in some multi-race win or place pools. That 'smart money' approach is where players of all bankroll should be aiming, effectively staking to ensure an optimal return when successful, almost regardless of the dividend.

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In further episodes of this Oc-TOTE-ber Tote Tactics series, I'll be looking at Exacta and Trifecta betting: bets known collectively as intra-race multi's. Keep an eye out for those.

In the meantime, Tote Ireland is offering a piece of a €200 syndicate bet for any geegeez player to stake €25 between now and the end of October. You can bet into UK as well as Irish tote pools with them, and they have a range of other specials, some of which are listed here.

New Tote Ireland players will be eligible for up to €50 in free bets as well as the slice of the €200 syndicate bet if using the exclusive promo code geegeez1 when registering.

Good luck!

Matt