Years ago Dr. Z (Dr. William Ziemba) a mathematics expert, showed that profits could be made by comparing a horses odds, and consequently its chances of actually winning, placing, or showing, to the actual place and show payoff. For instance, if a horse was at even money, using statistics, Dr. Z could predict how likely the horse was to win, place, or show. If a horse was at 8-5 and he knew it had a probability of showing 80% of the time and the show ticket would pay $3 it was a profitable bet.
Betting a horse that pays $3 to show and winning 8 out of ten bets returns $24 for every $20 invested for a profit of 20%. His methods are still used today, though because he published them in his book which was a great success. You can still watch the tote and do the math if you like, but there are easier ways to spot potentially good bets in the place and show pools.
Naturally, if you devote the time to learning the formulas and apply them, you will be rewarded accordingly, but if you just want an easy and fun way to pick up some good bets at the horse track, here is what to looks for.
Good place and show bets usually occur when one horse is thought to be quite a bit better than the rest of the field and another horse is thought to be better than the rest of the field but not anywhere near as good as the top horse. The horse with the big advantage in speed or class will usually be the big favorite, often going off at less than even money.
The odds may look something like this in a five horse field…
In most cases this would not render a good situation for a place or show bet. The place and show money will usually be evenly distributed among the runners based on their odds. However, if the board looks like this…
There is a possibility that the crowd is so convinced that the second choice at 2-1 will place that they have poured a tone of money into the place pool on this one horse and actually made a place bet on the favorite a value bet. Look at the difference between the odds of the second choice at 2-1 and its next nearest competitor, the third choice at 5-1.
When I see odds like that I usually look at the totals in the place and show pool. Let’s say the place pool looks like this…
Place Pool Total $1,000
Obviously, even though the second choice has a lower probability of placing than the top horse, it has more money bet to show on it. This often makes the favorite, a good place bet and the same situation can be found in the show pool. It is usually the second choice that gets an abundance of money bet on it but once in a while, one of the other horses, the kind that is often in the money but seldom wins, will take a large share of the pool.
While there is no guarantee that this situation will be profitable over the long haul and to be more accurate it would pay to do the math, for short term bets, this does at least offer some edge to the horse player looking for value in the pools.