Pick 4 Betting Strategies

by | Jun 21, 2013 | Horse Betting

How to Bet on Horses - Multiple-Race Wagers - Pick 4 Betting

Pick 4 betting is offered at all major racetracks and requires you to pick the winners of four consecutive races on one ticket. Like the Pick 3, the Pick 4 is one of the best value bets in racing, not only because it has its own separate betting pool, but because the payoffs can be extravagant.

Pick 4’s paying $500 to $1000 occur on a daily basis. Pick 4s paying $2,000-$5,000 occur several times a week and Pick 4s paying $10,000 or more occur often enough to make this type of bet worthy of serious consideration.

Similar to the Pick 3, the Pick 4 has only one takeout (a percentage of each dollar wagered which is removed from the betting pools to pay the racetrack and various levels of government taxes), usually in the range of 20-25 percent, applied to its betting pool before the payoffs are calculated. This one-time takeout allows you to skirt the individual takeouts that would be applied to separate win bets on each of the races in the Pick 4. Like other multiple-race bets, the Pick 4 gives you a shot at finding good betting value on otherwise tough race cards loaded with short fields and low-priced favorites.

For example, if you think a horse has a 50 percent chance of winning a race, a $2 win bet on the horse would have to pay at least $4 and preferably more to represent good value. But because of the takeout applied to the win bet and the fact that the public often overbets these types of horses, the horse is more likely paying $3.20 to $3.80, which represents a poor value underlay - and thus no win bet. But while that horse may be poor value as a win proposition, it can still have value in a Pick 4 bet, partially due to the one-time takeout and partially due to the fact that the public may not bet the horse to the same degree in the Pick 4 - and the fact that the public must also select the correct horses to win the remaining races in the Pick 4.

And even if a short-priced horse does win one leg of the Pick 4, the payoff can still be substantial depending on the horses that win the remaining three legs. An additional edge is the fact that the Pick 4 generally includes some of the better races on the card, which favors sharp handicappers able to find value and combine the correct horses properly - something that lazy bettors will not or cannot do on a regular basis.

Types of Pick 4 Bets

The $1 minimum Pick 4 wheel offered by most tracks makes it affordable for the average bettor to tie up numerous horses without having to spend a fortune.

A $1 Pick 4 wheel combining horses 1,2 to win the first leg, with horses 4,5,6 to win the second leg, with horses 3,6,7 to win the third leg, and horses 9,10 to win the fourth leg, represents 36 possible combinations (2 horses * 3 horses * 3 horses * 2 horses) at a cost of $36 and would appears as:

$1 Pick 4 wheel 1,2 with 4,5,6 with 3,6,7 with 9,10 = $36

A straight Pick 4 that includes one horse in each leg can also be bet for a minimum of $2 at most tracks. For example, a $2 straight Pick 4 selecting horse 2 to win the first leg, horse 5 to win the second leg, horse 6 to win the third leg and horse 9 to win the fourth leg would appears as:

$2 straight Pick 4 - 2 with 5 with 6 with 9 = $2

Profitable and Unprofitable Pick 4 Wagering Scenarios

The most profitable scenarios regarding the Pick 4 occur when you have identified weak favorites in the first two legs. The majority of bettors like to be alive after the first leg of the Pick 4 and they often over bet combinations that include the favorites in the first two legs. If you can get the favorite beat in the first leg or two of the Pick 4 with one of your value plays you are usually on your way to a good payoff.

The best payoffs obviously occur when favorites do not win any of the races in the Pick 4 and excellent payoffs can occur even when second-favorites win in combination with medium-priced horses. Combinations of medium-priced winners will pay much more than they should. Good payoffs can also be had when two of the four Pick 4 races appear wide open on paper and lack heavy favorites.

The worst payoffs occur when favorites win more than one of the races in the Pick 4, but even then occasional monster payoffs result. At the 2004 Breeders’ Cup you could have scored to the tune of $23,395.60 in the late Pick 4 by wheeling two logical horses in two of the races with all the horses in the remaining two wide-open races for only $64. Of course the Breeders’ Cup is the biggest betting day of the year, the pools are huge and the handicapping is as tough as it gets, so the payoffs are generally higher - but you get the point. Playing a couple of singles in the Pick 4 with all the horses in the remaining two legs is neither expensive nor out of the question.

The Pick 4 is most attractive when you really like a number of horses you know the public won’t bet, or when you really hate horses the public is certain to overbet. If you like non-favorites to win two or three of the races in the Pick 4, you have found yourself an excellent betting opportunity. Now you just have structure your bet in a way that ensures maximum profit if your top selections win.

Betting the Pick 4 for Maximum Profit - Multiple Ticket Method

Wagering strategy and ticket structuring is very important when playing the Pick 4. One of the best Pick 4 wagering strategies is to find one key horse in each leg and tie them up with your key horses plus value-play contenders in the other three legs. If more than one of your key selections wins, you have a chance to cash multiple tickets. For example:

In the first leg of the Pick 4 horse 2 (4-1) is your top selection. Horses 3 and 4 are contenders.
In the second leg of the Pick 4 horse 6 (5-1) is your top selection. Horses 4 and 7 are contenders.
In the third leg of the Pick 4 horse 1 (2-1) is your top selection. Horses 9 and 10 are contenders.
In the fourth leg of the Pick 4 horse 8 (7/2) is your top selection. Horses 2,5 and 6 are contenders.

If you were to do what most unsophisticated bettors do and bet a $1 Pick 4 wheel combing all your selections on one ticket as follows: 2,3,4 with 4,6,7 with 1,9,10 with 2,5,6,8 = $108, you would cash one winning ticket if one of your horses won each of the races in the Pick 4.

Assuming you are a good handicapper with an edge on the public, you could structure your Pick 4 bets on several separate tickets - giving you the opportunity to cash multiple tickets if your top selections win, as follows:

$1 Pick 4 wheel 2 with 4,6,7 with 1,9,10 with 2,5,6,8 = $36
$1 Pick 4 wheel 2,3,4 with 6 with 1,9,10 with 2,5,6,8 = $36
$1 Pick 4 wheel 2,3,4 with 4,6,7 with 1 with 2,5,6,8 = $36
$1 Pick 4 wheel 2,3,4 with 4,6,7 with 1,9,10 with 8 = $27
$2 Straight Pick 4 2 with 6 with 1 with 8 = $2

Total Cost of Multiple Pick 4 Tickets: $137

Using the multiple ticket method and using your top selection once in each leg of the Pick 4, you would cash a $6 Pick 4 ticket if all your top selections won. This is in contrast to cashing only a $1 ticket if you had combined all your contenders on one ticket for $108.

Assuming you have all the horses in a Pick 4 that pays $500 for a $2 ticket, you would collect $250 for your $1 wheel ticket costing $108, even if all your top selections won. Using the multiple ticket method for an extra $29 you would collect as follows:

$250 if one of your main selections won with your other contenders.
$500 if two of your main selections won with your other contenders.
$750 if three of your main selections won with your other contenders.
$1500 if four of your main selections won ($1 ticket four times, plus your $2 straight ticket.)

What a difference $29 can make.

Related:
Pick 3 Wagering Strategies: Winning Pick 3 Betting

How to Bet on Horses

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