Take six races on a card, pick a horse in each to win or place, and you’ve won a share of the Tote placepot. How hard can it be?
It can be hard for the average punter to accept, but bookmakers have all sides of the industry covered. Professionals are employed to look at every aspect of the business – I was once an odds compiler for Coral, and can testify that people study television clips all day to make themselves aware of every scenario that they are laying odds for, on behalf of the company.
They have statisticians at their disposal and any number of other experts, egg-heads and boffins who have been studying individual sporting events, every goal scored, every wicket taken and every sporting scenario you can possibly imagine. Beating them is a tough ask, and that’s what makes placepot betting so attractive.
The massive advantage you have in playing the placepot is that you are not opposing dauntingly knowledgable professional people; you are pitting your wits against your fellow punter, with the bookmaker acting merely as fund holder.
On most occasions, your opposition is someone who has nipped down to the bookies in his or her lunchtime. Such people will have flicked through their newspaper and made their selections based on favourite jockeys and trainers, or they will have selected horses that did them a turn last time out.
You need to be professional in your approach to take advantage of such ‘victims’. Remember, it is their money you stand to inherit, not the bookmakers’, and it can be a LOT of money. At the Cheltenham Festival, the potential reward on offer totals over half a million pounds, while at the forthcoming Royal Ascot meeting, Tote placepot pools could exceed £350,000!
Non-runners are the key
It is often the non-runners and the vulnerable favourites that are the most important factors in attaining a sizeable placepot dividend. Picking the odd outsider or two obviously aids the cause, but fancied non-runners can literally dictate the whole process.
In many ways, the placepot dividend is governed by the number of successful or unplaced favourites on the card. Selections that become non-runners automatically transfer onto the favourite in any given event, so the non-runners become a vital piece of the placepot jigsaw – the more non-runners there are in a race, the more the favourite will dominate the leg from a units perspective.
If you can successfully leave out the favourite in races where there are several non-runners (especially well fancied horses), you will put yourself in pole position in the placepot. It is vital that favourites are unplaced in any placepot, though particularly so when there have been non-runners.
This becomes more evident in races where there are ‘short fields’, which are events for five, six or seven runners. If there is an eight-runner race for example, a non-runner will cut the number of place opportunities from three down to two.
Because there were so few runners initially, the spread of placepot selections would have been great in the first place. We can assume that all the runners would have received support, thus the non-runner becomes even more significant. This would not have been the case if an outsider had been withdrawn in a 20-runner novice hurdle race at Wincanton. This is a good example of how important it is to look at each meeting, and each race, on its own merits.
This scenario occurred big time at Newcastle in April 2002. 37 horses were withdrawn on the day, which caused mayhem in the Tote placepot. No fewer than nine horses were taken out of one particular event, which resulted in a beaten favourite at odds of 2/7 in a two horse race!
Similar (though not quite so drastic) situations occurred in all races that afternoon, which (almost) left John McCririck speechless when he read the dividend out on air a day or two later. John was left wondering why the ‘freak’ dividend had occurred.
The Tote placepot dividend at Newcastle that day was £22,121.50.
It was not a freak dividend as such, just the figures working the way that the rules stipulate in the event of so many non-runners. It should be noted that 12 of the 13 available placepot positions were claimed by horses returned at odds of 7/1 or less! This is why the placepot is so attractive to so many punters.