Wagering

Having the right wagering plan, which will enable you to construct the right wagers is just as important as coming up with the right horses. And just as difficult. There may actually be more good handicappers in this world than there are good bettors. Why? One reason is because there are so many different scenarios we are confronted with and so many possible wagers to choose from.

Thirty or so years ago the options were fewer in number. Win, place, show and daily double were about it. Now, as we all know, there's a wide array of different wagers available to us for almost every race. And it can be confusing to say the least.

We have all heard it and probably experienced it. Someone complaining that they loved the horse that just rolled in at $26.00 but used it in exactas only, maybe with the heavy favorite who ran a clunker. Or another who played to win on a 2-1 shot and didn't play the straight exacta they liked that clicked at $75.00.

It sure is simple to say what the correct wagers were after the race is over, but the trick is to make the right wagering decisions before the race has been run, and that is not always so easy.

The plan I use focuses on what I consider to be the highest percentage plays, the win bet and the exacta. Obviously, the win bet has a much higher hit rate than the exacta, but I believe that to stay in the black we must catch some "scores" at least once in a while.

And that can be most easily accomplished via the exacta and also the trifecta wager. In order to play either, however, I will need the proper odds and the proper return to justify the extra risk. If I don't get that value, I will focus only on the win end.

Following is a wagering plan that I use myselfand I thought may be of interest to many serious players. What I did was print outthis plan and laminate it (for $3) so I can keep it in front of me whenever I am ready toconstruct wagers.

Wagering Plan

With odds showing on the board, for each and every race I'm thinking of playing:

1.) Ask the question "do I have an edge?" If yes, proceed. If no, skip the race.

2.) Ask the question "do I have value?" If yes, proceed. If no, skip the race.

3.) Examine carefully all of the wagering options for this race.

4.) Use the slot wagering strategy for exotic wagers.

5.) Can this be classified as a right situation? What are the right wagers for this situation?

Edge - ask the question "do I have an edge?" Is this a case that is clearly, without nagging reservations, one in which I feel strongly about my contender(s)? If there is any doubt lingering in my mind, I must skip the race.

To feel strongly about one or more contenders, it or they must in some way stand out above the others, such as being a "move" play or having a significant final fraction advantage, or both. To maintain a positive ROI I must be super-selective and feel completely comfortable with this race as a playable one that answers in the affirmative the first 2 questions of edge and value.

Value - ask the question "does this race present enough value?" Playing the thoroughbreds with the intention of making money and maintaining a positive ROI (as opposed to playing for "action" or recreation) is a speculative venture, much like investing in stocks or commodities. The potential return on my money has to be worth the risk.

Establishing Value Lines is extremely useful indetermining value situations. If a win proposition(or propositions)has near-post odds of greaterthan my value line, the win bet is a go.

Wagering Options - once I have answered "yes" to the questions of edge and value, I'm ready to proceed with construction of wagers. I must examine a checklist of all available wagers to make sure I come up with the most appropriate for the situation at hand. For example, if the race in question were the 9th at Belmont Park, my checklist would include: win, win-place, exacta, trifecta, and superfecta as potential plays. I would then structure wagers according to the situation, which would include field size, number of contenders and preference from among the contenders.

Slot Wagering Strategy - if exotic wagers - exacta, trifecta, or superfecta are part of the wagering plan, then I will fill the win/place/show/4th slots with the contenders according to preference for each.

Right Situation and Wagers - is this a "right" situation, and if so, what wager(s) fit(s) this particular situation?

Right Situations

Small field - less than 7 entries - maximum of 3 contenders and no periphery plays

Mid-size field - 7-8 entries - maximum of 3 contenders and 1 periphery play

Large field - 9-12 or more entries - maximum of 3 contenders and 2 periphery plays

Small Field

3 contenders - preference of 1 over the others - bet the top choice to win at my value line or higher; key in 2 slots in the exacta and/or 2 or 3 slots in the trifecta (1/2-3, and lesser on2-3/1 for the exactas; 1/2-3-4/2-3-4, and lesseron 2-3-4/1/2-3-4, and 2-3-4/2-3-4/1 for the trifectas if playable)

3 contenders - preference of 2 over the other - decide whether to bet to win on higher odds of top 2 picks at my value line or higher, or both if odds on each are minimum 8-1; key both in top 2 slots in exacta and/or trifecta plays as described above

3 contenders - like all equally - bet highest odds to win providingthat horse is at or above my value line; box all in exacta if all 6 combinations pay at least $35; box all in the trifecta only if the odds of all 3 contenders total at least 15

Mid-size and Large Fields

The same basic process is used for these situations as for the small field situations. There should be no more than 3 contenders and 1 or 2 periphery plays, respectively. Review and decide on the proper wagers, including the win wager, and which of the contenders should be in which slots.


Final Reminders:

In the case of having 1 standout selectionfrom among the contenders in any situation,I will not play exactas or trifectas unless all exactaprobable payoffs are at least $35.00. Ifthe minimums are at least $35.00 I will play to win at my value line or higheras well as consider playing exactas and/or trifectas; if not, I will play only to win (or win and place at 15-1 or higher).

When encountering value situations, including the one just described above with 1 standout, or anyvalue situation in which the probable exactapayoffs are all $35.00 or more, I will play this race alone and not useit to kick off a "future" bet such as a Daily Double or Pick 3. I will collect any payoffs on this type of situation and not risk"parlaying" any of the profits ontoanother race.

I will exercise patience and discipline when constructingany and all wagers.

I will adhere precisely to this entireWagering Plan for every race I have underconsideration and by doing so I will make thecorrect wagers each and every time.


With this wagering plan you now have the 2nd of the 2 critical components needed for success at the thoroughbreds. If you want to add the 1st and foremost part of theequation, which is how to come up with value plays, I stongly advise you totake a test drive of my new book called "Calibration Handicapping - The Next Level."

You can read more on this book about why horseswin races byclicking here.




Return to Handicapping Tips & Insights

Free-Horseracing-Info Home Page

Email Jim