Anyone who enjoys a wager on the horses always dreams of coming up with that perfect system, the dead cert that will guarantee they will beat the system and come out on top.
You probably think this sounds like fantasy – after all, in the end, the house always wins, whether it is in the casino or at the race track. But a group of gamblers in the USA think they have found the answer, and it is causing all manner of ructions in the American racing community.
The Simple Show
There are plenty of ways to bet on a horse race, but if you want to place a simple wager, or are showing someone who is new to the sport the basics, either at the track, the betting shop or via one of the many online betting sites listed at www.horseracingbetting.co.uk, the chances are you will talk them through the rudimentary principles of win, place or show.
The concept is simple – bet on the horse to win, and you will be rewarded the quoted odds if it comes in first. Bet on it to place, and you will get a reduced payout if it comes second. Back it to show, and the same applies, but at a further reduced rate if it finishes in the top three.
Nothing could be simpler, yet the humble show has led to races being cancelled and even gambling accounts being frozen. How could this be?
Bridge Jumpers & Minus Pools
The problem has arisen due to the growing popularity, particularly in the USA, of short field races containing only five runners. This leads to the situation where if there is a firm favourite in the field, there is an almost certain probability that it will show – of course, it is not a certainty, but it can be as high as 97 percent.
Naturally, this means you will get very poor odds, but with most US states stipulating a minimum payout of five percent, you can start to see the problem. A five percent return against a 97 percent certainty loads even these limited odds in the gambler’s favour.
This has brought about the phenomenon of “bridge jumpers” – gamblers who will place an immense stake, let’s say $10,000, on an almost certain $500 payout. However, it doesn’t stop there. Some gamblers have been able to take advantage of the system further, by even covering that three percent chance of the favourite not showing. Where the favourite has at least 94 percent of the pool, they place a high bet on it to show, and also place smaller bets on each of the other four runners to show. They then find themselves in a no-lose scenario where they end up collecting a positive payout, no matter what.
No Free Lunches
Before we all take out second mortgages, it is worth noting that this scenario only actually plays out in circumstances where the collective betting patterns of bridge jumpers create a minus pool.
This, in itself, is uncommon, as the bridge jumping approach does not stand up to scrutiny from a risk/return standpoint.
It looks like we will have to return to studying the form guides and keep looking for that dead cert