Everybody in the Pool!

Jackpot Wagers, Smart Play or Waste of Time?

Rainbow 6

A lot of people are against jackpot wagering. I guess they don’t think the investment and takeout is worth it, considering you have to be the sole winner to get the whole pool.

I disagree.

While I won’t argue against passing on jackpot wagers when there is no carryover or the pool is relatively small, I would discourage passing on the bet when the pool is large. Gulfstream Park has done a great job with the Rainbow 6. Since its inception, it has produced more than its fair share of life-changing scores — some on very small investments.

I used to play the pick-6 vigilantly. The straight $2 pick-6 has changed, though. The pick-4s and pick-5s, with their 50-cent minimums, have diluted the daily pick-6 pools at most tracks. There was a time when the NYRA tracks would bring in anywhere from $100K to $150K on non-carryover days. Today, you see $40K-50k and sometimes less. That makes that play with a $2 minimum not the smartest way to invest your gambling dollars.

On those old non-carryover days, you used to be able to take a pool down, or even split it with one other person and have yourself a nice payday. You were also able to avoid the syndicates and many other sharks in the water, as they typically surfaced only on carryover days. This gave some sharp players with smaller bankrolls an advantage when there wasn’t a carryover.

Those days are gone.

California still gets a decent daily pick-6 pool, but the pick-4 and pick-5 has hurt it too. The all-too-common small fields also hurt that advantage player’s once had on days without a carryover. This has caused me to gravitate to other wagering opportunities. One of them is The Rainbow 6… when the pot gets big.

If you watch the wager, you’ll see it often goes without a single winner taking down the whole pool. Frequently, there are large carryovers. Even if you are not the only winner, when the pools get big enough — which, again, is fairly frequently — dividing up 30 percent of the pool can be a nice little hit, especially if you can get a nice price or two home. At a cost of 20 cents, you can buy a lot of coverage for very little money.

When the pot gets into the millions, I think you almost have to be crazy not to play it if you are betting that day. There are just so many chances for life-changing scores in the Sport of Kings and, if you’re in this to win, I think you have to go after every one of them. Days like Kentucky Derby Day and Breeders’ Cup Friday and Saturday are amongst my favorite days to play — and play big.

Those are the types of days you can make those six-figure hits and do it with a variety of different types of wagers. It’s a lot tougher on the average Thursday, unless of course there is $3 million plus sitting in The Rainbow 6 jackpot pool.

When I play the Rainbow 6, I almost never single anything. Why? With a 20-cent minimum, even if you love a horse, it pays to add at least one other, if for nothing else but a little insurance. I always structure my tickets to include a few horses in most of the races that can be game-changers, or even make me the only winner.

On those rare occasions I do single a horse in the Rainbow 6, I really expect them to win and have enough coverage elsewhere that, if I’m right, I know I will have an excellent shot to hit it. It’s interesting to see how Gulfstream posts the number of live combinations, and you’d be surprised at how many drop out sometimes with just a third or fourth wagering choice.

With the pool like it is now — over $3 million up for grabs at the time of this writing — you can hit $25K and $35K payoffs on much smaller investments than you’d make in a regular pick-6 with a $2 base wager. It’s also a great bet for the beginning pick-6 players, as it exposes them to the strategies needed to hit a pick-6, and at a much lower cost.

I am a patient, pick-my-spot kind of player. The Rainbow 6 allows you to make a small investment, on a card you might not be wild about, and have a chance at a big pay day. It also allows big and small bettors alike to buy enough coverage without breaking the bank, levelling the playing field a bit.

The syndicates have to be careful not to make their investment exceed their payoff. That helps the “regular” player also. I don’t see a lot of downside to the wager, if any at all. Even when they come back short at maybe two or three thousand bucks, what’s wrong with that if you bet maybe two or three hundred, or even twenty or thirty dollars?

The return on investment sounds fine to me.

Jonathan Stettin
Jonathan has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings, as he practically grew up at the racetrack. His mother, affectionately known as “Ginger,” was in the stands at Belmont Park the day before he was born as his father, Joe, worked behind the windows as a pari-mutuel clerk.

As a toddler, Jonathan cheered for and followed horses and jockeys, knowing many of the names and bloodlines by the time he was in first grade. Morning coffee in his household was always accompanied by the Daily Racing Form or Morning Telegraph.

At the age of 16, Jonathan dropped out of school and has pretty much been at the races full-time ever since. Of course, he had some of the usual childhood racetrack jobs growing up — mucking stalls, walking hots and rubbing horses. He even enjoyed brief stints as a jockey agent and a mutuel clerk (like his dad).

His best day at the track came on August 10, 1994 at Saratoga, when he hit the pick-6 paying $540,367.

Jonathan continues to be an active and successful player. You can follow him on Twitter @jonathanstettin or visit his Web site at www.pastthewire.com.

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