There are some poor value tote pools to play, and these are generally down to one of four things:
Lack of an opinion
No bet is a good bet if you don’t have any sort of opinion. While that might sound obvious, it’s amazing the number of people who just want to get involved in the big pots without really thinking about whether the dividend is likely to justify involvement, or whether they know enough to ‘trouble the judge’.
Golden Rule: As American bettor and writer, Michael Pizzola, is fond of say, “Let the bet make you”. In other words, there are plenty of opportunities every day to make a bet. So find the ones which best suit you, based on whether you think it worth getting involved, and whether you have enough of a view to carry you into the wager.
Lack of liquidity
Assuming you’ve found a pool where you have a decent feel for what might happen, you need the pool to be able to accommodate your (and anyone else with a similar) wager. Some pools pay very skinny dividends because of a lack of liquidity, or funds, in that pool.
UK win and place pools are normally extremely uncompetitive, and players are better advised to place their win/place bets with traditional bookmakers or an exchange like Betfair.
Irish Pick 6 pools can often be illiquid, and even with the guarantees in place, players still need to project whether the dividend will be better value than a straight win accumulator (or parlay, for American readers).
Every tote pool has a deduction, or takeout: a percentage of the gross pool set aside for administrative overheads, leaving a net pool to be divided amongst winning players. It is normally the case that the win and place pools have the smallest deductions with the bigger multi-race bets (like the placepot and Pick 6) having the largest deductions.
However, deductions in multi-race bets should be considered in terms of their pro rata takeout. For instance, the Irish Pick 6 has a deduction of 30%. This equates to 5% per race across the span of six legs. In that context, it is a far more attractive wagering proposition than, say, the win pool where the takeout is 20%, four times as much per race as the Pick 6 deduction.
I am certainly of the opinion that the Irish Pick 6 is a very playable wager, whereas the win (20% takeout) and place (25% takeout) pools in Ireland are not.
The Swinger, a bet where players need to find two of the first three home in any order, has a swingeing 30% deduction, and is to be avoided.
There is a full list of the deductions here.
Likelihood of a poor, or ‘chalky’, dividend
Americans refer to chalky results. They’re talking about when the favourite or maybe second choice wins the race. There can occasionally be value at the top of the market, but if your general inclination is to back short-priced horses, tote pool betting may not be for you.
This is a game of seeking exotic results on exotic wagers for exotic payoffs.
If you look at a race beforehand and consider the favourite hard to eliminate from the front two, an exacta bet seems a bad move. Likewise, if you’re a fan of the placepot and think the ‘jolly’ has strong place chances in four or five of the six races, there’s little point in making the bet (unless you’re going to play a solid stake straight line, and these are rarely a sensible play).
If it looks like chalk, take a walk…