Full disclosure: I've never won the Pick 6.
On Sept. 3 of last year, BG and I put together a Pick 6 ticket that came within a nose of winning. Five out of 6 paid a few hundred bucks for us, but we were that close to a big pay day. The day before, we lost one race by a head and another by a half-length. Close yet again to a really nice pay day.
If there's one truism in betting the ponies, however, it's that close doesn't pay the bills. And yet, here I am, imparting my amatuer knowledge on you. Thank me later.
1) Identify the card. Not every Pick 6 is made to be won. Each year, the Breeder's Cup features the Ultra Pick 6. In 2006, no one hit it. The year before, just one ticket that paid almost $3 million. It's a tough card. When BG and I played it last year, it was probably the worst results we'd ever had on a Pick 6 partnership.
It's important to identify a card you feel comfortable handicapping. Sometimes those Grade 1 Stakes are a little trickier, and a card full of Grade 1's might not be right for you. Pick a track you like and a track with which you have some experience.
2) Identify the carryover. A carryover in the Pick 6 is equivalent to an overlay in a tournament. It's money that's added to the pot by someone other than the bettors. That's always a good thing. On that one Pick 6 back in September, there was a whopping $245,000 carryover. When BG and I see something like that, we mobilize.
3) Identify your budget. It's just like your bankroll. You won't sit down at a $5/$10 NL table with $300. Don't plan on betting 4 horses per race with $300. There's simple math here. If you pick 3 horses per race, that's 3x3x3x3x3x3 mutiplied by $2. You better have $1458 for those 18 horses in that case. Mix is up a little, say 4x1x5x5x1x2, muliplied by $2, and you're spending just $400 for those 18 horses. Pick a budget and find a combination that fits.
4) Throw out the losers. Tossing horses is important. It makes it a lot easier to narrow down your choices. In every race, there are at least a handful of horses who just don't belong. I generally work my way through the card and eliminate at least half the horses from any consideration.
5) Find the "singles." Want to keep your budget down? Find at least one race in which you feel like there's a sure thing. Every "single" you find will significantly bring down your costs. Of course, it's scary going into a race with only one horse that will keep you alive, but most people don't have thousands of dollars to spend on a Pick 6 ticket.
6) Identify a few long shots. You'll rarely ever find a Pick 6 ticket full of chalk. It just doesn't happen. The difference between you getting that 5 out of 6 consolation ticket and the guy next to you cashing for six figures is finding the right long shots. You can't (and wouldn't want to) load up your ticket with long shots because, well, they're long shots for a reason. But finding one or two that may shock the field could help you to a much bigger pay day when they come in.
7) Narrow the rest. What I've suggested up until now is easy. This step is the hardest. In general, after completing the steps suggested above, you'll be left with as many as three times as many horses as you can afford to put on your ticket. There's no sure-fire way to narrow your choices. If there were, BG and I would be retired on our Pick 6 winnings by now. Instead, it's about smart handicapping and playing your feelings.
8) Get lucky. This one is kinda self-explanatory. Some of us are better at it than others.
Remember, it's not about handicapping each race individually like you would if you were betting a card. This is about picking 6 straight winners. This is about identifying a group of horses that can win. After you've made your choices and placed your bet, cross your fingers and pray to whatever god of luck you believe in.
And speaking of Pick 6's, BG and I are likely getting back on the horse (pun intended). That means we'll be looking for investors. We'll probably do a small one first to get back in rhythm before targeting a nice potential payday. I'll let you know when the time comes.