The Pick-3 can be one of the most profitable bets in all of horse racing. It is a bet that allows you an opportunity to pick winners in three consecutive events. The Pick-3 (also see Pick 4 bet, Pick 5 bet and Pick 6 bet) can be a challenging bet to make, but the rewards can be very high. What is Pick-3 wagering, and is it for you? Here are some answers.

Understanding Multi-Race Horizontal Wagers

A Pick-3 is classified as an exotic wager in American horse racing. In other places like the UK and Australia this bet is sometimes called a multi-race horizontal wager. The key to understanding the Pick-3 is in knowing that it involves multiple horses and multiple races.


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Instead of picking a horse in one race, you will pick three different choices in the Pick-3. You will choose one horse in three events, all of which are consecutive. Some race tracks offer what is known as a rolling Pick-3. Other tracks may only offer one Pick-3 per race card.

So, the races included in the Pick-3 sequence can be races 8, 9, and 10. Or they can be races 2, 3, and 4. It is uncommon to see a Pick-3 include the very first race on a card in its sequence. Technically, the Pick-3 is also a multi-horse wager because you are picking more than one horse for your ticket.

What is the Pick-3?

The Pick-3 horse racing bet is quite simple to understand. First of all, even though it involves three different races, a Pick-3 is considered one bet. At the horse racing track it has its own separate pool. All monies wagered on the Pick-3 are placed in this pool. The winners are paid from the money in the pool. This makes the Pick-3 a type of parimutuel wagering.

The bettor first identifies the sequence of races that are being used in the Pick-3 event. As an example, the bettor has decided to make a Pick-3 wager on races 4, 5, and 6. The next step is to then choose a horse to win each of these races. We will say the bettor chooses horses 3, 7, and 5, respectively.

For the player to win this horse racing bet, all of his or her selections must win their race. There is no consolation payoff. The Pick-3 is an all-or-nothing wager. If just one horse fails to win its race the entire bet is lost.

Most Pick-3 bets can be placed for a minimum of $1. This would be backing a single horse in each race. We will see later that there may be a better way to play the bet called spreading. For spreading a larger bet is required.

Why You Should Play the Pick-3?

Betting horses is a very unique type of gambling game. It is a type of betting where the player has to meet a certain threshold of success in order to just break even. To make a profit requires a very disciplined approach that involves seeking out the best betting opportunities. The best bets in horse racing are those which allow you to bet a little in order to win a lot.

The Pick-3 is just such a bet. In terms of value it is one of the best bets in all of horse racing. By value we mean a large payoff in exchange for an acceptable risk. The smart horse racing bettor can increase the value of individual horses by combining them into a Pick-3 wager.

Here’s an example. You have identified three horses in the three races of the Pick-3 bet. You think these horses have a better than even chance to win. The problem is that the betting public sees things the same way that you do. All of the horses are being offered at odds of 1-1 or less.

Any successful horse bettor will tell you that betting horses at even money or less is a road to ruin. The reason for this is simple math. Horses that are favorites win one out of every three races, or 33% of the time. The odds on favorites are generally 1-1 or less. You could easily bet on a favorite and receive less than odds of 1-1, meaning that you won’t recoup an even amount of money for your bet. Betting $5 to win $3 is not a pathway to success. You need to be betting $3 to win $30 or more.

In this example you could choose to bet all three horses individually at low odds. Remember, favorites win one out of three on average. So, you can expect to win one of those three bets in most occasions. If you feel that strongly about the horses, use them all to bet the Pick-3. You will then be risking less money for the chance to win a larger sum if all three win their races.

To simplify, you should bet the Pick-3 because it allows you to raise the odds on low-priced horses. It can give you more value. If any of the horses that you have chosen to include in a Pick-3 ticket is a longshot, even better. Your payoff could skyrocket when you use horses at long odds.

A Betting Strategy for the Pick-3 – How to Spread

Let’s take a quick look at a basic betting strategy for the Pick-3 horse racing wager. You could choose to select one horse to win in each event. That is the cheapest way to play the bet. It is also the most difficult. If just one of your horses loses, you lose the bet.

A better strategy is what horse bettors refer to as spreading. This is when the bettor chooses more than one horse in one or more of the Pick-3 races. This creates a separate ticket, and the cost of the Pick-3 will rise accordingly.

The way to calculate the cost of the Pick-3 ticket is to multiply the number of horses used in each leg by the base amount of the bet. In most cases the minimum Pick-3 bet will be $1. Here is an example of using multiple horses in some legs of the Pick-3.

  • Leg 1: Horses 3,4
  • Leg 2: Horse 7
  • Leg 3: Horses 2, 5

To calculate the cost of the Pick-3 ticket multiply 2 X 1 X 2 = 4 ($1.00) = $4. The reason for this is that you have created four separate Pick-3 tickets instead of one. The individual tickets are:

  • 3/7/2
  • 3/7/5
  • 4/7/2
  • 4/7/5

For just a small amount of money you have given yourself a better chance to win the bet. You now have two horses in the first and last legs. The horse in the second leg is called your single. This should be the horse that you have the most confidence in to win.

This simple introduction to the Pick-3 horse racing bet should help you get started on making this wager with an online horse betting site. You can receive a horse betting bonus when you sign up with one of the online racebooks that we recommend. In just a few minutes you can be betting horses at tracks all over the world with a computer, phone, or tablet. Check our Bovada racebook review, Twinspires review or even our Betamerica review. All great choice if you are in the US. 5Dimes review for folks anywhere!

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