Nov 28 2014

Pk3/4/5/6 Mathematics And The “MKS” Wagering Strategy

Pick-3 Ticket

The mathematics for computing the cost of Pick-3, Pick-4, Pick-5, and even Pick-6 tickets is actually fairly simple. The more complicated task is determining which horses you are going to include on these tickets and in what dollar increment you are going to make your wagers.  Also, in the case of Pick-3 wagers, determining which sequence of three races is optimal for making a wager.  Most tracks offer “rolling” Pick-3 wagers, meaning that you can start a Pick-3 on any race, as long as there are two more races following that race.

However, Pick-4, Pick-5, and Pick-6 opportunities exist only on a specific sequence of races that is determined by the race track.  For example, many tracks offer an early Pick-4, a late Pick-4, and a single Pick-5 and/or Pick-6.  If there are ten races, the early Pick-4 might be on races 2 through 5, the late Pick-4 on races 7 through 10, and a Pick-6 on races 5 through 10.  You have to look at the program to determine exactly what wagers are available on each race.

Before we get into the mathematics, remember that in any Pick-X sequence, we refer to each race in the sequence as a “Leg.”  So, in a Pick-3 sequence that starts on Race 7, the first leg is Race 7, the 2nd leg is Race 8, and the third and final leg is Race 9.  The same notion applies to other Pick-X plays, with the addition of one or more legs.

The simple answer to the math question is to compute the number of combinations in play and then multiply by the dollar increment of the wager.  Let’s consider a Pick-3 play and assume you like three horses in the first leg, two horses in the second leg, and four horses in the third leg. The total number of combinations is calculated as follows:

Pick-3:   3 x 2 x 4 = 24 total Combinations.

If you are making $2 wagers, then your total cost would be 24 x $2 = $48 ticket.

Most tracks offer minimum bets for Pick-X wagers less than $2. In fact, many offer wagers as low as 50-cents. So, in the above example:

24 combinations x $0.50 = $12 ticket.

Every track is different regarding the minimum wagers they offer to horseplayers.  Some allow 50-cent Pick-4 wagers, but $1 Pick-3 wagers. Some allow 50-cent wagers on all but Pick-6 wagers. There is a wide variety of minimum wagers out there, so make sure you check before putting together your first Pick-X ticket.

Obviously, the more races involved in a Pick-X series, the greater the number of combinations.  For example, extending the above example to a Pick-4 sequence and adding a wide-open fourth leg with 6 possible winning horses, results in the following:

Pick-4: 3 x 2 x 4 x 6 = 144 total Combinations.

If you are making $2 wagers, then your total cost would be 144 x $2 = $288 ticket.

You can see, the more races, the more combinations, the greater the ticket cost. So, how can you make them affordable and still give yourself a chance of cashing a winning ticket?

As mentioned in prior articles, a good place to start is by reading Steve Crist’s book, Exotic Betting: How to make Multihorse, Multirace Bets that Win Racing’s Biggest Payoffs.  He has many creative approaches, including his famed ABC classification system that is employed by many Pick-X players.

In this article we offer something a little simpler, but still effective called the “MKS” Wagering Strategy.  “M” stands for “main” ticket, “K” is for a “key” ticket, and “S” stands for multiple “saver” tickets.

Let’s consider a Pick-4 example and assume there is a 50-cent minimum bet available.  The following chart details the four legs with our “Main” contenders.

Leg 1 Leg 2 Leg 3 Leg 4
1,3,5 2,4 1,2,3,4 2,4,6,7,8,9

Out of the horses included in our “Main” ticket, let’s identify the “Key” selections, or the horses that we feel are the most likely to win.

Leg 1 Leg 2 Leg 3 Leg 4
1,3 2,4 1,4 6,9

Finally, we identify some “Saver” horses not included on our main contender list, but we think maybe … just maybe they have a shot to win.  We will explain below how we utilize these horses.

Leg 1 Leg 2 Leg 3 Leg 4
7,8 5 6 none

Using the above selections, now we will create our Pick-4 tickets as follows:

Ticket Leg 1 Leg 2 Leg 3 Leg 4 Combos Units Ticket Cost
Main 1,3,5 2,4 1,2,3,4 2,4,6,7,8,9 3 x 2 x 4 x 6 = 144 50-cents $72.00
Keys 1,3 2,4 1,4 6,9 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 16 $1.50 $24.00
Saver 1 7,8 2,4 1,4 6,9 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 16 50-cents $8.00
Saver 2 1,3 5 1,4 6,9 2 x 1 x 2 x 2 = 16 50-cents $4.00
Saver 3 1,3 2,4 6 6,9 2 x 2 x 1 x 2 = 16 50-cents $4.00
Total Cost $112.00

So let’s translate the above tickets into a common sense explanation.  The “Main” ticket spreads out over all of the horses that we feel are true contenders.  The “Keys” ticket focuses on the contenders that we favor most of all.  This augments our “Main” ticket and effectively bumps up our payout to a full $2 ticket  if our handicapping is good.  The “Saver 1” ticket covers our long shots in Leg 1 with our Key horses in Legs 2,3,4.  The “Saver 2” ticket covers our long shot in Leg 2 with our Key horses in Legs 1,3,4.  And the “Saver 3” ticket covers our long shot in Leg 3 with the Key horses in Legs 1,2,4.

The “Saver” tickets allow us to cash a winning Pk4 ticket if one of our Saver horses manages to win, as long as one of our Key horses wins in all three of the other legs of the Pick-4 sequence.  This makes our selection of “Key” horses important not just from the standpoint of increasing our payout on the “Keys” ticket, but giving us a chance when one of our “Saver” horses manages to win.

This overall “MKS Strategy” keeps our ticket costs affordable, while rewarding us extra if our Key horses win, and allowing us a chance to cash if one of our Saver horses win.  Of course, if your budget allows for a larger investment, you can bump up the Units to whatever level you feel comfortable in playing.


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By Neal Benoit

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3 comments on “Pk3/4/5/6 Mathematics And The “MKS” Wagering Strategy

  1. Neal, The MKS wagering strategy allows you to “weight” your multi race wagers similar to exotic wagers in single races to assure you get enough of a return if the “M” or “K” horses all turn out to be odds on favorites or short prices. The final race at Churchill yesterday resulted in a 17-1 strike which many handicappers probably threw out, but as experienced wagerers probably covered on their ticket simply by hitting the “All” button. Sometimes the “All” button in the final leg of a P-4 is the only safe wagering decision which is far different than a handicapping decision. As a handicapper it is satisfying to have picked a long shot simply from your personal evaluation, but frustrating to know your ticket value will be undercut by a group of “All” tickets. A scenario played out just like that with the dead heat in the Travers a few years ago. I sat next to a group of fellows who had a “handicapped” ticket with several hundred dollars but when Kenny McPeek’s horse hit the wire too, the payout on their handicapped ticket fell to $90 dollars. It was a punch to the gut for those fellows to know that the “All” button players grabbed a lot of the $$ covering a 30+ long shot. That’s also an unpredictable aspect of the game that makes it unique.

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