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Best tote pools to play

There will always be some subjectivity about which are the best and worst tote pools to play. And the reality is that if you don’t have a strong opinion on at least part of a multi-horse bet (be that within a race, or across several races), then there are no good pools to play!

However, assuming you do have a view, then these are some of the tote pools which might help you convert that opinion to cash.

Intra-Race Bets


If you like a horse outside the top three – and preferably the top four – in the betting, the exacta is a decent option. Playing your fancy as a ‘key’ horse, with a small number of others ‘on top’ (to beat it) or ‘underneath’ (to finish second to it), will optimize your return. It is possible that you may snake yourself out of a winner however, if your fancy finishes first or second to a horse you didn’t like.

The smart punter will acknowledge this can happen, and that it is preferable to haemorrhaging bankroll by hitting the ‘ALL’ key and hoping to get lucky. Be a smart punter, and wipe your mouth when the inevitable happens. If you choose your alternates carefully, it won’t happen too often.


Another great bet to play if you like a horse in the middle of the market order, and even more so if you are able to discount one – or both – of the top two in the betting. That won’t happen often of course, but when it does, the return will pay for a LOT of losers.

Again, playing a ‘key’ horse on top or in second is a good idea, and perhaps adding a couple more options to be third than you have for first or second (without using ‘ALL’!) will work well.

If this isn’t clear, don’t worry: it’s covered in a lot more detail under ‘perm structure’ in the ‘Techniques’ section.

Superfecta / Quinté

If you play the superfecta – not available in UK or Ireland – or French Quinté bet, where you need to find the first four or five home respectively, then you are going to need at least two good opinions on the race, as well as plenty of luck!

These are ‘retirement wagers’ quite often, and at least when betting in the US, there is a 10c minimum unit stake on most superfecta pools. The great news for UK and Irish players that want to tackle this bet is that the weakness of the dollar against the pound and euro makes entry level staking more affordable at time of writing.

Again, it makes sense to ‘key’ your two fancies through the first three positions, with more coverage as you get towards the lowest placing required for your bet (i.e. fourth or fifth). Using the ‘ALL’ key on bets like these will get expensive, and may lead to a return of less than your stake. So, spread out with care.

Multi-Race Bets

Pick 3

The optimal time to play Pick 3’s is when you have at least one strong opinion FOR a horse, and one strong opinion AGAINST a favoured horse. If they occur in different races in the three-leg sequence, so much the better.

Pick 3’s are relatively easy bets to win, but do require weighted structuring if you’re taking multiple horses in multiple legs. That’s a comment which applies to all multi-race bets, and we’ll cover it more in ‘perm structure’ and ABCX sections.

Pick 4 (and Irish jackpot)

Again, the Pick 4 demands an opinion FOR at least one horse, and AGAINST at least one favoured horse. Ideally, you should have views on two races, and one opposable favourite in a third race. That allows for a bit more latitude in the ‘other’ leg.

Weighted structuring in the bet is crucial, and those who play 2x2x2x2 get what they deserve!

Pick 5 / 6 (and UK Jackpot)

It’s the same drill as above, except that we’re looking for more opinions. Here, though, you might have a race down to two runners rather than a single strong call. Keep in mind that, with five or six legs to get through, the cost of every horse in every leg amplifies the price of the bet.

Pick 5’s and Pick 6’s should only be played when you have the bankroll to accommodate the bet, and enough strong opinions to justify entering the arena. Otherwise, expect an expensive lesson!


The most popular tote pool bet in UK, the placepot requires players to find a placed horse in each of six consecutive races at a single meeting. As with all multi-race bets, you must have at least a couple of opinions through the race sequence to stand a better than ‘lucky’ chance of collecting a dividend.

Players also need to look at the sequence of races and consider how likely it is that the dividend will pay well (based on the number of fancied horses likely to be placed), and whether or not to get involved as a consequence.

If races look open enough, or if there appear to be vulnerable favourites, then weighting the structure of the wager is imperative. I tend to use AB, and occasionally ABC weighting for placepots. More on that in the ABCX section.