Thursday, May 6, 2010

Which bets are the right bets?


As I asked myself which bets are the right bets, I came to realize I didn't know the answer. But I decided to try to figure it out.

Generally horse racing bets (plays) are either "Horizontal" (picking winners in consecutive races) or "Vertical" (picking horses in exact order of one race as they cross the finish line). This blog post will focus on Vertical plays.

Here are the main types of vertical plays:

(1) Win - The first horse to cross the line first is declared the winner. This is a relatively simple Vertical play.

(2) Exacta - Pick the winner AND the second place horse, in exact order.

(3) Trifecta - Pick the top THREE finishers, in exact order.

(4) Superfecta - Pick the top FOUR finishers, in exact order.

(A DIME Superfecta is a Superfecta wager made on a dime per combination basis)

I reviewed the results of 52 races run over Kentucky Derby weekend - April 29 through May 1 from Churchill Downs that had superfecta wagering (30 races), and April 30 through May 2 at Belmont Park that had superfecta wagering (22 races), for a sample of 52 races. To compare the results on the same basis, I made a few assumptions:

(A) The base wager on every race would be $12 ($12 to win on every race, compared to a $4 exacta key over 3 horses, compared to a $1 trifecta play with 12 combinations, compared to a "Dime super" with 120 combinations).

(B) The returns for each scenario in (A) would be added up, then adjusted for degree of difficulty - Example: exactas are harder to hit than win bets, trifectas are harder to hit than exactas. It will be assumed that trifectas and dime supers have the same degree of difficulty.

Results (total adjusted return):
$12 to win on each of the 52 winners = $4,119.0

$4 exacta (wheeled over 3 horses), every race successful = $6,306.48

$1 trifecta (wheeled over 3 horses, then 4 horses), every race successful = $7,948.82

Dime super, every race successful = $5,392.742

Note the trifecta had the highest return by a fair margin, then the exacta wheel play. Win wagering had the lowest return. This indicates that exacta and trifecta wagers are the best Vertical plays to focus on.

When should a player decide to play the trifecta or the exacta? Using the trifecta, the payoffs are greatly reduced if the favorite wins, so the best time to play the trifecta is then the favorite is not your top selection. The exacta should be used if the favorite is not expected to be in the top two positions, OR the player has a very strong opinion on which horses will complete the 1-2 finish.

There was a strong correlation on when to play the superfecta - when the player thinks the favorite will finish out of the TOP FOUR POSITIONS. Even a favorite running 3rd or 4th can absolutely kill the superfecta payoff. If the favorite figures to finish in the top 4, try the trifecta instead, as the trifecta will usually pay better than the Dime super.

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