John Pricci

HorseRaceInsider.com executive editor John Pricci has over three decades of experience as a thoroughbred racing public handicapper and was an award-winning journalist while at New York Newsday for 18 years.

John has covered 14 Kentucky Derbies and Preaknesses, all but three Breeders' Cups since its inception in 1984, and has seen all but two Belmont Stakes live since 1969.

Currently John is a contributing racing writer to MSNBC.com, an analyst on the Capital Off-Track Betting television network, and co-hosts numerous handicapping seminars. He resides in Saratoga Springs, New York.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012


Rank & File Bettors: A Gift that Keeps on Giving


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, December 22, 2012—With this site giving a voice to horseplayers via Indulto’s always entertaining and occasionally provocative “Players Up” blog, bettors always will have a vehicle for expression.

It never fails to humble your not-so-humble narrator when readers weigh in with opinions and suggestions. The dialogue that often occurs in our comment section sometimes gives birth to creative ideas vis a vis wagering or any other aspect of the best game played outdoors.

Indulto’s most recent blog gave birth to an idea advanced by Roger, who occasionally comments here at HRI. And if Roger hasn’t the jackpot with his idea for a new wager with an interesting wrinkle, it certainly provides food for thought:

How does the HIT-64 sound? Well, before explaining what that is, the following is a comment Roger wrote to Indulto which gives his philosophy on potential life-changing wagers, such as the Pick 6. Roger wrote [edited for length, context]:

“P-6 play today is basically [limited to] So Cal tracks, NY tracks, and Churchill Downs for their 2 big days in May. The P-6 is a HUGE mathematical advantage for big bettors and pool players that can afford as many selections as possible...

“High-end customers more than likely win 80% of P-6s...not necessarily because they are great handicappers rather [by playing] the right races in which they could afford to have four-to-eight selections in a maiden race, etc.

“For instance, [at] Del Mar’s 37-day meet last summer, I believe nearly half of the days had carryovers, with over 35% of the P-6 races being maiden races of some sort. Personally, I pass on these “unlimited cost” [situations].

“I will resume playing a multi 6-race exotic when an A-type track offers an alternative for the small [or] mid-sized exotic player. I’ve proposed over the years an exotic bet called HIT – 64, [with] a $1 minimum and a $64 maximum attached to each ticket.

“This seems fair to all, and when anyone wins the HIT - 64....everyone will know the winning ticket(s) cost less than $65, which is [promotable] news. Detractors will say....a big bettor can bet 20 $64 tickets. My response...good luck but the fact remains [that] winning ticket(s) didn’t exceed $64.

“I’d like to bring back REWARDING sharp handicapping at minimal investment....that’s a heckava lot more appealing than a news report of someone winning a $200,000 P-6 on a $4,200 ticket.”


Roger’s remarks and Indulto’s point is that certain kinds of wagers and/or betting promotions give an unfair advantage to those participants vis a vis the entire population that might be wagering into any particular pool.

The logical extension of their notion, the concept of carryovers is basically unfair: Bettors get to win money from people who have no risk in today’s pool, having lost money yesterday or the day before, etc., etc.

Incentive to bet, of course, comes from the reality that today’s players are betting into a pool with a lower takeout because of yesterday’s losses. This “free money” is certain to attract more handle, the added liquidity giving rise to payoffs that would be more equitable.

As much as anything else, less liquidity makes those last-minute odds swings more dramatic than they would be if there were more money in the pool.

For this HIT – 64 concept to work most efficiently, there should not be any consolations paid when bettors select a Perfect 6. If nobody picks 6, the pool should be distributed to the winners of 5, or 4, etc. And there are other variables.

Considering the degree of difficulty, the HIT – 64 must be a low takeout wager, which these days are a consensus 15%. To insure its success early on, tracks or ADWs should seed the pool, lowering takeout further.

As an aside, “guaranteed pools,” with the exception of rainy days with an inordinate number of late scratches, turf races being rescheduled and the like, are bogus, simply a function of the handle history of said wager.

Knowing that a Pick 4 is going to attract $200,000 come hell or high water, offering a $200K guarantee is so much window dressing, not a windfall.

A concept like the HIT – 64 at once rewards good handicapping and puts the rank and file player on near even footing with the whales. It would be far more difficult, and certainly time consuming, for big bettors to fashion 20, 30 or 40 tickets, etc.

Constructing Sub-tickets that are as costly as Main tickets are either counterproductive, inefficient, or both. Ascribing the same weight or importance to, say, six or eight horses, as opposed to the one, two or three preferred selections, is not the best use of betting capital.

In the modern era of high takeout, bets such as the one suggested by Roger are promotable to newbies and sometime players because it gives them the same opportunity for a score as the bettor with the big bankroll.

Racetracks give perks to their biggest players and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But if I were running a business, I would want 100 satisfied customers collectively betting the same amount.

For whatever reason, chances are much better that the one player a track or ADW depends on will walk away before 100 people become disenchanted to the point of becoming disenfranchised.



Written by John Pricci

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