Betting Strategies: Building tickets with the market in mind

September 29th, 2023

In terms of building multi-race tickets, we are betting into the races blindly, meaning we do not have any tote information about where the money is going and who might be underlays or overlays. Therefore, a lot of horseplayers end up writing tickets that simply reflect their opinions of who could win, forgetting about the notion of value.

If you want to level up your multi-race tickets, grading your handicapping opinions is not enough. You need to be grading how your opinion rates in the market.

Consider each leg as offering three types of horses: 

  1. horses on most everyone’s tickets 
  2. horses on some tickets 
  3. horses on very few tickets

You want to know which you are using in each leg, and you want to understand how your ticket’s payout is affected by your combination of these in the sequence.

How Unique is Your Opinion

Make a list of the contenders your handicapping leads you to. Look at their morning line odds, their connections, purchase price, speed figures, public handicappers' top picks — in other words, assess how obvious of a contender each is. If you only use logicals in each leg, which will be used on every other ticket in the market, then you are taking the path to a three-figure score. If you play that ticket, then you want to hit it multiple times.

When you notice that your list of contenders includes horses who will be used on some but not most tickets, or horses you know will be tossed by the majority of tickets, then recognize that these horses build equity into your wager. Horses like this are the keystone to a five-figure score. They often offer more value in multi-race pools than in win pools.

Consider the legs where you are spreading. Will your blanket of runners include the logicals and longshots? If so, have you taken a stand in other legs with a horse or group of horses who will not be heavily used on others’ tickets? If not, then this is a good leg to do that. Many people spread in these legs, muddying up their tickets by using horses who could result in a three-figure payout while trying to catch a price by using longshots. Lop off the logicals and only use the price horses you like, or pass the sequence and find another pool where you can clearly see the value of your handicapping opinion.

By grading the horses you like according to how many other tickets they will be on, you can begin to see whether each leg of your ticket is properly multiplying your strongest opinions, or diminishing them. Clarifying your opinion in these legs will result in more efficient and intentional tickets.

Efficiency and Separation

The key to writing bets that are positioned to profit is efficiency and separation.

We want efficiency, meaning we aren’t wasting capital covering horses that don’t fit our handicapping opinion and/or won’t make the juice worth the squeeze. When you are building multi-race tickets with the market in mind, you want to combine your handicapping opinion with your understanding of how valuable that opinion is in the market.

Which leads us to separation — i.e., where one ticket deviates from the others. In horse racing, we are betting against each other, not the house, so a unique opinion is more valuable than a common one.

We want a self-aware ticket, conscious of where it is divergent from the public ticket, where it is shaking off the fish, and where it is leaning on logicals that few can argue with. The key is we write our ticket intentionally taking one road or the other, knowing what each leg could possibly accomplish in the market.

Take a Stand

When you are trying to structure your multi-race tickets for a score that is worth the risk, many races force you to make a decision, which ensures your structure is true to the task at hand. That doesn’t necessarily mean single; it means not muddying up the picture by using horses that could lead you to a $300 payout in the same leg as horses that can lead you to a profit that is worth the risk.

If you believe the logicals are the likely winners in a race where you are considering spreading, then stay true to that opinion and write multiple skinny tickets in which you press up on your strongest opinions. Otherwise, realize that this wide-open leg is an opportunity to build equity into your ticket. Take a stand by fading the logicals that other tickets will rely on and instead choose to lean on these overlays to guarantee that if you are correct, you will get paid an amount congruent with the risk inherent in multi-race wagers.