07/12/2004 11:00PM

Good loophole for pick four players


OCEANPORT, N. J. - They're giving money away at Monmouth Park this year. Really.

Due to an intriguing law on the books of the New Jersey Racing Commission, players at this track have been able to take shots at carryover pools in pick four wagers on a handful of occasions this year. In these instances, a rare "positive expectation" has been created, in that the track pays out above what the handle is on a given pool.

According to Chris McErlean, vice president and general manager of The Meadowlands Racetrack for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, rules for the pick four in this state fall under the guidelines of what's referred to as a pick "N" wager. That covers any multi-race bet, including any pick five or pick six wagers that may be offered.

"There was no specific language for the pick four," said McErlean, who has helped implement $75,000 guaranteed pick four pools every Saturday at the current Meadowlands harness meet. "There are special rules for the pick three in place, but nothing for the pick four."

With any pick "N" wager, racetrack officials have two options. The first is to pay a "consolation payout" to holders of tickets with fewer than the maximum number of winners for the bet, in this case four, even when there are winning tickets with all four winners. This would be similar to the situation which applies to most pick six wagers across the country, when five of six winners yields a consolation even when the pick six is hit. Obviously, this wouldn't work well with the pick four, given the relatively small pools. The payouts for tickets with all four correct would be diluted to reward those players who failed to hit all four legs with token consolations.

The other option is the rule currently in place, which on days nobody picks four winners, mandates a payout of 25 percent of the net pool (after the track's 15 percent takeout) to those players with the most winners on their tickets (usually three of four), with a carryover of the remaining 75 percent to the next scheduled pick four. For the last couple of years, that was the next racing day. This year, however, Monmouth Park started offering two daily pick four bets, currently on the first four races of the day and the last four. If no one selects all four winners on the late pick four, the next card's early pick four contains the carryover pool. If the first gimmick of the day isn't hit, the carryover goes into effect for the late pick four on that same card.

Given the fact that most fans these days are not on site - and therefore not always privy to track announcements - there are a good number of simulcast players unaware there even is a carryover, an opportunity to take a shot at a surplus of cash they're not technically entitled to win. After all, it belongs to the winning bettors from the previous pick four. Since there weren't any, it's up for grabs, given away to winners of the next bet.

There have been three instances at this meet where there have been carryovers, and each time it was the early pick four that went unhit. On June 6, $7,242 was carried into the late pick four, which paid $3,738.20. Without a carryover, it would have been worth $2,289.60. On June 30, $9,775 was seeded into the late pick four, which paid $1,145.40. Sans a carryover, winning tickets would have paid $844.60. And on the July 4 card, $12,312 was carried over when no one had a perfect ticket early. Then, in the nightcap, one person collected it all - plus the entire pool of the late pick four, as the holder of the only ticket with all four winners of that bet. Total payout: $43,488.30.