Updated on 09/16/2011 8:40AM

Doing the pick six math

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The Breeders' Cup pick six scandal has brought to light numerous aspects of the parimutuel system that have surprised even lifelong players. These include major issues involving the security of tote systems and the mechanics of transmitting bets in the simulcast era, as well as some minor issues such as the way that pick six pools and payouts actually work. This latter point, judging by readers' queries to DRF, remains poorly understood. There seems to be great confusion about how the initial pick-five consolation payoff of $4,606.20 will skyrocket to nearly $44,000 if the Catskill OTB "winning" ticket is invalidated and the pool is redistributed. And what of the tainted Oct. 5 Belmont Park pick six, where a similarly suspicious ticket accounted for 8 of the 68 winners and hundreds of consolations? What would, or what should, those payoffs have been? It may prove useful to walk through the math behind the payouts on these two days.

On Breeders' Cup Day, the pool began fresh with no carryover. The gross pool was $4,569,515. At a 25 percent takeout rate, $1,142,379 was taken off the top, leaving $3,427,136 to be returned to the bettors. That $3.4 million would normally be divided on a 75/25 basis between those combinations with all six winners and those with five, meaning that $2,570,352 would be shared by those with six, and $856,784 for the consolation tickets.

The initial payoffs announced were based on there being six winning 6-for-6 tickets and 186 5-for-6 consolations. So the $2.57 million was divided six ways for a payoff of $428,392, and the $856,784 consolation pool was divided by 186 for a payoff of $4,606.20.

The six so-called perfect tickets turned out to be the highly suspicious $12 combination, accounting for the entire $2.57 million. That ticket also contained 108 of the 186 consolations sold: seven losers in the Turf hooked up to Volponi, and High Chapparal hooked up to 11 losers in the Classic, a total of 18 consolation combos, each bought six times. So in addition to the $2.57 million for the front end of the pool, the Catskill ticket was worth an additional $497,469 in consos, for a total of $3,067,822. If that ticket is invalidated, the pool distribution changes radically, because we go from six winners and 186 consolations, to zero winners and only 78 consolations. And because there are no perfect tickets, the entire $3.42 million net pool is divided among the 78 tickets with five winners, which comes out to $43,937 apiece. In many cases, the same bettor will have more than one of those consos - he will have one for each horse used in the race that he missed.

This phenomenal difference between $4,606.20 and $43,987 is unusual and would happen only because this was a one-day pool that could not carry over, similar to what happens on the final day of a track's meeting when there is a mandatory payout. Otherwise, the $4,606.20 consolation payoff would have increased only to $10,984 with the reduction from 186 to 78 winning consos, and there would have been a $2.57 million carryover. The Oct. 5 Belmont pick six was a different creature. There was a three-day carryover of $389,707 that fueled a total pool of more than $1.2 million. The carryover money was added directly to the front end of a pool for 6-of-6 winners and was not subject to additional takeout. So the 68 winning tickets that day paid a hefty $13,070 apiece while over 1,400 5-of-6 tickets were good for just $113.

The questionable Catskill ticket sold that day was a $16 unit 1-1-1-1-All-All combination, which accounted for eight 6-of-6 tickets and 112 consolations. It is unlikely that this pool can or will be redistributed, but here is what would happen if it were. The $13,070 payoffs would increase to $14,812 with 60 rather than 68 winning tickets. The consolations, however, would increase only from $113 to $122 - a $9 increase as opposed to the nearly $40,000 jump for Breeders' Cup consos.

None of my Breeders' cup pick six tickets had more than four winners on any ticket, so I wasn't getting paid for anything that day, but I did have five of those 1,441 consolation tickets Oct. 5 - I went five deep in the Kelso and did not include the victorious Green Fee. So I got back $565 in consos when I "should have" gotten $610. I wish I could feel confident that my lifetime personal losses to pick six tote fraud are only $45, but given how long the opportunity for theft existed and how long I have been playing the bet, I suspect it is much, much more.

This piece is from DRF's .