In Letter to a New Horseplayer, Steven Crist provides an excellent primer on multi-race wagering. In this article, I talk about a way for a new player to start playing multi-race wagers on a modest bankroll and offer a few basic ideas on constructing multi-race tickets.
With the exception of the daily double and Pick 3, all multi-race wagers, when played right, require a fairly significant bankroll. In his outstanding book, Exotic Betting: How to Make the Multihorse, Multirace Bets that Win Racing’s Biggest Payoffs, Crist makes the following suggestions on how to allocate bankroll for multi-race bets. He writes: “Playing the Pick 4 with inadequate bankroll is worse than never playing the bet at all,” and that he bets a minimum of $100 when he plays the Pick 4.
If Crist’s minimum bankrolls for the Pick 4 and Pick 6 are a bit intimidating as a new player, don’t fret. The Pick 6 and Pick 4 require a decent size investment and might not be the best way for a new player to learn how to play a multi-race wager. The Pick 3, however, can be hit with a reasonable investment and is a great way for someone new to the game to understand the basic principles behind building multi-race tickets and allocating bankroll.
One of the most important concepts when you consider playing the Pick 3, or any multi-race wager, is ticket construction. There are many strategies for constructing a multi-race wager, but one of the most basic strategies is deciding where to “single” and where to “spread.” A “single” is where you select only one horse in any given race during a sequence. Selecting a solid “single” gives you opportunities to “spread” in other races. In a race where you “spread,” you identify multiple horses that you think have a chance to win. The number of horses you pick is limited by both bankroll (how much you want to invest in the bet) and by how many horses you actually think have a chance to win.
If you identify a single in a three race sequence, you could pick up to five or six horses in the other two races and still keep your ticket affordable. A $1 ticket constructed as 1x5x6 (one horse in the first leg of the sequence, five in the second, and six in the third) would cost $30.
A good example where the single and spread method worked well was on Florida Derby day 2010. The Pick 3 sequence that covered the three graded stakes ending with the Florida Derby paid $365 for $1. The sequence included D’Funnybone – an odds-on-favorite – who looked like a sure winner in the second leg of the sequence. The winners surrounding D’Funnybone were the 20/1 Ice Box in the Florida Derby and the 6/1 Society’s Chairman. These big odds winners were the reason for the large payout. Even so, this was a sequence that was very “have-able” with a $30 investment by singling the heavily favored D’Funnybone.
If the other favorites had won the other two legs with D’Funnybone, you might not have made back your $30 investment. When you play the bet by singling a heavy favorite, you are counting on chaos in at least one of the legs to inflate the payout if your short-priced single wins. If all three, or two of the three, races in the sequence look as if they will be won by short-priced favorites, it probably makes sense to find another sequence to play.
The concept of “singling” and “spreading” is important to understand before you start playing multi-race wagers. You’ll notice that I didn’t mention a thing about what horses to pick, only how to construct a ticket. With multi-race wagers, picking winners is just half the battle; how you are going to build you ticket can be just as challenging.