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Anatomy of a Pick 4 Payout

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Yesterday’s Pick 6 at Aqueduct, with a two-day carryover factoring in, paid a decent $67,132. The Pick 4, however, might have been the more surprising of the two payouts given the odds of the winning horses.

Below are the payouts and odds of the winners in yesterday’s Pick 4 at Aqueduct:

Race 6 – $10.40 (4/1 – 3rd choice)
Race 7 – $18.60 (8/1 – 4th choice)
Race 8 – $2.50 (1/4 – favorite)
Race 9 – $15.50 (7/1 – 4th choice)

$1 Pick Four: (5-6-1/5/9-5) Paid $1,410

If you came to the same conclusion as the betting public and believed that 1-Rereadthefootnotes was the overwhelming choice to win Race 8, you essentially turned this Pick 4 into a Pick 3. Rereadthefootnotes was hammered at the windows and went to post with the paltry odds of 1/4 and responded to the backing by easily dominating the field by six lengths.

The rest of the sequence certainly wasn’t easy, but look at the odds on the winners of the other three races: 4/1, 8/1, and 7/1. There’s nothing significantly crazy occurring; we aren’t seeing a 20/1 horse pop up in the results, nor are we seeing the longest shot on the board coming home, yet the Pick 4 still returned a solid amount. If you’ve turned a Pick 4 into a Pick 3, you could have gone something like 5x5x4 in the other three races and come up with a $100 ticket that still paid 13/1. And that’s if you throwing darts at the board. Had you been able to pare down one of those races to two or three selections and still land on the winner there would be a lot of room left to cover the others.

The point that this Pick 4 sequence illustrates isn’t that a $1,000+ payout is easy to get to, it never is. But instead it’s that the player doesn’t have to try to beat every single favorite in each race in order to get a solid payout. You can score a decent return even if you have to play an odds-on horse somewhere on the ticket.

Personally, every time I play a Pick 4 I deal with the question of how to balance the need for value in the ticket with the likelihood that a favorite is going to win at least one or two races. It’s a question that all players face on a daily basis: I want to pick the winner but I want to get paid a decent price. And while nothing is ever guaranteed as to how these sequences pay (sometimes the payouts don’t reflect the win pools at all) I think it’s good to remember that a heavy favorite won’t necessarily destroy all the value in the ticket.

A 1/4 shot wins the 3rd leg of a Pick 4 and it still pays $1,400. Why a sequence can have value even with the presence of an odds-on favorite.

Breeders’ Cup 2020: Analyzing recent Pick 4, 5 and 6 payouts

Bettors long have chased after the Breeders’ Cup Pick 4 and Pick 6 in hopes of a life-changing score. Some years, that is what they get, but even the more “chalky” editions present an opportunity for value.

The Breeders’ Cup changed its wagering format over the last couple of years, and it has been fascinating to watch betting the strategies transform.

In 2018, the Pick 5 was added, and the Pick 6 was switched to a $1 jackpot format. With the format remaining the same in 2020, I took an in-depth look at the results of the last two years to determine the potential best value.

As you will see below, the lower takeout Pick 5 was a true friend to horseplayers on Breeders’ Cup Friday and Saturday each of those year.

Year Pick 4 Pick 5 Pick 6
2019 $18,171 $183,990 no winners
2018 $365 $2,254 $1,840

2018 Pick 6 winners: Improbable ($3.80), Bulletin ($10.60), Newspaperofrecord ($3.20), Jaywalk ($13), Line of Duty ($9.00), Game Winner ($4)

2018 was one of the most chalky Friday Pick 6 sequences of all-time. Three of the top six winners returned $4 or less. Newspaperofrecord was a free square for most, while Improbable and Game Winner were singled on many tickets as well. The late Pick 4 (50-cent minimum) returned a light $365 for $2.

By simply adding Bulletin at 4-1, the Pick 5 (50-cent minimum) jumped to $2,254. This shows the tremendous value of the Pick 5 as you could have gone six deep in that first leg and it still would have been a better return on your investment than the Pick 4.

Furthering the case for the Pick 5 was the fact that it paid more than the Pick 6 ($1 minimum), which netted a return of only $1,840 for $2.

Following the chalk parade in 2018, 2019 was due to be chaotic — and it certainly was.

2019 Pick 6 winners: Tap Back ($30.00), Four Wheel Drive ($5.00), Sharing ($29.60), British Idiom ($7.40), Structor ($12.60), Storm the Court ($93.80)

Tap Back got the Pick 6 started at $30, and Storm the Court ended it at $93.80. Those who somehow managed to be alive in the Pick 6 heading into the last race likely zeroed in on Dennis’ Moment as a single or Eight Rings as an alternative. A year after the Friday Pick 6 paid only $1,840, it went unsolved despite the $1 minimum. The opportunity for a seven-figure payday was on the table, which is what horseplayers dream of.

Those who did not include Tap Back in their Pick 6 could have wheeled back to play a Pick 5 that paid an incredible $183,990 for $1. It paid more than 10 times what the Pick 4 did despite a 3-2 shot starting the sequence.

The lesson is to focus on the Pick 5 and stay alive heading into the Pick 4 even if you feel you need to spread to do so.

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Year Pick 4 Pick 5 Pick 6
2019 $1,763 $7,133 $55,668
2018 $631 $2,254 $3,706

The 2018 Pick 6 was highlighted by star power. Picking Sistercharlie, Roy H, Monomoy Girl and Enable to win and getting rewarded $3,706 sounds like a good deal. Expert Eye, the largest price in this extremely formful sequence, paid $13.80 in a race most people spread. The Pick 5 paid 3.5 times more than the Pick 4, which was not as big of a spread as in 2019, but still generous, considering Roy H started the Pick 5 at 5-2.

The Pick 6 paying about $1,500 more than the Pick 5 does not seem like enough of a value, considering you would have had to double the minimum cost of your ticket and more if you did not single Sistercharlie at 3-1.

2019 Pick 6 winners: Iridessa ($28.40), Mitole ($5.60), Uni ($9.20), Blue Prize ($19.80), Bricks and Mortar ($4), Vino Rosso ($11.20)

The 2019 Pick 6 was a perfect sequence for horse players. The popular single Bricks and Mortar came through, but only one other favorite won in the sequence. The lack of favorites kept payoffs high, but on the flip side, no horse won at greater than 13-1, which made it hittable.

The Pick 4 paid well, but the Pick 5 paid four times more than the Pick 4 despite only adding Mitole at 3-2. By doubling the cost of the ticket ($1 minimum for the Pick 6) and adding Iridessa at 13-1, one could have made an additional $48,535.

Breeders’ Cup 2020: Analyzing recent Pick 4, 5 and 6 payouts Bettors long have chased after the Breeders’ Cup Pick 4 and Pick 6 in hopes of a life-changing score. Some years, that is what they ]]>