Wagering Strategy Q&A with Peter Rotondo Jr.
Level: Intermediate
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

If you’ve been watching the TV show Horseplayers on the Esquire Network you’re familiar with Peter Rotondo Jr., the wagering strategist for Team Rotondo. The dapper VP of Media and Entertainment for the Breeders’ Cup (a Hello Race Fans sponsor) literally grew up at the track and, as you can imagine, has plenty of great wagering stories. He’s also been kind enough in the past to share his thoughts with us about makes horse racing so great (and if you don’t know by now, please go read this).

Any player can tell you that great handicapping and the ability to pick winners does not always translate into cashing tickets. So how does a professional like Rotondo approach wagering strategy? Before you find out, if you’re not familiar with the various types of wagers (specifically trifectas, pick 3s and picks 4s), point your browser here first… but be sure to come back!

Everyone has favorite wagers and wagering strategies. What are some of yours, and why are they your favorites?

My favorite wagers and strategies have changed through the years. In the “old days,” we would focus on exactas, trifectas and the pick 6. Now, I think we have switched focus to superfectas, pick 3’s and pick 4’s. It may be time to go back to the old ways, as we cashed more tickets back in the day and I feel like we’re always swinging for the fences, so it might be time to go “retro!”

As far as strategy, I try to find a horse at a good price and key him or her in the all of the spots (for trifectas and supers) with a few others (typically three or four horses) – same with pick 3’s and pick 4’s. Basically, I need two top winners to usually cash a few tickets in a pick three and pick 4.

How about a few examples?

Sure! In the example below, I like the 1 as my key and he/she is 8-1. I think four horses (2-3-4-5) have a chance to fill out my trifecta, so I’ll bet it this way…

Trifectas – $100 play:

$4 wager of 1 / 2,3,4,5 / 2,3,4,5 = $48 total
Here, I’m betting the 1 to finish first, and I need the two of the other four horses to finish second and third.

$2 wager of 2,3,4,5 / 1 / 2,3,4,5 = $24 total
Here, I’ve got the 1 finishing second, with the other horses in the first and third spots.

$1 wager of 2,3,4,5 / 2,3,4,5 / 1 = $12 total
And here, I’ve got the 1 finishing third, with the other horses finishing first and second.

Another option here would be to spend $16 to spread in the superfectas with same system, where I’d key the 1 in a series of bets, having him or her finish first, second, third, or fourth, with the three of the other four horses filling out the other spots.

For Pick 3s and Pick 4s:

Race 1: 1 is my key and I think 2-3-4 could also win
Race 2: 2 is my key and I think 3-4-5 could also win
Race 3: 3 is my single
Race 4: 4 is my key and I think 5-6-7-8-9 have a shot as well.

Here’s the $100 play:

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 = $10 cold (Let’s get PAID if we #gethot!)
Editor’s note: this is very good advice, it’s horrible to be right and not get paid.

2,3,4 / 2 / 3 / 4 = $2 pick three partial – $6 total
Here, the 2, 3, or 4 needs to win the first leg, the 2 needs to win the second leg, the three the third leg, the four the fourth leg.

1 / 3,4,5 / 3 / 4 = $2 pick three partial – $6 total
The 1 needs to win the first leg, the 3, 4, or 5 needs to win the second, the 3 needs to win the third, the 4 needs to win the fourth.

1 / 2/ 3 / 5,6,7,8,9 = $2 pick three partial = $10 total
2,3,4 / 3,4,5 / 3 / 4 = $1 pick three partial = $9 total
2,3,4 / 3,-4,5 / 3 / 5,6,7,8,9 = $1 pick three partial = $45 total
1 / 2 / ALL / 4 = TBD on field size of third leg = $12 total (full field)

Grandma's needlepoint Editor’s note: apparently Grandma’s birthday play does pretty well, something to keep in mind! Here’s a needle point from Grandma on your right, remember: 7-2-6.

As you’ve mentioned in the show, handicapping and wagering are very different practices. How much, if at all, are you thinking about wagering as you handicap?

Not enough. Our downfall is the wagering aspect. I feel like we can pick winners with the best of them, but money management and mapping out wagers is not our expertise unfortunately. I think that most horseplayers would say the same thing. The downfall may be that there are TOO many wagering options out there. Plus, we’re a little too emotional for our own good! (Editor’s note: we have an article on Rooting versus Wagering for the emotionally inclined…)

Everyone has losing streaks. What do you do when you’re in a slump?

Keep firing. The only way to get out of a slump is to keep pushing forward — maybe just bring down your betting units. So if you typically bet $20 to win, maybe bet $2 or $5. You can’t chase, and you can’t bet with “scared” money. Bet what you can afford to lose and enjoy yourself.

When I feel like I’ve over-indulged and eaten too much over a period of time, I usually go on a nutritional juice cleanse. I would like to find the equivalent for a slump. Sometime, I think I need a betting cleanse!

Editor’s Note: Here’s Rotondo’s typical reaction after a bad beat (via Railbird)

Every player has strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. What are your favorite types of races to play (aside from the Breeders’ Cup!)?

Our favorite races typically are stakes and graded races. Obviously, the horses hold their form better since they have more quality, so that helps us. Plus, since I have a day job, I can’t follow the day-to-day of allowance and claiming races like I used to, so keeping it classy is always the best way to go for us!

Racing goes on all year. Do you ever take a break, and if so, when and for how long? Skipping a race on the card doesn’t count!

I typically take a break in December and January unless I’m still trying to qualify and / or playing in the NHC! By the way, I encourage everyone to try out the handicapping tournaments online. For the most part, they are simple – just pick winners over 8-1 and you’ll win/qualify! I know that sounds easy–as we know, it isn’t –but it’s a good way to keep it simple (one horse in one race, win or place)!

Interested in trying to qualify for NHC? You can try online!
Derby Wars
Horse Tourneys
NHC Official

Also, check out the videos from Horseplayers!

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