The Pick 5 is a multi-race bet in which you must correctly pick the winner of five consecutive races. The bet generally carries a 50 cent base and is offered once or twice a day at racetracks, usually the first and/or last five races. In order to win the big payouts that routinely occur in the Pick 5 you must pick all five winners, however some tracks also provide consolation payouts for picking four of five races correctly. These payouts are much smaller than the 5 of 5 payouts, but can help to offset the cost of your bet if you happen to miss in one race, and do provide some level of emotional “consolation” if you come within a hair’s breadth of a big score.
The Pick 5 is really the first pool where it’s more about survival than pressing your opinion strongly. Of course, it always depends on the sequence of races, but generally you’re just looking to be right about the five races because the payouts can be substantial even if the winners are all obvious. That may sound easy enough, but the cost of using every horse you think has a chance of winning in every race can get astronomically expensive, so you’ll likely have to make some concessions along the way to winnow down your ticket to a manageable size.
That’s not to say you should discard long-shots, who are inherently less likely to win, in favor of sturdier propositions. In fact, the opposite is often true. To be profitable playing the Pick 5 long term you’ll need to incorporate horses others have missed, as connecting on those horses is what will trigger the massive payouts that can arise. With every horse you use or don’t use, you’ll need to weigh the risk/reward. As with all bets, the name of the game is value, so any horse you feel has a better shot at winning than the odds will reflect should have a place on your ticket.
Another key aspect of playing the Pick 5 is knowing when you can use only one or two horses in a race and when it’s prudent to use a bunch. Using one horse in a leg, also known as ‘singling,’ is a common strategy to playing the Pick 5 and not without its merits. Singling a horse allows you to spread in other legs, races that you feel might be more chaotic, and of course helps to bring down the cost of the bet. Identifying which races you don’t need much coverage in and those in which you need a lot is almost as important as knowing who to bet, and is an invaluable skill for playing the longer multi-race bets.
Why play it?
Widely considered the best bet in racing, the Pick 5 offers an affordable 50 cent base, low takeout, and the possibility of a gigantic payout. The confluence of these factors means there is undeniable value in the Pick 5, more so than any other pool, and its tournament-style format makes for an exciting use of your wagering dollars. Though it’s by no means easy to hit a Pick 5, it is a great wager for bettors of all skill levels as you don’t have to break the bank to put in a competitive ticket. If you’re thinking of getting involved in horizontal wagering, the Pick 5 should be at the top of your list.