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Anatomy of a Pick 4 Payout

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Yesterday’s Pick 6 at Aqueduct, with a two-day carryover factoring in, paid a decent $67,132. The Pick 4, however, might have been the more surprising of the two payouts given the odds of the winning horses.

Below are the payouts and odds of the winners in yesterday’s Pick 4 at Aqueduct:

Race 6 – $10.40 (4/1 – 3rd choice)
Race 7 – $18.60 (8/1 – 4th choice)
Race 8 – $2.50 (1/4 – favorite)
Race 9 – $15.50 (7/1 – 4th choice)

$1 Pick Four: (5-6-1/5/9-5) Paid $1,410

If you came to the same conclusion as the betting public and believed that 1-Rereadthefootnotes was the overwhelming choice to win Race 8, you essentially turned this Pick 4 into a Pick 3. Rereadthefootnotes was hammered at the windows and went to post with the paltry odds of 1/4 and responded to the backing by easily dominating the field by six lengths.

The rest of the sequence certainly wasn’t easy, but look at the odds on the winners of the other three races: 4/1, 8/1, and 7/1. There’s nothing significantly crazy occurring; we aren’t seeing a 20/1 horse pop up in the results, nor are we seeing the longest shot on the board coming home, yet the Pick 4 still returned a solid amount. If you’ve turned a Pick 4 into a Pick 3, you could have gone something like 5x5x4 in the other three races and come up with a $100 ticket that still paid 13/1. And that’s if you throwing darts at the board. Had you been able to pare down one of those races to two or three selections and still land on the winner there would be a lot of room left to cover the others.

The point that this Pick 4 sequence illustrates isn’t that a $1,000+ payout is easy to get to, it never is. But instead it’s that the player doesn’t have to try to beat every single favorite in each race in order to get a solid payout. You can score a decent return even if you have to play an odds-on horse somewhere on the ticket.

Personally, every time I play a Pick 4 I deal with the question of how to balance the need for value in the ticket with the likelihood that a favorite is going to win at least one or two races. It’s a question that all players face on a daily basis: I want to pick the winner but I want to get paid a decent price. And while nothing is ever guaranteed as to how these sequences pay (sometimes the payouts don’t reflect the win pools at all) I think it’s good to remember that a heavy favorite won’t necessarily destroy all the value in the ticket.

A 1/4 shot wins the 3rd leg of a Pick 4 and it still pays $1,400. Why a sequence can have value even with the presence of an odds-on favorite.

Pick 3,4,6 Wagering

Wagering on the Pick 3, Pick 4 and Pick 6. (Photo Cheryl Ann Quigley / Bigstock)

A Pick 3 is when a bettor selects the winner in three consecutive races, before the first race in the sequence begins.

To win the bet, all three horses must win their race. It is similar in difficulty to hitting a Trifecta in which you attempt to the pick the winner, runner-up and third-place finisher in a race. In the Pick 3 you must come up with the winner in three consecutive races.

Most tracks have “rolling” Pick 3’s meaning you can start a three-race sequence in just about any spot on a race card. Picking three winners in a row sounds difficult, but with some sound handicapping and a little bit of luck, the rewards can be handsome.

If you play one horse in each of the three races you could invest as little as $1. But it can be real tough to hit three straight with your top pick and so it’s best to spread out your options.

If you can narrow the main contenders to three per race you could construct a ticket like this:

Leg 1: #1,#2,#3
Leg 2: #1,#2,#3
Leg 3: #1,#2,#3

The cost of this ticket is $27. A better way to construct the ticket might be to ask yourself which of the three top choices you think has the best chance of winning. Say it’s the #1 in the first leg; then perhaps you could single that horse and go deeper in the other races.

Leg 1: #1
Leg 2: #1,#2,#3,#4
Leg 3: #1,#2,#3,#4,#5

This ticket would cost $20 and if you are right hitting your single, you give yourself a real good chance of hitting the last two legs.

Pick 3’s can offer good value if you find a sequence of three races where, in your opinion, the morning line favorite is vulnerable in at least two of the races. If you can find a couple of short-price favorites you can beat, the reward will be great.

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Hitting a Pick 3 with three favorites winning is likely going to barely cost the price of the investment. It’s important to look for races where you think the most logical contenders in the race might be vulnerable.

Pick 4 Wager

The Pick 4 is a relatively new wager at many tracks, and while it is tough to come up with four winners in a row, the payoffs can be astronomical if you are successful.

At most tracks the average Pick 4 payoff is well over $1,000. If you are lucky enough to uncover a couple of longshots, a payoff of $10,000 is not out of the question.

But getting there takes an astute handicapper and a good wagering strategy. And some good luck does not hurt either.

Over the four-race sequence it helps if you can find one race that you can “single”, or use just one horse in that leg. The ability to single a race or two allows you to go deeper in the races where your opinion is not as strong.

Using 3 horses in each of the four races would cost $81.

If you can find a single, it allows you to go deeper in the other legs of the wager.

Here is an example:

Using your single with five horses in the second leg, five in the third leg, and three in the final leg costs $75.

How about finding two singles?:

Using two singles, and you have the ability to pretty much buy the other two races.

Once again you need to take a good look at the four-race sequence and determine the value of placing a wager. If you determine three of the four races are going to be won by short-priced horses, making a larger investment does not make sense. Like a Pick 3 , the key to a long-term profit is finding wagers where the most logical runners (the horses most likely to be backed by the betting public) are vulnerable.

Pick 6 Wager

The Pick 6 is the most glamorous on the wagering menu and the hardest to hit. At most tracks there is a $2 minimum wager, meaning you need a hefty bankroll to give yourself a reasonable chance of hitting it.

The Pick 6 consists of hitting six races in a row on one single ticket. There are days when not a single horseplayer solves the puzzle and the wagering pool carries over to the next day. If the wager goes several days without getting hit, the carryover pool at some tracks gets into the millions of dollars.

It’s horses racing’s version of the Lotto. Except with the Pick 6, it’s possible to eliminate some of the numbers, something you can’t do playing Powerball.

In general it’s best to save your Pick 6 bankroll for days when there is a carryover. After all, it’s free money lost by bettors in previous days.

Hitting a Pick 6 takes plenty of skill, luck, and money management.

It can be a costly wager, but it can result in a life-changing score if you are the lone horseplayer holding a winning ticket.

Can you afford it? Simply playing two horses in each race costs $128.

For most players there is a need to come up with a couple of singles. Or find a half-dozen horseplayer friends with deep pockets and form a syndicate. Instead of playing a $128 ticket yourself, find six friends with $128 each and play an $896 ticket.

If you don’t have any friends, you are going to have to rely on your handicapping to find a couple of singles. Coming up with two singles gives you the ability to go deeper in the other races where you don’t have a strong opinion.

A ticket with two singles might look like this: 1x1x3x2x5x2 = $120

Is that enough coverage? Looks like decent coverage, right?

A six-race sequence with eight horses in each race produces over a quarter million different possibilities.

Maybe you should consider finding those six friends!

Horse Racing Betting Explained

How to place a pick 3, pick 4 or pick 6 type wager at a racebook or racetrack.