One of the numerous misconceptions about pari-mutuel betting is that an exotic wager, like a trifecta, or pick six or superfecta, is the only path to a truly successful day at the races.
While “success” might carry a different meaning to a variety of people, so long as you’re not looking for a means to early retirement or to finance an 80-day around-the-world cruise, simple win, place and show bets can indeed hold the key to a profitable day.
Yes, even show bets, as meager and even pedestrian as they might sound.
Look at it this way, placing a $2 show bet and getting $2.60 back translates into a 30 percent profit on the initial investment in a matter of minutes, which in some financial markets would be create bedlam. Need we point out how many centuries it might take to amass a 30 percent return on your savings account at the local bank?
Of course, in actual dollars and cents we’re only talking about cents, which will not even cover a Big Mac these days.
But rather than turn your nose down and chase $60 or $600 payoffs in the exotics, dabbling in the win, place and show pools can be a rewarding experience if it’s done with the proper amount of insight and aggressiveness – such as parlaying your wagers.
A parlay wager is basically a “let it ride” bet. You place an initial bet, then roll all of the winnings into another wager. Do it successfully three or four times and you might be surprised at how fast your money can grow, even with $2.60 or $3.40 payoffs.
To illustrate, let’s use Thursday’s results at Saratoga and imagine that you liked Superestrella, the 3-1 second choice in the fifth race, Thunderous Lady, the 3-2 favorite in the seventh and Dan and Sheila, the 5-2 favorite in the eighth race. Putting together a parlay of say $5 to win, $10 to place and $20 to show on those three would have been wise – wise because all three horses won.
Now keeping in mind that only $35 was invested, let’s breakdown the return. The $5 win parlay started with an $8 return (for $2) on Superestrella which added up to $20. The $20 on Thunderous Lady ($5.10) brought back $51 and putting the entire wad on Dan and Sheila ($7.20) turned the seed of $5 into a towering $183.60 beanstalk.
Meanwhile, the place and show parlay also clicked. The $10 place bet, after seemingly small payoffs of $3.20, $3.30 and $4.20 was worth roughly $55. The $20 show parlay, with payoffs of 2.40, $2.90 and $3.40, returned about $58.
Put it all together and a $35 wager on three relatively easy horses to pick out paid around $296. That’s a profit of $261 which means your initial stake grew by eight times.
To me, that’s a nice payday for a bet that has some built-in protection. Even if one of the horses finished second, you’d get back $113 for the place and show parlays and make $78 on the deal. In the worst case scenario for cashing, if you only connected on the show parlay, you’d walk away $23 ahead, which beats the empty-handed feeling most pick six wagers can leave you with.
Like any wager, odds will impact the payoffs. Match a trio of 1-2 favorites, and you might be lucky to double your money, if you hit all three bets. Add a $15 winner to the mix and you could get more than $500.
Best of all, for a newcomer, the parlay strategy has merit because it teaches someone to focus their wagering on the horses they like best. The best strategy in putting together a parlay is looking over the entire card and using the two or three or maybe even four horses you like best, which develops discipline in a fledgling handicapper. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than siphoning away your bankroll on horses early on the card that you have lukewarm interest in and winding up with only a few crumpled dollars in your pocket when the horses you really like at the end of the card show up.
As good as all this sounds, parlays do indeed carry a measure of risk. To be successful in them, you have to be lucky several times, not just once. Being able to cash as long as your horse finishes in the top three, though, is a pretty nice safety valve.
It may not move you into a different tax bracket, but sometimes a simple and fairly safe approach to wagering can be quite profitable and fun, too.
You can let it ride on that.