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Exotic Betting Strategies

The Exacta

The simplest form of all exotics wagering is the Quinella. To be successful the player is required to successfully select the first two runners past the post in any order. The Exacta is a progression on that type of wager now requiring the player to select the first two runners past the post but this time in the correct finishing order.

Because of the limited permutations associated with this type of exotic, needless to add, strategies are also somewhat limited, however, at this stage we do need to take an early look at the biggest mistake made by punters when playing the exotics. Not only does it hold true for Exacta betting but also for both Trifecta and First Four betting.

This common mistake is 'boxing' this is where the punter selects several runners to fill the placings of the particular exotic and providing those runners fill the required placings they can be in any order as the box type bet covers all the permutations. This might sound good but it is a lazy and totally inefficient way of approaching these types of bets.

The correct and most efficient way for punters to approach their exotic betting is to engage in a wagering structure known as proportional staking. Proportional staking places different bet sizes on each combination within the exotic in response to the perceived risk associated with each bet. In other words more money is placed on the combinations with favoured runners as opposed to combinations with outsiders.

Let's look at a practical example.

In this race at Ascot in W.A. in late 2015 let's say a punter wants to tie up these four runners for an outlay of a $60.00 assault on the Exacta. The runners with their prices are:

  1. Stocks $3.6
  2. Cosmic Storm $6.0
  3. Little Shadow $19.0
  4. I'm Feeling Lucky $41.00

In this case the 4 runners are boxed all ways. A $60.00 Flexi-bet should see a 500% return or 5 times the declared dividend; this is of course if two of these 4 runners are in fact first and second past the post. The result of this race was Stocks 1st Cosmic Storm 2nd.

The Exacta for this pair paid $22.50 so the punter here gets a return of $112.50 for his 500% return for a net profit $51.50 on the boxed bet. Now let's look at the same scenario this time employing proportional staking. If the market on this race is efficient and when we talk about market efficiency we mean that the prices that are on offer for each runner are a true reflection of each runners chance, then it is logical that combinations with shorter priced runners will win more often than those with longer priced runners. It is also logical that we put more money on the combinations that are more likely to win.

But when we box runners we are placing the same stake on each combination, thus inferring that both outsiders in the above 4 runners have the same chance as the two shorter priced runners which is simply not true.

4 runners in an Exacta represent 12 possible outcomes here are the outcomes of the above in order of 1 to 12 of most likely to occur on pricing probability. In the box scenario a $5.00 stake was placed on each of the 12 outcomes. Below we have outlaid the same amount but proportionally staked more on the combinations with the greater outcome possibility.

Proportional Staking
Staking Example 
  1. 1-2 - ($15)
  2. 2-1 - ($15)
  3. 1-3 - ($7)
  4. 2-3 - ($5)
  5. 1-4 - ($3)
  6. 2-4 - ($3)
  7. 3-1 - ($2)
  8. 3-2 - ($2)
  9. 4-1 - ($2)
  10. 4-2 - ($2)
  11. 3-4 - ($2)
  12. 4-3 - ($2)

The return on this proportional staking is $337.50 for a net net profit of $277.50 compared to $112.50 from boxing. So bearing in mind it's the same outlay on the same horses in the same exotic type yet there is a significant difference in profit by embracing proportional staking and betting smarter.

Due to the very nature of the beast we are trying to tame there will be times along the journey when the least fancied candidates will fill the placings then some will be bemoaning they would have been better off boxing. Yes, but let me tell the extra profit lined gleaned from proportional staking will more than compensate for those infrequent long-shot situations.

The Trifecta

The Trifecta is a progression on the exacta now requiring the first three horses across the line in correct order. Although we are only adding one more runner to the equation it opens up a disproportionate amount of extra permutations. Using a box example to take 6 runners all ways in the Exacta would cost $30.00; however it will now cost $120.00 to box the same horses in a Trifecta. The Quinella, Exacta, Trifecta and First Four are known as vertical exotics, whereas Doubles, Trebles, Quaddies and the Big Six are known as horizontal exotics. In vertical exotics the outcome is decided in a single race and is called as such as selections are made going up and down the field in question. Horizontal exotics are decided over more than one race, the Quaddie for example is decided over 4 consecutive races and hence named as we move sideways from race to race.

Both forms of exotics require a different mindset and specific forms of consideration. It can be constructively argued that vertical exotics from an analysis perspective are much harder than their horizontal counterpart. Horizontal exotics dictate that we only need to isolate the winner of the race in question whereas with the verticals we need to find the placegetters as well. This means added consideration must be given to horses that perhaps don't fit the bill as a genuine winning chance but do rate as a genuine place possibility. A runner for instance whose optimum distance range is 2000m and beyond may be coming off short freshening break in a 1400m event and although we would rightfully consider most times that other will be too slick over this distance, this runner could easily close out the race late if run to suit to pick up 3rd of if we are playing the First Fours 4th placing. So there lies the conundrum. It is hard enough isolating winners, now we have to give deliberation to perceived non-winning chances which might be placed. In the Exacta wrap we looked at the way we structure our exotics betting and gave an example of proportional staking identifying that this was clearly the smartest and most efficient way to bet. We looked at 12 individual bets and staking of each bet to optimise returns, the problem is, now that we have stepped up to the Trifecta those 12 bets have ballooned out to anything from 30 to over 100 bets which means individual staking for each bet basically becomes unmanageable for the punter.

