by Brett Sturman
This past Tuesday, Pompano Park set a track record for its Pick-6 pool when handle for the wager topped $112,000. As with its other multi-race wagers, which have surged in popularity, Pompano’s Pick-6 breaks from the norm of other tracks in one critical area – it’s not a jackpot wager.
Pick 6’s of any type in harness racing are a rare breed these days, with only Northfield Park and Cal Expo as tracks that come to mind offering a variation of the wager. But following the models of almost every thoroughbred Pick-6, those tracks offer a “jackpot” component to the bet. In a jackpot scenario, unless there is a single-ticket winner, only a portion of the wagering pool actually gets paid out to the winning ticket holders.
Using Northfield Park’s “Single Six” wager as an example, the standard nightly takeout is 14 per cent. So far so good, but the trick is that unless there is a single winner, 50 per cent of the pool will carry over to the next card. So, in essence, the nightly takeout is a hard-to-fathom 64 per cent. It almost doesn’t seem like that should be allowed.
Pompano, on the other hand, does not have the jackpot trigger. With a low 15 per cent nightly takeout, if you hit the Pick-6, you’ll get the entire pool for that night minus the takeout and splits among any other winners. That is a large part of the reason why, heading into the Tuesday card with a carryover of $31,977 from five prior race cards, that over $80,000 new money was bet into the wager.
Whereas jackpot wagers produce an advantage for bettors maybe once or twice a year on closing days when it becomes mandated that the entire pool be paid out, such advantages exist for bettors daily in the traditional Pick-6 model at Pompano. Pompano’s announcer Gabe Prewitt, who has other track responsibilities as well as leading the social media wagering contingency, says of the traditional Pick-6 “It’s a cool bet. You can turn a regular Tuesday like we did this week into a hell of a party night. And then you see the dividends. It’s a low takeout bet to start with, and one of our (#SendItIn) guys spent $36 and turned it into over $6,600.”
For Prewitt, balancing the guarantees for all the multi-race wagers has become somewhat of a balancing act due to the always increasing popularity of the wagers. Looking back at this past week, “We had a $26,000 Pick-4 carryover from Sunday because they missed it on Sunday and they bet $95,000 new money on Monday. They just steamrolled it, and again, the biggest price was 6-1 with two 6-5’s in the middle of it and it paid almost $700, we had a lot of people tweeting that hit that. It was the perfect storm that worked out because Sunday is our best night in the Pick-4 and then we got the big carryover in Monday.
“I actually would have gotten a little more aggressive with the guarantees, but what kept happening was – and I guess this is a good problem to have – is that would have two major carryovers and the sequences would overlap. For instance, on Monday we had the $26,000 Pick-4 carryover from Sunday, but then we also had the Pick-6 carryover at $13,000 that night. So, maybe I wasn’t as aggressive as I would have been with only an eight-race card with the Pick-6 starting in the third race and the Pick-4 starting in the 5th race, and then we come right back on Tuesday where they missed the Pick-5 from Monday. On Tuesday, it was a Pick-5 with a $7,000 carryover and they bet $59,000 new money into it which was unbelievable, but then the Pick-6 started two races later in the third race, so again, I made the guarantee only $75,000 even though it was a $32,000 carryover. Because a lot of people bet on the Pick-4 and Pick-5 some nights, they’re easier to hit and some of the smaller bankrolled guys don’t want to put together huge tickets and sometimes will fade the Pick 6’s off a little bit. It can be a weird bet and you can’t always depend on it like you can the other two.”
The great thing about Pompano is that when they advertise a guarantee, it truly is a guarantee. Unlike other tracks, where it’s only a guarantee under rare occurrences. And bettors are responding accordingly, as handle on the Pompano multi-race wagers are up approximately 30 per cent from just last year.
Along the way somewhere, I’m presuming that someone determined it was more beneficial for tracks to go the jackpot route and have one or two big handle days and that would outweigh the accumulated handle from the traditional route. But I don’t know if that’s even true to begin with.
I remember back 15 years now when the Meadowlands offered a traditional Pick-6. At one point there was a Pick-6 day that handled over a half-million dollars as there was a multi-day carryover of a couple hundred thousand dollars. Just as the Meadowlands did prior and as Pompano did this week, if you can string together a few days of carryovers, you’re going to end up with massive size pools that benefit players on a regular basis, not just once a year.
The irony is that Pompano actually could offer a jackpot Pick-6 bet and it wouldn’t be as bad for players as it could be elsewhere. In general, Pompano is still a small market track and the odds of being the lone ticket holder of a Pick-6 is much more likely than being the lone ticket holder for a comparable bet at the Meadowlands or at Woodbine.
Just like tracks that could be shunned for higher takeout, others should be rewarded for lower takeout. For some tracks the only time it makes sense to bet a Pick-6 is their last day. At Pompano it makes sense every day.