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Pick 3 & Pick 4 Takeout Cut to 14%

Canterbury Park is introducing a wagering friendly 14% takeout for its Pick 3 and Pick 4 pools this summer. The reduction in takeout from 23% to 14% make these some of the lowest takeout rates in the country, and in my view players should absolutely be focusing on these wagers over the course of the summer. Canterbury Park will offer rolling Pick 3s and an early and late Pick 4 each day. A Pick 4 carryover will occur if nobody correctly selects all four winners in the sequence. This article will focus on the Pick 4, and offer a few strategies for tackling this popular and challenging wager.

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The Pick 4 involves selecting the winner of four consecutive races. The wager carries a 50-cent minimum bet, which allows for multiple combinations to be played at a reasonable price. The Pick 4 is quite a bit more complex than the Pick 3, mainly because the extra race provides so many more possible outcomes. For example, a Pick 3 sequence of three consecutive eight horse fields would offer a total of 512 possible outcomes (8*8*8=512), whereas a Pick 4 sequence of four consecutive eight horse fields offers a total of 4,096 possible outcomes (8*8*8*8=4,096). It’s not easy to hit but the rewards are potentially great!

Last year, the average Pick 4 pool size at Canterbury Park was approximately $5,000. The new 14% takeout rate will hopefully increase that pool size this summer! A modest investment could possibly return thousands of dollars, something that can’t be achieved with a single win bet. Let’s take a look at a few different approaches to constructing a Pick 4 ticket.

The Caveman: Coined by Steven Crist of the Daily Racing Form, this approach is simplistic in that it involves playing all your contenders from the entire sequence on one ticket. If you like 4 horses in the first leg, 2 horses in the second leg, 4 horses in the third leg, and 2 horses in the final leg, you would simply put them all on the same ticket and the cost would be $32 dollars (4*2*4*2=64 combinations * 50-cents = $32 dollars). The advantage to this strategy is that if one of your contenders wins all four races you will definitely win the bet. The disadvantage to this strategy is that you are playing each horse equally in the sequence, without any preference for your stronger plays. Here are a few additional methods of play worth considering:

The Solid Single: In the above example, let’s assume the two races where we used 2 horses included a favorite and a longshot. We could use each favorite as a “single” and play two tickets as follows: (4*1*4*2 and 4*2*4*1). The total cost is still $32 but we have the opportunity to win the wager twice if both singled favorites happen to win, and we can still do as well as we would have done with the “Caveman” approach if one of the two singles wins. We are only vulnerable if both longshots win, which is not a pleasant scenario to contemplate!

The Longshot Single: If you want to swing for the home run, singling longshots in Pick 3’s and Pick 4’s is certainly a good way to go. Longshots, or “separators” as they are also called, really drive these wagers into big overlay territory. Putting $20 to win on a 10-1 shot is great when the horse wins and you collect $200, but singling that same 10-1 winner in the Pick 4 could result in a pool sweeper or a potential 4-figure score. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s something to consider when looking at options for your wagering dollar.

One last thing, the Pick 4 generally results in a payoff greater than the win parlay for the sequence. It’s another thing that makes the wager attractive. Here’s a real life example from a recent Pick 4 sequence.

The win payoffs were $6.60, $6.20, $6.00 and $4.40. This is certainly a hittable sequence with a 6/5 shot and three 2-1 shots. The $2 win parlay would have returned approximately $135 dollars. The $2 Pick 4 in this case returned nearly $350, a huge improvement over what the win parlay paid. Assuming similar pool sizes with Canterbury Park, the lower takeout rates at Canterbury would have pushed this same payoff up near $400!

Play the Pick 3 and Pick 4 wagers at Canterbury Park. Good Luck!

This blog was written by Canterbury Regular “The Oracle”. The Oracle is a longtime Minnesota race fan that has handicapped Canterbury’s races religiously for more than 20 years. He writes about handicapping and statistical trends in Canterbury’s races.