10/26/2015 12:21PM

Fornatale: For Tammaro, good things come in tri's


With the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge just a few days away, it’s time to talk a little strategy. Nick Tammaro, noted handicapper and frequent guest on Steve Byk’s At the Races radio show [http://stevebyk.com/], had a great showing at last year’s BCBC. He ended up fourth overall and took home over $100,000 between his bankroll and the prize money. He also won a seat to the National Handicapping Championship.

One strategy that has proven to be extremely effective at the BCBC is to go all-in at the end on a single horse. Patrick McGoey did this in both of his wins, and Bob Traynor executed the same idea last year. This plan isn’t for everybody – the money risked at the end is real and a lot of players simply aren’t willing to risk blowing $10,000 or more in a single race.

For those players, Tammaro’s strategy from 2014 is one to examine. By efficiently using the massive trifecta pools available over the two days of the Breeders’ Cup, Tammaro was able to risk a little to win a lot – a plan that will be music to the ears of many new live-bankroll players looking to get involved at the BCBC.

“My style in general is to structure trifecta wheels that balance my opinion with the horses that I consider to be the ones offering value,” Tammaro said. “This can occasionally include well-bet horses that I prefer to use with longshots underneath, or sometimes longer-priced horses that I can use with the favorites and still reap a reasonable reward.”

It all comes down to that most elemental of handicapping question -- where is the value? “Trifectas offer the most bang for your buck,” Tammaro explained. “If you can really maximize your opinion, the payoff is going to be best.  They can also offer more variety.  For example, if your idea is that two horses may just finish in the money, you can still hit. They are now essentially exactas that link the second- and third-place finishers.”

Tammaro doesn’t shy away from the "all" button when constructing his trifectas. “The question becomes, is it better to take $10 and play a $1 tri 1-2-ALL in a 12-horse race, or play a $10 straight exacta 1-2?  The third-place finisher can often increase that payoff exponentially. You can also then come back with a more polished opinion on who you think can fill in those slots and hit those trifectas for a greater sum.”

In other words, just because you’re playing “all,” it doesn’t mean you have no opinion. By carefully weighting the combinations you prefer, you can crush a bet when you’re exactly right, and still get paid well even if you’re slightly wrong.

Tammaro has tried a similar strategy in other live-bankroll contests with some success, but he believes the Breeders’ Cup is really the place for the wager to shine. “The BCBC is made for the trifecta, and the trifecta was made for an event like the BCBC,” he said. “It was the only type of bet I made in 2014 when successful. The large fields facilitate massive payoffs because of the sheer number of combinations.”

Logically, as the tournament continues on, the strategy must evolve as well. “You have to increase your bet size in an effort to make up ground, but should always have a framework in mind,” he said. “There's no way you can effectively play more than half of your bankroll early in a live money contest and be successful.  The number of times I play certain combinations will depend, of course, on my opinion, and the odds of the horses involved.  What are $5-$10 trifectas on the first day of a two-day tournament can easily become $15-$25 trifectas on the second day if the bankroll has that flexibility.”

Some tournament players, including professional player Mike Maloney, have advocated for the inclusion of superfectas in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. They would offer yet another wagering tool players could use to leverage their opinions, especially on longshots to run in the third and fourth slots. To this point, two fears have kept them off the wagering menu. One is the worry that punching/calling elaborate superfecta tickets would tie up betting lines. The other is that the potential for one outsized superfecta payout could swing the whole tournament.

Not surprisingly, Tammaro is on Maloney’s side, I would love to see superfectas included,” he said. “I would never defend the inclusion of a multi-race play because of the tangible benefit handle-wise for a host site to have the money bet in the vertical pools.  But, trifectas and superfectas offer players the opportunities to take their ideas/opinions and maximize them with a higher return.  This will often include a larger outlay of money, which benefits the rest of a tournament field, as regular trifecta/superfecta players will hit fewer bets and statistically have more dry spells to overcome.”