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