Understanding Betting on Horses

Understanding Betting on Horses and Exotic Wagering

by Kenneth Strong of Predictem.com

Infancy of exotic wagering on horseracing means big profits for sharp bettors and handicappers who can properly structure multi-horse and multi-race exotic bets

Betting on horseracing was simple 30-40 years ago when the only choice you had was straight bets (win, place and show). It was even easier hundreds of years ago when winning was all that counted. You’ve got a horse - I’ve got a horse - I bet my horse can beat your horse. You only bet to win.

As racing became more modernized in the early 20th century, place and show betting were added to the wagering menu, allowing for those of lesser means to make safer yet lower paying bets on horses to finish second or third. Finally, the Daily Double emerged, an exotic wager requiring you to pick the winners of two consecutive races.

The sparse wagering menu remained the same at racetracks for decades, until horse racing finally got its act together (albeit late and after losing thousands of customers) in the face of stiff competition from casinos and newly legalized forms of government gambling such as slot machines and state-run lotteries.

Exactas, which required you to pick the first two finishers in a race in exact order, and Quinellas, which required you to pick the first two finishers in a race in any order, were the first of the new exotic wagers added to many track wagering menus in an effort to spice up potential payoffs and compete with other forms of gambling. These two wagers were commonplace at many tracks by the 1980’s.

The 1980’s also ushered in the Pick 6, a multi-race wager that required you to pick the winners of six consecutive races on one ticket. The Pick 6 was followed by the Pick 3 and Win 4, which required you to pick the winners of three or four consecutive races on one ticket. The Pick 3 and Win 4 gave bettors with smaller bankrolls a chance at the large potential payoffs previously available only to Pick 6 players.

Trifectas, which required you to pick the first three finishers in a race in exact order, became popular in the 1990’s and are now commonplace at every track on almost every race. Then came Superfectas, which offered the lure of huge payouts for picking the first four finishers in a race in exact order.

Twenty years ago, straight bets probably accounted for approximately 65 percent of all wagers made at the racetrack, while limited exotic wagering opportunities accounted for 35 percent of all wagering. Today the situation is reversed.

With Exactas, Quinellas, Trifectas and Superfectas available on almost every race at some tracks along with early and late Daily Doubles, rolling Pick 3s, multiple Win 4’s and maybe even a daily Pick 6, exotic wagering and its ever-present potential for large and sometimes life-changing payouts, now probably accounts for 65 percent of all money wagered on horseracing.

Perhaps most intriguing about the above scenario is the fact that while the public has proven over hundreds of thousands of races that they can consistently pick the winner of any individual race 33 percent of the time at a slight loss, they still haven’t quite figured out how to properly structure their exotic wagers. As a result, some exotic betting combinations pay much less than they should, while others pay much more than they should. The trick is to find the latter.

Multi-horse and multi-race betting is still in its infancy and as such it requires much more thought and effort than simple win betting. This has resulted in a proliferation of lazy exotic wagering strategies such as boxes and wheels that weigh all horses equally with regards to their chances of winning or finishing in a certain position in a race. These lazy bets produce inaccuracies in the wagering pools with regards to value, which in turn provide exceptional opportunities and potential windfalls for superior handicappers who know how to properly structure their exotic bets.

But that’s another story.