Racing Post Betting Guide: Graeme Rodway on pool betting
Racing Post tipster Graeme Rodway shares his wisdom on how best to tackle the various pool bets in the Racing Post Betting Guide. To buy click here
Pool betting is a simple concept that was introduced in Britain with the Littlewoods football pools competition back in 1923. Every player contributes a stake that goes into the pool and then makes selections on an outcome or series of outcomes. The pool, minus deductions made by the operator, is then divided among those who have made the correct selections.
Until recently the Tote was the only bookmaker licensed to provide pool betting on horseracing in Britain, but their exclusive licence expired on July 12, 2018 and since then all bookmakers have been able to provide that service subject to holding a pool betting operating licence. The Tote remains the leading provider, but there are other firms springing up to challenge with Colossus Bets among the main competitors. They offer a similar range of pool betting options on British and Irish horse racing and give the customer the opportunity to cash out after each leg of the bet, a facility that is currently not available with the Tote.
Pool betting is the only type of betting legally available in many countries with France a prime example. The Pari Mutuel is the way of placing traditional win, place and each-way bets across The Channel but, while those types of pool bets are also available on British racing, the reality is that, in the UK, the majority of those wagers are placed at fixed odds with traditional bookmakers. In Britain, pool betting is more commonly used by punters to place bets that give the chance to win a large amount of money for just a small layout. That’s the big appeal.
The best examples of such bets are the Exacta (picking the first two in a race), Trifecta (first three), Jackpot/Scoop6 (picking the winner of each of the six nominated races on a single day) and arguably the most popular pool bet available at every British meeting is the Placepot (picking a horse to be placed in the first six races). In this chapter I’ll aim to give you a brief rundown of my strategies and I’ll also run through the ins-and-outs of the spread markets too.
Spread markets aren’t quite as simple as pool betting. The bookmaker will provide two quotes to create a spread: a price at which you can buy (go higher) than their quote and a price at which you can sell (go lower) than their quote and you win or lose money according to the margin by which the value of a particular outcome varies from those quotes.
This bet offers the chance to win without even backing a winner. You need to find a horse to be placed in races 1-6 on a racecard. However, it isn’t as easy as it looks and the average Placepot dividend is £407 to a £1 stake. If you get really lucky, the bet has the potential for a huge payout and the record dividend stands at £91,774.50 for just a quid.
If you choose two horses in every race it will equal 64 lines (2x2x2x2x2x2), but, my preferred strategy is to have at least one race in which I include just one horse, the banker. That helps keep the cost of the perm down and opens up the chance to include three, or even more runners, in another race in the bet.
My Placepot banker will usually be the most solid, consistent horse on the card, a horse who can be relied upon to run its race. I’ll go through the form and try to find a runner who has been placed in at least 50 per cent of its races, if not more.
You can pick more than one horse in each race and perm up selections to give yourself a better chance. That is also the case with the Jackpot and Scoop6 although the more perms you choose, the more expensive the bet will cost, but the greater the likelihood of a win.
Beware not to play too safe, however. Small dividends are also common and if the favourite is placed in every race the bet will almost always pay less than £20, and in most cases less than £10. The best way to bolster the dividend if you fancy all the favourites is to include the unnamed favourite along with your selection. Therefore, if your original selection goes off favourite you’ll double your perm. It also means that if the favourite creeps into third you’ll have it covered along with your selection. Using the unnamed favourite to bolster your perms and increase the amount of winning lines makes sense on a day when the market leaders look solid.
The other way to try and bolster the dividend is to leave out the market leader in at least two of the races and the shorter price the favourite, the better. I’ll often look for races in which the favourite is forecast to go off at shorter than 2-1 and then include two or maybe three against the market leader, in the hope it is unplaced. This is a risky strategy, but you don’t want to be sharing the pool with everyone and fielding against the favourite is the quickest and easiest way to eliminate some of the competition. And that should be the aim of the game in a pool bet.
This bet runs on the same races as the Placepot but requires you to pick the first six winners at a meeting nominated by the Tote. The minimum stake is £1 and multiples are allowed but at no lower than 50p. That makes it tough to keep the bet affordable if playing multiple lines.
This is another bet where I favour the approach of having at least one banker. With a minimum unit stake of 50p, perms can quickly become expensive and sticking with one banker and surrounding that selection with several well-covered legs is the way to go.
Finding the Jackpot banker is a little different to the Placepot. The Jackpot banker really needs to be the most likely winner on the card and, for all that everyone will probably be looking for the same, I’m happy to take a chance on getting a result in one of the other races in order to try and bolster the dividend, rather than taking a chance on the banker. I’ll often stick with one of the shortest priced runners on the card, bank on it, and move on quickly.
Don’t play it too safe – you might end up winning but there is a good chance you’ll get back less than your outlay
If the shortest-priced horses on the card do go in then the dividend will suffer so don’t be afraid to stick in a few outsiders in some of the other legs. Because only the winner counts, a massive outsider can often prove a skinner, taking out all bar a few units and leaving the potential for a massive payout. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to put in four or five different horses in the more competitive races in the hope of getting the results you need.
