As many people are learning, the Fortune 6 at Beulah Park is gaining some steam. The carryover is well over $200,000 for the bet, which asks a player to pick 6 winners with a base bet of 25 cents. The kicker is, to take down the whole enchilada you have to be the only ticket. If no one hits it, carryover. If ten people hit it, carryover. You truly have to be the "one". Cangamble and Fugue for Tinhorns have spoken about it previously here and here respectively.
Pick 6 bets are perhaps the biggest horseplayer tax there is. Back in the day when racetracks shunned exotics some races only had WPS betting. If a crowd of 4500 are on-track and an 8-5 comes in, a good deal of people are cashing, and ready to play the next race with a set of bullets, even though they might be of the 22 caliber variety. Today, spending $372 on a $2 base bet pick 6 is like taking a wad of cash and lighting it on fire. Churn? Not quite.
Pick 6's are not only hard to hit and churn killers, they often pay much less than fair value, making them poor mathematical bets as well. In an article originally published in Trot Magazine and reprinted with permission on the HANA blog, a professional player looked at this phenomenon. For a $1 pick 7 in a 10k pool, 7 horses of 2.75-1 or more creates a parlay that would pay more than the $10000 that you would receive. How about a $250k pool? It only goes to 4.9-1. When jackpot pools of this magnitude can not even beat a 5-1 parlay, most of this money is dead money.
So, pick 6's with a high minimum bet are hard to hit, don't add to churn, and newbies are fed on by sharks like they are Bart Simpson competing at NFL mini-camp. What good are they? Well, they do bring people out to your track, whether virtually or in person, especially when there is a carryover. At Santa Anita for example, players have disliked the short fields for years, however there they are, betting the large pools, looking for a score. Racing is one game where you can get a good score, if you are good, prepared and bet smart. Sure you can make a half million on a lotto bet, but that does not take skill.
Beulah Park, following the Puerto Rico example has moved into this realm with this interesting bet. 25 cent mins, instead of $2 ones allows the small players a chance to fish in a big pond, while it still allows the larger bankrolled player to contrarian-handicap, searching for the big score. This is not a bet for everyone, nor should it be, but marketed correctly, and adding a couple of twists I believe it could be the bet that brings the slot players over to racing, which we have wanted for some time.
For anyone who has been to Woodbine at the slots area we know what we see - plenty of people looking for a score while putting a dollar or so into a machine. They are attracted to playing numbers and making a big hit. If a Fortune 6 is going on whilst they are playing, it is promoted as such, I think they could be enticed to play.
When we do have the jackpot up to a large number, to make it happen, in my opinion, you would have to do a few things:
i) Allow fractional betting. Allow a customer who plays slots to make a bet with ease. Don't ask him or her to fill out a ticket, ask him or her a simple question: "How much do you want to bet?" Then fractionally calculate a quick pick ticket for him or her. If she wants to spend $24, give her a ticket containing 96 combos. If she wants to spend $6, give her one with 24. And so on.
ii) Have bet takers moving on the floor. I know, I know, the racetrack/gambling lingo of "we can't do that" comes into play here. Instead of "can't", change the rules so we can. We put a man on the moon 41 years ago, we can find a way to sell horse racing tickets, at a racetrack, on the slots floor.
iii) Announce each leg, countdown the time to each leg and promote the hell out of each leg like it is a huge event. The slots players can check their tickets every fifteen minutes or so. If the quick picks are front loaded, which can be an option, more and more people would be alive. If several are alive into the later legs we might see something weird, wacky and out of this world: Slots players gathering around a television in a slots parlour to watch racing.
iv) Count the number of tickets after each leg that are alive, and let everyone know. Are there four left going into race 5? Is there only one left into race 8? Work the microphone like we actually have something to sell, and sell the score. Someone might win a million dollars tonight, we should act like it and not keep it a secret.
v) If $4M or so pools do happen (and I believe that they will; the math is there), then we look to move onto phase two: Corner store fractional bets sold via the lottery system. Dave Bryans has spoken about this before and he thinks it can be done. Just a note on that - racetracks, please do not block your internet feeds should this happen. People will want to watch.
I think if those things are done, and done right, people will remember racing, they will tell friends and they might have a good time. Maybe on the way out of the slots parlour a patron who was alive in four legs and saw the carryover wants to pick up a program to try tomorrow on his own. In that case, have a "Fortune 6 mini-program" available for him at the exit.
Wagers like pick 6's are here to stay and there is nothing wrong with that. But if we are going to promote churnless bets, feed those bets to a new market - the lottery & slots player. Gosh knows we have tried a million things to get them to play racing which has been met with a yawn. Hit them right where they want to be hit - with a quick pick chance at millions, that they can follow along with. The six race outcomes are like six cherries on a slot machine, only with horses racing around in a circle, just the way we like them.