02/23/2011 4:10PM

Placepot: The Way to Exotic Joy?


All of the talk of late about microbets, allowing bettors to get down on wagers like the Pick 6 for as little as 10 cents, comes at least 60 years too late. The first known such wager, a Tote Jackpot in Australia, was offered in January 1958. In September, 1960, Pietermaritzburg Racecourse in South Africa offered a similar wager. Both were made available in permutations the local equivalent of 10 cents.

Run under rules almost identical to our Pick 6, the Jackpot later made its way to Great Britain where, as in Australia and South Africa, it was available for a few pennies. In Britain you have always been able to play it for as little as 10 pence (16 cents today), or in permutations of 20 pence (32 cents) or 50 pence (80 cents) as well as one pound ($1.60)

What sets British exotic wagering, at least on the Tote, or the pari-mutuel as we would call it, is the Placepot. In this bet, players wager on horses in six consecutive races to place, which in Britain means to finish in the first three, or, in races of fewer than seven runners, the first two. If we had such a bet in America, we could give it a sexy name like the Showpot.

The Placepot is available at all British race meetings and consists of the first six races on the card, British meetings always consisting of from six and eight races. As with the Jackpot, the Placepot is available in permutations as small as 10 pence, meaning that everybody has a chance to hit it, not just the big players who measure their members by the size of the bets they place.

A Placepot, or Showpot, would be a welcome alternative to the money-gauging Pick 6, a wager designed to produce the occasional huge payoff while leaving most daily players with an empty pocket. Introduced in Britain at Newbury Racecourse on November 29, 1977 by the Tote (a betting company founded by no less a personage than Winston Churchill himself), the Placepot was an instant hit in Britain and continues to be so today.

And the payoffs are not as small as one might think. The average payoff in October 2010, the last full month during which flat racing on the turf was held in Britain, was 379.96-1. That translates into a payoff of $761.92. The highest payoffs that month were 4,611.20-1 at Uttoxeter and 2,649.80-1 at York. The lowest were 5.50-1 at Newmarket and 6.20-1 at Pontefract.

There is a simialr wager available in California called the Place Pick All in which bettors pick the first two finishers on the entire card, whether it be eight, nine or ten races, but the minimum permutation is one dollar, so it is nearly as difficult to hit as a Pick 6.

American players would be well served by a Placepot (or Showpot), but don't expect to see it introduced here any time soon, especially one on offer for 10 cents, as the establishment of such a wager would put it in direct competition with the Pick 6, the darling wager of America's big players to whom racetracks are enthrall.

*Food for thought.

On Saturday, February 12 the total handle on the 10-race card at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong was $161,000,000. It was one of just two race meetings run in Hong Kong that week, the other held at Happy Valley on the previous Wednesday.

For the week ending on Sunday, February 13, the nine meetings conducted at Aqueduct and Santa Anita produced a total handle of $57,620,515. The population of Hong Kong is 7,000,000. The population of the United States is 307,000,000.

*For anyone interested in getting a Kentucky Derby bet down with a British bookmaker, there are some interesting prices available. Here is a comparison of odds of the Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Derby (Pool) and some prices currently available from WilIiam Hill (WH) and Ladbrokes (L).

Uncle Mo 7-2 Pool; 3-1 WH; 4-1 L
Brethren 15-1 Pool; 10-1 WH
Dialed In 8-1 Pool; 12-1 WH
To Honor and Serve 10-1 Pool; 14-1 WH
Mucho Macho Man 30-1 Pool; 20-1 WH
Toby's Corner 2.10-1 (field) Pool; 20-1 WH
Soldat 18-1 Pool; 33-1 WH
Jaycito 21-1 Pool; 33-1 WH
The Factor 25-1 Pool; 20-1 L