One of the toughest of all the horse racing pool bets, the Jackpot offers the chance for a massive reward but you will probably need plenty of perms to have a realistic shot at it and even then the likelihood of success isn’t high. Plenty of luck will be required along the way.
The financial markets and sports betting tends to be where spread betting comes into its own, but firms like Sporting Index and Spreadex offer markets on horse racing and I like to simplify the task. They are giving you a value and asking you if the result is going to be higher or lower than their quoted values. Buy and sell equals higher or lower.
Spread firms will offer an index. In races with 12 or more runners they will offer 50pts to the winner, 30pts to the runner-up, 20pts to the third and 10pts to the fourth. It’s usually 50:25:10 for any other race although there are exceptions, the Grand National being the big one.
They will then give each horse a quote, so for example the favourite might be quoted at 20-23. That means you need to choose higher than 23 or lower than 20. So if you think the favourite will finish in the first two you’ll be a buyer, but out of the first two you’ll sell.
You then win or lose the unit stake times the difference. So if you’ve bought the favourite at 23 and he finishes only third and is awarded 20, you’ll lose three times your unit stake. If he were to win and be awarded 50pts, you’d win 27 times your unit stake. Beware of the other side though, if he finishes out of the first four and makes up 0, you lose 23 times your stake.
There are several other options available including match bets, where one horse is pitted against another in a match, and you can buy or sell one horses supremacy over the other in lengths. Daily markets encompassing every race on a single meeting, or even day, are also on offer with any number of betting options, but you’ll need to be an experienced spread punter and have a serious knowledge of figures before venturing into those murky waters. Playing the percentages is key.
A similar bet to the Jackpot in that you are required to pick six winners. The significant difference being the six races are selected across the cards on a Saturday, usually made up of a combination of the most competitive on the day and those shown on terrestrial television.
Add to that a minimum unit stake of £2 and the bet becomes an extremely expensive one if you wish to select multiple perms, which is the only realistic way of finding six winners.
Given the high minimum unit, the best way to play it is with two bankers and coverage on the other four races. I attempt to turn the bet into a double, trying to pick two certain winners and banking on them, then filling the other four races with as many horses as my budget allows.
How you find your bankers isn’t easy as the races selected for this bet rarely contain short-priced favourites. But there should still be a couple of races that contain a clear favourite, so try to find the least-competitive races of the six in the bet and bank in those.
Even if all the favourites win and the results are favourable the payout is still likely to be relatively high given the competitive nature of the bet and there is a bonus pool into which all win fund winners are entered for the following week. To win a share of the bonus fund, you’ll need to pick the winner of the nominated bonus race as selected by Tote.
Should you fail to find all six winners, there is also a consolation place fund which operates in the same way as a Placepot. If you have a selection placed in each of the six races you can scoop the place pool, but if you’re playing this bet you’re probably in it for the lottery style windfall.
Two of the most popular pool bets that don’t include multiple legs or races. Instead we just need to concentrate on one race and find either the first two home (Exacta) or first three past the post (Trifecta). We can use perms effectively here too by selecting several horses.
You can choose your horses in the correct order or any order and I’d usually perm my runners up to come home in any order. It’s hard enough to predict the winner of each race let alone trying to come up with the second and third as well, in the correct order.
Perm them up to make it easier and I usually look to get between four and five runners on my side if the race is competitive enough to allow that approach. Four horses in a Trifecta is 24 lines, five is 60 lines, and four in an Exacta is 12 lines, while five comes out at 20. It sounds like a lot but I’ll be aiming at races with between 15-20 runners in which the pool is strong. That way there is a lot of competition and the payout should cover the layout. Well in theory.
This is where we can apply some Placepot strategy. Look for consistent horses who can be relied upon to run their races and then surround them with runners who are well handicapped but less reliable. That way we have a couple of shots at a big price winner to bolster the dividend, while also putting in the more solid options alongside them with the places in mind.
We can apply this strategy to both Exacta and Trifecta but always remember the more perms you take the better the result you are going to need in order to make a profit and, like all pool bets, it doesn’t pay to play it too safe. If you want to play the favourite I’d suggest perming the market leader with some of the big outsiders in the field in an attempt to boost the dividend.
Years of experience tell me that pools can be the most fun and rewarding bets but also the most agonising. If you take this route then you’re going to end up with any number of hard luck stories. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve reached the last leg of the Jackpot or Placepot only to be denied a potentially life-changing windfall at the final obstacle. It’s so frustrating.
However, when you do hit the big one it’ll more than likely be enough to cover the majority of the losses and that’s the great appeal of pool betting. That chance to win big money from just a small outlay is something that generally isn’t on offer with the majority of bookmakers.
Spread Betting is for the thrill-seekers but if you’re going to make it pay you need an iron grip on the numbers. I’ve always felt this type of betting is more of a maths challenge than anything else. Can you play the percentages well enough to make it pay?
To sum up, it’s hard enough to find one winner, let alone the several needed to land some of these exotic bets and you will need to be tough to survive some long losing runs. But the rewards are there if you can stick to your guns and not let the agonising losses get to you.