Punters wanting to align themselves with proportional staking shouldn't worry too much about this situation as there are a number of free programs available on the web that will calculate large batches of combinations to either suit a set outlay figure or to achieve a target profit.

There are numerous strategies around Trifecta betting.

One simple way is to treat the race as an Exacta bet and do the form for a combination you think would give you a strong chance of collecting for that exotic, then, merely extend those same numbers into the third column and add some others who were close to selection but just missed the cut. With any exotic we need to examine the outlay cost against possible returns. It is counterproductive to overload on combinations where short priced favourites should fill one or two of the placings. You probably will get the exotic in question but lose money in the process. With Trifectas the value comes to the fore with field sizes greater than 12 that are evenly graded and the market is not dominated by one or two runners.

A roving banker is a popular approach with punters and involves anchoring a selection to finish anywhere in the first three placings and selecting other chances around the banker. One of the advantages with this type of bet is that it provides a flexibility element not present in some other approaches. It is possible to have more than one roving banker in any single event. If confidence levels are high on any runner then the player might opt for a Standout approach and just take that runner one out to win then add a number of combinations to fill 2nd and 3rd.

The ABC approach is another popular method where the field is broken down into respective chance groups. A - Representing genuine winning chances, B - Strong place chances and C - Best outsider chances. Combinations are then structured around this tiered approach.

With any of these approaches punters should still adopt the proportional staking model for best long term returns. Although we are against boxing we have added the chart below more from point to give the player an idea of increased costing by adding 1 runner at a time to the equation.

Simple Trifecta Boxes
Horses Boxed$1$2$3$4$5$10
3 6 12 18 24 30 60
4 24 48 72 96 120 240
5 60 120 180 240 300 600
6 120 240 360 480 600 1200
7 210 420 630 840 1050 2100
8 336 672 1008 1344 1680 3360
9 504 1008 1512 2016 2520 5040
10 720 1440 2160 2880 3600 7200
11 990 1980 2970 3960 4950 9900
12 1320 2640 3960 5280 6600 13200

The First Four

The First Four is again a further extension on previous covered Trifecta. It requires the backer to select as the name implies the first four runners past the post in order, or as someone put it, it's a Trifecta on steroids. Like its horizontal counterpart the Quaddie it holds the attraction of huge payouts. The First Four dividend on the 2012 Melbourne Cup on the NSW tote paid a record $1,467,099 for $1.00 for some lucky punter(s) who had Green Moon, Fiorente, Jakkalberry and Kelinni in that finishing order.

The strategies for this type of wager in principle do not change; we merely need to extend them to a 4th added placing. This is where things can get a bit sticky and if we take a look at chart below we can see again how steeply investments rise with the inclusion of a single runner at a time. Having a good standout selection certainly helps thus reducing the equation to 3 legs for your other combinations. Although I have plugged the power and efficiency of proportional staking, this is one exotic at times I am prepared to roll the dice and box runners behind one or two standouts. If you have a race where you can isolate some long priced runners you believe are genuine chances of running into the placings, then this is the type of scenario I'm talking about. Usually this will be in fields of 12 runners and beyond. Less than 12 runners I would adhere to the proportional staking.

There is one previous mentioned strategy that could do with some modification in First Fours to suppress outlay costs. I would shy away from roving bankers in this exotic which would cover your banking selection back to 4th placing. Do away with this and just anchor your selection to be placed anywhere in the first 3. If in a race you were to take a roving banker and 6 other selections (boxed) and bet $100.00 our return would be 20.83% of the dividend. If we do similarly but drop out 4th placing by now anchoring our selection 1st 2nd or 3rd this time our return will be 27.77%. On a $5000 First Four dividend which you see every day of the week, this equates to an extra $347.5 in winnings, alternatively we reduce our outlay cost to achieve the 20.83%. If we are confident in our anchor selection then just go for the first 3 placings and eliminate 4th for either extra winnings or reduced outlay.

Box First Four Combinations
RunnersCombinationsIncrease$20 wager%Min. Div.
4 24 0 83% $24
5 120 5 17% $120
6 360 3 6% $360
7 840 2.3 2.4% $840
8 1680 2 1.2% $1,680
9 3024 1.8 0.66% $3,024
10 5040 1.7 0.40% $5,040
11 7920 1.6 0.25% $7,920
12 11880 1.5 0.17% $11,880
13 17160 1.4 0.12% $17,160
14 24024 1.4 0.08% $24,024

You can see by this chart the spike in costing for the same amount of horses from the Trifecta chart. 7 runners all ways in the Trifecta is $210.00 for the full unit, it now climbs to $840 in the First Four.

As always the punter needs strike a balance between coverage and outlay. Poor coverage will drastically reduce your winning chances but over betting each exotic will leave you exposed to losses even when successful in selecting the required numbers for your exotic of choice. Be selective and punt smart then you'll give yourself every opportunity to cash in on the mug money that sits in the pools. If you can stay in the game it is only a matter of time before the cards fall your way and you can get a piece of one of those huge adrenaline rush dividends.