How to Bet on Horses: Pick 6 Betting

How to Bet on Horses - Multiple-Race Wagers - Pick 6 Betting
By Kenneth Strong

If there is one bet that can get you your retirement money at the racetrack, it’s the Pick 6. The incredible odds against picking six consecutive winners on one ticket are balanced out by payoffs - which can be astronomical - especially on big racing days such as the Breeders’ Cup.

At the 2003 Breeders’ Cup, the lone winning $2 Pick 6 ticket paid $2,687,611.60 for 6/6 winners. And you don’t necessarily have to have 6/6 winners to cash. At the 2004 Breeders’ Cup, a $2 Pick 6 ticket with 5/6 winners returned $56,149.60. The trend continued at the 2005 Breeders’ Cup, when a $2 Pick 6 ticket paid $90,325 for 5/6 winners.

Pick 6 wagering is offered daily at most major racetracks and while the pools aren’t as huge as those on Breeders’ Cup day, the Pick 6 still pays six figures on a regular basis. If no bettor has 6/6 winners on a given day, a small percentage of the Pick 6 pool is paid out to those bettors who have the next highest number of winners (generally 5/6) and the remainder of the pool is carried over to the next day. Because of the difficulty of picking all six winners, the Pick 6 pool is more often than not carried over, which results in huge six-figure pool. These pools in turn attract the syndicate bettors, who pump even more money into the pools, making the chances of a six-figure payoff even greater.


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While most bettors have heard the story or know someone who knows someone who has made a $100,000 Pick 6 score by spending only $8 or $32 or $72, the reality is that if you are going after the big money in the Pick 6, it is going to cost you. Even though the Pick 6 wager is often offered at a minimum of $1 per combination, it can get expensive quickly. For example, if you were to take two horses in each leg of the Pick 6 your costs would be as follows:

2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * $1 per combination = $64.

If you only add one horse in each leg of the preceding Pick 6 wheel, the cost increase would be as follows: 3 * 3 * 3 * 3 * 3 * 3 * $1 per combination = $729.

The costs become even more prohibitive when you start having to use all the horses in wide-open races. But there are ways of slanting the odds in your favor and spreading the risk. Many bettors form small syndicates of their own with other handicappers and bettors in the same financial bracket. For example, eight bettors with $100 each, or five bettors with $200 each, can bet a decent Pick 6 ticket with a chance at the big prize, and a very good chance of getting 5/6 winners.

Besides the advantage of a lower financial risk when pooling your money together with other handicappers, you can also benefit from their insights into each race. One bettor may be an expert trip handicapper. Another may be an expert on maiden races. It is extremely difficult to select six winners in a row on your own. A few insights from sharp partners can reduce the stress and uncover winners you might otherwise have missed.

A few of the bettors in the group should be seasoned handicappers who also know how to effectively structure multiple race tickets, and one or two bettors in the group should be trusted to make the final decisions on the tickets to be played. Another option is to play the Pick 6 on your own and get non-racing friends and family to invest in your ticket with the hopes of a big payday.

Slanting Pick 6 wagering odds in your favor

To slant the odds in your favor you have to be able to spot value where others cannot. And you will have to “single” (play one horse only) in some races to make sure the cost of the ticket(s) is not out of your price range. To beat the syndicate players, who can often take all horses in many of the Pick 6 races, you are going to have to find value where they cannot.

The toughest decisions you will have to make to make when playing the Pick 6 will be determining which horses you can confidently single. If you can’t find any singles in the Pick 6 you are probably better off not playing it. If you don’t feel strongly about any horse in the Pick 6, why would you spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars?

On the other hand, if you really like an 8-1 shot in a wide-open race and you feel you can single that horse, you may have found just the edge you need. Many bettors will take numerous horses in a wide-open race, leaving them weak in other legs of the Pick 6. Your high-value single allows you to take more horses in races where your fellow bettors will be weak. Simply put, if you can get your non-favored single home in a race where others have used multiple horses - you have a substantial edge.

You may also find you that have to single a 3-5 shot in one race, simply because the horse is so much the best. But while almost every Pick 6 bettor is likely to have the 3-5 single when it wins (and you should too), few will single an 8-1 shot on their ticket. Also, if you see a race in which you really dislike a morning-line favorite, play against the horse. Don’t let the morning line persuade you to throw in bad horses. If you handicap the race and think the horse looks solid at even-money that’s fine. If you handicap the race and determine the horse’s chances of winning to be more like 6-1, take a stand against the horse with your value selection(s). A losing even-money shot will knock out Pick 6 bettors in droves.

Your Pick 6 ticket should also include some longshots - these are the horses the trigger massive payoffs. Too many bettors let the morning line influence their selections and dismiss horses listed at long odds.

Every horse should be looked at in detail for a number of angles such as blinkers on, blinkers off, first and second time Lasix, winning trainer patterns, lone speed, sharp shippers, turf to dirt, track biases, post positions, speed or turf pedigrees etc. These angle plays produce numerous Pick 6 winners that many bettors either miss due to sloppy handicapping or dismiss due to high morning- line odds. Also, try not to single any horse that is coming into the race off a layoff of six months or longer. Very few trainers can have these types of horses ready to win (even though they think they can), and these horses will inevitably cave in the stretch with all your money riding on them in the last leg of the Pick 6.


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Winning the Pick 6 for under $200

An example of a playable Pick 6 ticket that comes in under $200 would be as follows:

In the first leg you like three horses - 1(at odds of 5-1), 4(2-1) and 8(3-1)
In the second leg you like the heavy favorite - 2(4-5)
In the third leg you like two horses and not the favorite - 6(12-1) and 7(3-1)
In the fourth leg you like a turf to dirt horse with speed against the even money favorite - 4(8-1)
In the fifth race you like two logical horses and a blinkers off horse - 1(2-1) 3(4-1), 9(18-1)
In the last leg, a wide-open maiden claiming race, you take all 10 horses

Your $1 Pick 6 wheel ticket would appear as:

$1 Pick 6 wheel 1,4,8 with 2 with 6,7 with 4 with 1,3,9 with all (10)
Number of combinations = 3 * 1 * 2 * 1 * 3 * all (10) = $180

In the first leg your 8 horse wins by two lengths at 3-1. In the second leg your 4-5 shot wins in a romp. In the third leg your 7 horse at 3-1 wins a photo over your 6! Still alive, but so is everyone else. Then it happens. Your 4 horse in the fourth leg comes flying up the rail to nail the favorite by a nose at 8-1. You just knocked out 40 percent of the Pick 6 bettors with your longshot single and your alive to three horses in the next race and 10 horses in the last! Things are looking pretty good! In the fifth leg your 3 horse wins at 4-1. You have all in the last leg.

Celebrate - you just got the Pick 6!

Now you need a longshot to get the big bucks. The 4 horse streaks out of the gate at 52-1, opens up three lengths and widens to take a six-length lead into the stretch. Could this really be happening? You check the tote board to make sure the odds on the frontrunner are correct. They are. Oh. My. G…

Oh, no. Here comes the favorite. The longshot is tiring. His lead is cut to four lengths in mid stretch. He’s shortening stride. His lead is cut to two lengths at the sixteenth pole. He’s done.
Wait, the favorite might be tiring too! The longshot is still in front by a length with 100 yards to go! Hold on! Hold on! The favorite nails him at the wire.

Wait. There’s a photo. It’s the 4! By half an inch! The crowd groans. You’re shaking.

The Pick 6 returns $117,000. You have the only ticket.