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7/1/2005 edition

Is Place Betting Only Value?

The lure of betting for a place is that in fields of eight or more runners, punters collect when the horse finishes first, second and third. That obviously reduces the run of losing bets, but does that alone make place betting value?

Many years ago, before ratings and value betting was even heard of, an American professional bettor, Chicago O'Brien said, "I pick them to win - but bet them to place."

That slogan is now used by all and sundry when convincing punters that betting for the place only is a good form of betting.

To start with, place betting on the tote is worse value than win betting. It's very easy to work out why. The place percentages are always inferior to the win percentages. For any tote where you can see final win and place dividends you can check this out for yourself. Divide 100 by each win dividend and then add the totals. This will give you a percentage in excess of 100.

Now do the same for the place dividends. Divide 100 by each place dividend and then add the totals. For a field of eight or more runners divide the total you get for the place dividends by three, as there are three place payouts. This will also give you a percentage in excess of 100. But it will be higher than for the win percentage. That means the overall place betting tote market is poorer value for the punter than the win betting market.

You might be told that place betting is safer because you avoid those big runs of outs that you get with win betting. That you avoid the run of bets on horses that were unlucky and ran second. However, when a horse is unlucky there is no guarantee that the horse will still be lucky enough to run a place. Bad luck can just as likely result in the horse missing out on a place.

You might be told that all up place betting gives you great value. But if each bet is a poor value place bet you cannot mysteriously create value by going all up. All you have done is made a second poor value bet using your entire return from your first poor value bet.

You might be told to work out the reason there are so few place only bookmakers at the races. It's not really that hard to work out why. Most punters bet win only or each way, which means the place only bookies do not get enough turnover to cover their costs. It's that simple.

Have a look at all the bookies betting each way in big fields - say 16 or more runners. They know most punters will bet each way in those races where the traditional one quarter win odds represents poor value. Punters have been conditioned over the years to bet each way in big fields for "safety" but win only in small fields.

But in small fields of just eight runners, or where the favourite is odds on, bookmakers will not bet each way. That is when the traditional one quarter win odds represents good value. For example, for a horse at $5.00 the win you would get money back $2.00 the place. But don't think you can then instead bet place only on the tote in those small fields and get that good value. No way. No tote will give you those odds about the place in an eight horse field. You'd be lucky to get $1.40 or $1.50. Nor of course would a place only bookmaker give you $2.00 the place.

So don't kid yourself that place only betting gives you good value.
Don't kid yourself that all up place only betting gives you good value from two poor value bets. That is just as bad as going all up the win on two poor value favourites in order to create value.

This edition of Punt to Win:
Is place only betting value?
Get those betting odds
Betting favourites in small fields - 18/12/2004
Betting favourites in small fields - 26/12/2004
Betting favourites in small fields - 1/1/2005
Betting tips from the track, 18/12/2004 - Randwick and Flemington
Betting tips from the track, 26/12/2004 - Randwick and Caulfield
Betting tips from the track, 1/1/2005 - Randwick and Flemington
Handicapping tips - weight and class
Future winners - unlucky horses
Punt to Win 17/12/2004
Punt to Win index

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