Betting The Exacta
In horse race betting, the exacta is the "peoples" wager, and the favorite of the average player. The amount of money
bet into the exacta pool at most tracks equals or exceeds the win pool - and
almost always contains far more money than any other single-race exotics pool.
What does this tell us right away?
There is always lots of
"foolish" money in the exacta pools.
The majority of race bettors
play the exacta in a helter-skelter manner at best. Probably the most common exacta play of
all is the worst (almost always) possible bet one could make - boxing the two
lowest odd horses. It's almost a knee-jerk
reaction for many bettors to automatically include the favorite on their
There are also such
time-honored strategies as, "I think I'll box the three horses with each of my
kids' ages," or "I think I'll baseball the horses whose numbers are the last 4
digits of my social security number," or "I think I'll throw this 99/1 shot in
with the favorite and that good-looking gray horse," etc. etc..
That's where our profits will come from -
that's the 'foolish money' we are after.
for "value" in the exacta is as important as it is for win betting.
But - whereas in win betting, estimating value requires having an idea of what
fair odds would be on a horse (i.e. some kind of betting line or acceptable
odds parameters for your contenders), in exacta betting we can also use the
tote odds as a guideline.
How does it work?
In lieu of making your own betting line, you can
use the public's win odds of your two choices as compared to the projected
exacta payouts. There is a mathematical formula that will tell you what
a fair payout would be for each odds-pair combination. That formula is:
Bet amount (ba) divided by probability of top
choice (pt) times probability of 2nd horse (ps) divided by losing
probability of top horse (lpt). In the example I will give a bit later - the
top horse was off at 7/1 and the 2nd horse was off at 5/1. The win
probability of the top horse was 12.5% - the win probability of
the second horse was 16.7% - So:
ba / (pt*(ps/lpt)) = $2 / (.125*(.167/.875)) =
Figure you need at least 10% bonus overlay to
that "fair" amount - so $92.00
How would you like to run through those
calculations for a half dozen combinations or so every race!?!
For a printable chart (though it won't all
fit on one page unless you landscape it and shrink the print size) that gives the "useable" fair
pays with a 10% overlay requirement figured in - click here:
Exacta payout chart
By "useable" I mean - odds at which I'd
suggest you consider an exacta combo bettable.
Remember that the lowest odds
horses, and the highest odds horses in a race are most often bet more than
they should be (bettors jumping on the favorites band-wagon, and other people
playing big longshots merely hoping for a gift from heaven).
Also, keep in mind that any low-priced favorite is
usually an underlay in all exactas combos.
For various reasons, race
bettors are not always
able to see the exacta payoffs when they need them at bet time. Below
are some general guidelines for when you are not able to check the
"will-pays." These guidelines will go a long ways towards keeping you off
the over-bet and money-wasting exacta combinations:
Only put horses on top that you consider
overlays in their win-odds.
lowest acceptable odds on top to 9/5 or higher.
Unless you've seen something that leads you to believe a
particular high odds horse has a good
chance to run well - limit high odds on bottom to 40/1 max.
Require 6/1 as a "combined" odds minimum.
Examples: if you have a 2/1 horse you're putting on top -
get 4/1 minimum odds on any you put under that one / 7/5 horse on top? -
require 5/1 underneath, etc..
Don't combine the first and second favorite
(two lowest odds horses) regardless of their odds.
Eliminate horses that are going off at
triple or more their morning line and are also at 15/1 or higher.
The key to making
consistent profits with exacta betting is limiting the number of combinations bet
Each losing bet increases the minimum "fair
pay" amount you need.
If you are looking for a payout of $60 as fair
on a certain combination - and you are betting 6 exacta combinations in
total ($2.00 wagers) - 5 of those will lose, so now you need $70 on that
Another result of limiting the
number of exacta combos is
that (if you are using a fixed total wager amount per race) you can then
redistribute the money saved onto some of the other combinations that remain.
Of course, we've all experienced (far too
many times!) leaving out the winning combo - even though we had seriously
considered including it. How do you go about limiting the number of
combos while not throwing out the potential winning combo too often?
The best way to automatically limit
that number is to have just one "key" horse, and use it only on top.
you then cut off the acceptable max odds on bottom to 40/1, in most fields,
you'll have 8 or fewer exacta combos. Often you will want to wager two horses
on top, and back-wheel one or both of them to a few others. The number of combinations
starts to build again. Again - how can you limit combos to the most likely?
"Modeling" the factors that
are most often seen in horses that run second at a particular track and
distance will give you a "profile" of what kind of horse to look for in the
For example: Maybe at the
track you are betting, speed holds well in sprints. One of the
early pace horses usually hangs on, and an off-the-pace type typically runs
second. If you keep good handicapping records and have this kind of
information, it will really help you narrow down your possible exacta bet combinations.
Example race -
Jan. 5th at Golden Gate - 4th race - 1 mile
for maiden claimers. The field with morning line odds and final odds
looked like this:
We narrowed down to 2 win contenders; # 1
and # 9. But that would give 16 possible exacta combinations
with those both wheeled on top - and 32 combos if wheeled and back-wheeled
to all others in the field. Obviously, this is not a strategy that
can be used profitably!
You could begin to pare it down like this:
- Using the guideline of cutting off at
40/1 max on bottom eliminates # 2and # 6.
- Eliminating triple overlays (3x ml) got rid of # 4.
- Using the "6/1 combined odds" guideline gets rid of the favorite #7
under # 9.
- Our place model showed place horses most commonly weren't early pace
types, but rather were horses that distributed their running energy evenly - coming from off the pace.
That eliminated the favorite and # 5.
(eliminating the favorite in the second
slot is great when you can do it, but remember - the favorite figures
in about 55% of all winning exactas combinations - running either
first or second)
So who does that leave now? Our two
contenders along with #3,# 8. One of the contenders, #9, also had a
matching place profile, so we used him on top and bottom. The combos
then were 5 in total; 1 with 3,8,9 and 9 with 3,8.
The exacta (see chart below) came - #1 with #3 and paid $91.20.
Fair exacta payout was $93, so we were loosening our
demand just a wee bit - as there were 4 guaranteed losing combos.
(actually, we didn't
even check the "will
pays" - we feel using the guidelines given in this article are
sufficient to keep us off of most under-lay combos)
Let's say; however, that a player had a
per-race exacta budget of $20. By whittling the number of
combos down in a systematic way as outlined above - that player would now
be able to have this payoff two times rather than once (if he'd found, say,
10 possible combos).
Charts of the race below: