Exactas and Combinations

There is a form of pool betting where one can select two runners in a race and bet that one horse will beat the other. This is known as an Exacta bet. It used to be known as a Forecast but in some rebranding exercise somewhere within the Tote it was renamed to be an Exacta.

Exacta bets are placed with the Tote. Some bookmakers, such as Ladbrokes and Done act as agents for the Tote and will happily place Tote bets for you.

An Exacta bet is simply you, the punter, selecting two horses, A and B. You are betting that Horse A will win and Horse B will come second.

People often have two Exacta bets where in one A will beat B (as above) and the other is B to beat A. Until recent times this was a Reverse Forecast and, obviously, costs two units.

Exacta bets are pool bets, i.e. the return depends on (a) your stake and (b) the size of the pool.

What's a pool bet? Well, you'll have heard of the football pools no doubt. A pool system works by all the stakes going into one large pool of money. When the race, or whatever event is being bet on, starts the market is closed. The operator takes their percentage out of the pool (which can be 20%) and then the rest is divided up between the winners. The best known pool bet in this country is the National Lottery which is replacing the football pools as the normal weekly pool bet.

As a matter of interest, and as an aside, most of the betting on courses in every country but here in the British Isles is done by pool betting. The poor souls in America, Europe and Asia don't have bookmakers; they have just one massive totaliser board.

Back to the Exactas. So, if one picks the favourite to beat the second favourite in a three horse race then the return won't be massive. However, if one successfully selects two outsiders then the return can be very large. At the November Open meeting at Cheltenham in 2003 I had an two-way Exacta on the last race (as well as two each-way bets on each of these horses). The horse which won came in at £105.50 on the Tote for a £1 stake) and the second placed horse was about 20/1 in a very large field. My second horse came in fifth; but if I had that second placed horse then I would have a share of the pool which was over £4,300 for a £1 stake. A record Exacta payout.

Bookmakers also offer a CSF or SF (which stands for Computer Straight Forecast or Straight Forecast) and works in exactly the same way as an Exacta but the return is not dependent on the size of the pool but an horrendously large and complex formula which is reputed to go on for at least nine pages of A4.

As a rule the CSF doesn't pay out as much as the Exacta and is much maligned by racegoers. However, we feel that they have the wrong idea about the CSF and the very important role in which is can play if one has a forecast bet which one wishes to place.

The biggest problem with the Exacta bets is that it is a pool bet, so if you win £30 for a £1 stake then scaling up to expect £3,000 for a £100 will simply not work. This is because the pool for these bets are not very large and if the pool has only £10,000 in it and there are 100 winners then each will get £100, but if you bet £100 then the pool will only return £91.70 to each person. Already doubling the bet has caused the dividend to drop by 8%. Imagine what would happen if the stake were £1,000... Therefore, swamping the pool with large bets is going to be very counter productive.

Let's make two scenarios to illustrate this.

Scenario 1. There are 99 punters other than yourself (making 100 punters in all) who have won on an event. Each of these 99 punters have staked £1. You, too, have staked £1. The pool contains £10,000. So what`s the dividend? Okay, there are 100 £1 winning stakes so the payment per stake is 10,000 / 100 = £100 per £1 stake which each and every one of you gets.

Scenario 2. In the same situation your stake isn`t £1 but let`s say that it`s £100. The pool would be £99 greater which means that it`s £10,099 large. Okay, what`s the dividend? Simple, divide the pool by the number of £1 stakes. How many £1 stakes are there? Well, there are 99 from the other punters and you hold 100 of them. So the dividend per £1 stake is 10099/199 which works out at £55.27 per £1 stake. Each of the other punters will walk out of the shop with £55.57 and you will walk out with £5,570.

Note that the amount that you have staked in Scenario 2 is 100 times that in Scenario 1. But note that because of the size of the pool the return is only 55 times bigger.

So, this is why some seasoned professionals place bets on the CSF with the bookmakers. The returns may appear to be less when the race results come out (but not if the professionals were playing on the Exacta pool market) but the returns are fixed by this formula. So a £100 forecast bet will always return ten times as much as a £10 forecast bet which, in turn, will always return ten times as much as a £1 forecast bet. The CSF is wrongly derided in the press and the betting shops. Let it be; the whole point of racing, as we know, is not to follow the crowd.

Quite often the CSF's payout will exceed the Exacta's payout. This often happens when the favourite comes in second. So, armed with this information and one wishes to place an reverse forecast involving the favourite then often it makes sense to place the half where the favourite is to win with the Tote and the other half with a bookmaker.

A combination bet is simply a number of Exacta bets. Let`s say you have three horses and you want to back all the Exactas between horses A, B and C then there would be six Exactas; A to beat B, B to beat C, A to beat C and the three reverses.