Tote Tactics #2: Stake Your Way To Success

Welcome to Oc-tote-ber!

Welcome to Oc-tote-ber!

In yesterday’s first part of this Tote Tactics series, I showed you a number of ways to make better selections for tote pool bets.

But making good selections is only half the battle. The other part of the puzzle is staking your opinions optimally and, in this post, I want to delve more deeply into matters of staking.

There are two main staking methods – straight line, and full perm – and between them they probably account for 99%+ of all tote multi-race bets. But I’d estimate that they only account for around 75% of all tote multi-race stakes. Let’s first look at what those staking methods are, and why they’re almost always sub-optimal. And then we’ll consider why they don’t account for a commensurate amount of all stakes, and which ‘smart money’ approach does.

Straight Line

As the name suggests, this is the no nonsense one-selection-in-each-race-and-devil-take-the-hindmost approach. In a six leg bet, it has the following shape:

1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 bet

It lacks finesse, it lacks coverage, and it normally requires the bettor to get lucky. As a route to profit, it’s weaker than most. As a harmless fun or action ticket, why not?

The reality is that in any sequence of three, four, six races, most players will have stronger views about the chances of horses in some legs than in others. Staking singly through the card offers minimal coverage for those weaker opinions. Still, it can be a bit of fun, and the bankroll remains intact if/when the wager bows out.

Full Perm

Keegan and Breitner: full perms

Keegan and Breitner: full perms

No, not Kevin Keegan’s barnet of choice. Rather, a full perm is selecting multiple horses in one or more legs in the sequence, and staking every pick equally. For instance:

1 x 3 x 2 x 2 x 4 x 2 = 96 bets

We have a lot more coverage here, with each of the last five races offering at least two chances to move forward. In fact, this example contains 14 different horses. So far so good. So what’s the problem?

It is simply that staking your bet this way assumes you have a similarly strong view about the chance of every horse in every leg. That is very unlikely to be the case.

Look at leg five, for example. Here, in this theoretical staking plan, we have four horses running for us. Let us further suppose that they are the 3/1 favourite, the 4/1 second favourite, and two 6/1 chances. Whilst we might feel the 3/1 favourite is vulnerable but don’t want to omit it, it is unlikely that we have a similarly strong (or weak) view on the other three nominations.

In actual fact, in this case, if the 3/1 fav was considered vulnerable, I’d be happy to either leave it off the ticket completely, or demote it to a lower status. More of that in a moment.

The issue with this staking approach is that we have gone from one bet in the Straight Line to 96 bets in this incarnation of the Full Perm. This will reward us if we have enough outsiders in the frame – and manage to get enough favourites out of the frame – but we stand a good chance of not returning our initial stake should we not ‘luck in’ with our less popular choices.

So what to do in order to have a wide (ish) sweep through the races but not slice and dice our stakes to meaninglessness? Introducing ABCX…


In any sequence of races, as I’ve written, we will almost always have stronger feelings about some horses than others, and we will consider some outcomes more likely than others based on the odds. It makes no sense, then, to weight all of our selections equally given the unequal sentiment in which we hold them.

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For example, we might put a Pick 3 (a US bet requiring the player to pick the winner of three races, bizarrely enough 😉 ) perm together as follows (horse numbers, and odds), ignoring the notion of ‘one brave race’ (which I discussed in yesterday’s post) for the purposes of this scenario:

Leg 1 – 1 (3/1), 3 (8/1), 4 (6/5)

Leg 2 – 2 (2/5), 7 (4/1)

Leg 3 – 4 (2/1), 5 (7/2)

The purest form of permutation would be 3 x 2 x 2 = 12 bets. You would be forgiven for thinking, “Well, it’s only twelve bets, at $5 a throw is $60”. But if you have a winning ticket with 6/5, 2/5 and 2/1 on it, you’ll do well to get your money back. And, according to the market, that’s the most likely outcome.

[Note, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking dollars, pounds, euros, or roubles. It’s about the number of units and the division of funds]

So how can we better utilize that $60 stake? By using a weighted perm structure, of course. The one I favour, though by no means the only one, is ABCX. Essentially, we separate all of the horses in our sequence of races into:

A – main fancies, strong chance
B – fair chance, quite like
C – dark horses, value at the price
X – not interested

Let’s apply that rationale to our initial bet, noting that all horses not selected have been discarded as ‘X’

Leg 1 – 1 (3/1 B), 3 (8/1 C), 4 (6/5 A)

Leg 2 – 2 (2/5 A), 7 (4/1 B)

Leg 3 – 4 (2/1 A), 5 (7/2 A)

Leg 1 has one each of A, B and C; Leg 2 has an A and a B; and Leg 3 has two A’s.

When using ABCX, we are saying that some combinations of outcomes are more likely than others. Specifically, it is most likely that we will win with our A selections; it is next most likely that we will win with two A choices and a B; and it is least likely that we will win with either an A and two B’s, or two A’s and a C.

Importantly, we are saying that if we are sufficiently wrong in our weighting analysis that the result comes back with an A, a B and a C, we have to accept that we lose, despite selecting those horses in our initial wide sweep. This can be a difficult outcome to accept, especially for newcomers, but it is crucial to prevent players from habitually over-staking: throwing cash at the wall and hoping some of it sticks.

Remember, if we haven’t got at least one strong opinion, we shouldn’t be playing. So, if we snake our way out of a winner by optimizing our staking, we wipe our mouth and move on.

Let’s now look at how the original $60 bet might look using the above ABCX ticket distribution.

A much better 'weighted' spread of funds

A much better ‘weighted’ spread of funds

As you can see, we’ve spent the same $60 across five tickets.

Ticket #1 has a unit stake of $12 per line, and includes all of the A selections.
Tickets #2 and #3 have a unit stake of $6 each per line, and include two A’s and one B each.
Ticket #4 has a $3 unit stake, and includes the C pick from race 1, with the A’s in races 2 and 3
Ticket #5 has a $3 unit stake, and includes the B picks from both races 1 and 2 with the A’s in race 3

Now, we have an optimal combination of likelihood of success and multiples of the dividend. In other words, if the most likely horses win, we’ll have more units of a skinnier divvy, and if some of the less likely horses win we’ll have less units of a bigger payoff.

If that sounds complicated, well, it is to a degree. But the good news is, as you might have guessed from the image above, there’s a tool to help you with this. Based on American multi-race guru Steven Crist’s ticket builder tool, I had my own geegeez variant built.

That tool can be found here:

Geegeez Multi-Race Ticket Builder

And instructions on how to use it (it’s pretty simple) can be found here:

How to use the Geegeez Multi-Race Ticket Builder

Although perhaps 1% of UK-based multi-race bettors use a weighted staking method, that tiny minority probably accounts for a quarter of the total pool size in some multi-race win or place pools. That ‘smart money’ approach is where players of all bankroll should be aiming, effectively staking to ensure an optimal return when successful, almost regardless of the dividend.


In further episodes of this Oc-TOTE-ber Tote Tactics series, I’ll be looking at Exacta and Trifecta betting: bets known collectively as intra-race multi’s. Keep an eye out for those.

In the meantime, Tote Ireland is offering a piece of a €200 syndicate bet for any geegeez player to stake €25 between now and the end of October. You can bet into UK as well as Irish tote pools with them, and they have a range of other specials, some of which are listed here.

New Tote Ireland players will be eligible for up to €50 in free bets as well as the slice of the €200 syndicate bet if using the exclusive promo code geegeez1 when registering.

Good luck!


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