Tuesday, September 25, 2007

When math skills fail

My wife and I always enjoy the Del Mar racetrack and we generally manage to at least break even based on a betting system my wife has developed that places little emphasis on the horses and great emphasis on the jockeys. I have learned that being clever with your betting seldom pans out, so I focus on the 30 to 1 long shots and bet them across the board. I typically hit at least one of these on each visit to the track and that's how I make my nut.

Here's an amusing little item from the Sports Column Blog about a guy in Rochester, NY (my hometown) on how not to bet the Kentucky Derby.
We love betting the trifecta. For a buck or two, you can win hundreds if not thousands of dollars on a race. Hell, sometimes we'll even go crazy and go with the trifecta box. However, we also know enough about statistics to know that you can't bet every single permutation in a race and expect to come out on top. But that's exactly what a man in Rochester, NY did. On the day of the Kentucky Derby, a man walked into an OTB and asked how much it would cost to buy every possible trifecta combination. And now we break for a quick math lesson-- If you have 20 horses in the field, the possible outcomes for the first three horses would be 20! / (20-3)! = 6,840. Likewise, a superfecta (first 4 horses) would be 116,280. And now back to your regularly scheduled programming-- The man was told the answer and came back to place the wagers. It cost him a total of $13,680 for his $2 trifectas and he wound up winning... wait for it... wait for it... $440. If you're gonna make a bet like this, you better know what you're getting yourself into. And since the payout odds are terrible on favorites, you should just eliminate those trifecta combinations. But alas, the man had more cash than math skills so now he's $13,240 poorer for his trouble.

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