Step-by-step: How to bet a Pick 6

February 16th, 2022

The Pick 6 is the pinnacle of horse racing bets. In terms of difficulty, all other wagers pale in comparison to the Pick 6, which dares you to select the winners of six consecutive races.

Hitting a Pick 6 isn’t easy (the deepest sequences can contain millions of possible outcomes), but our step-by-step guide to betting Pick 6s can help move you closer to success.

Step 1: Jackpot or traditional?

The first step is to choose the type of Pick 6 you would like to play. Many tracks offer jackpot-style Pick 6 wagers with small minimum bet amounts, such as 20 cents. These inexpensive tickets are appealing because you can play a lot of tickets on a small budget.

But although jackpot-style Pick 6 wagers frequently advertise six-figure carryovers, these rich prize pools are typically only awarded if one bettor constructs a unique winning ticket. Traditional Pick 6 wagers are usually more expensive (with minimum bet amounts of $1 or $2), but if you assemble a winning ticket, you’ll split the entire pool and any carryover with all other winning bettors—no unique ticket required.

Step 2: Choose a suitable strategy

There are many different ways to play the Pick 6. It’s not as simple as picking one horse in each race and crossing your fingers; you can use multiple horses in each leg of the sequence, increasing your chances of winning.

It’s helpful to start by identifying a Pick 6 in which you have a solid opinion or two. If you look at a sequence and think, “I have no idea how to play any of these races,” you might want to look for a different Pick 6. Some bettors like to find a heavy favorite who seems like a sure winner and build tickets from there.

On the other hand, there can be an advantage to playing against the grain of public opinion. If you believe a heavy favorite is vulnerable to defeat, you can leave the horse off your Pick 6 ticket and potentially cash a big payday if you select a longshot winner while many other bettors miss out.

Step 3: Calculate your investment

Calculating the cost of a Pick 6 ticket isn’t difficult. It’s simply a multiplication problem involving the number of horses you include in each leg and the amount you’re betting per ticket.

Let’s say you’re using two horses in each leg of a 20-cent Pick 6. The cost is quite reasonable: 2x2x2x2x2x2x0.20, or $12.80. But the cost of a Pick 6 wager can increase rapidly with every extra horse you include. Let’s say you want to use three horses in every leg: now the cost is 3x3x3x3x3x3x0.20, or $145.80.

In order to keep costs down, many bettors try to build Pick 6 tickets around one or two “singles.” A single is when you use only one horse in a particular leg of a multi-race wager—perhaps a heavy favorite, as mentioned earlier. If the horse wins, great! You’ve saved a lot of money. If the horse loses, so does your Pick 6 ticket, so choose your singles carefully.

Step 4: Keep pool sizes in mind

Remember, you can’t win more money than is in the Pick 6 pool. If a high-profile Pick 6 features a pool of $500,000 after takeout, there’s a chance your winning ticket might take down the entire $500,000 pool. But if there’s only $1,000 in the pool after takeout, the most you can win is $1,000, even if you pick six 100-1 winners in a row.

The takeaway? Adjust the size of your investment to reflect the possible payoffs. Betting $200 into a $1,000 Pick 6 pool doesn’t offer much potential for a hefty return on investment, but that same $200 investment might be worthwhile if you’re playing a million-dollar Pick 6 and have solid opinions throughout the sequence.

By keeping these four steps in mind, you’re well on your way to cashing lucrative Pick 6 tickets. Good luck!