Strong start to the Empire 6, but are jackpots good bets?

August 14, 2019 08:55am
The New York Racing Association's Empire 6, the newest 20-cent Pick 6 jackpot wager that debuted last Wednesday, replacing the traditional $2 Pick 6, is already off to a strong start. The wager handled $1,062,592 in its first week, and after a two-day start it averaged more than $265,000 per day Friday-Sunday.

There will be a mandatory payoff for the wager on Sunday, just the 10th day of the wager. At this current growth rate, if there's no single ticket winner, one could expect a carryover pool of roughly $450,000 to $500,000 for Sunday's mandatory payout. 


 DatePool Payoff$ to Jackpot Carryover
 Aug. 11$244,843 $4,451 $48,964$212,494  
 Aug. 10$351,268 $999 $70,243$163,530 
 Aug. 9$207,330$9,951 $41,461$93,287 
 Aug. 8$129,599 $3,309 $25,918$51,826
 Aug. 7$129,552 $622 $25,908$25,908


Pick 6 jackpot wagers remain popular and continue to be added at tracks nationwide because they generate growing pool sizes that provide additional handle on the mandatory payout days.

While those mandatory payout sequences provide great opportunities for players to bet into massive pools with low takeout, no takeout or even added money scenarios, it is questionable whether these are good bets on a daily basis.

Beyond that, not all Pick 6 jackpot wagers are created equal. For example, looking at some of the nation's biggest circuits, here are the takeout rates and how pools are distributed between daily payouts and contributing to the jackpot. 

On days there is no jackpot payout...


 Wager TrackWager takeoutAfter takeout % to payout  After takeout %  to jackpotNet % paid outDaily effective takeout
Single 6 CD15% 90%10% 76.5% 23.5% 
Empire 6  SAR20% 75% 25% 60% 40% 
Rainbow 6  GP20% 70% 30% 56% 44% 
Rainbow 6 SA22.68% 70% 30% 53.4% 46.6% 

Churchill Downs' Single 6 is by far the most player-friendly, with a low 15% takeout and 10% of the after-takeout percentage going to the jackpot. These smaller cuts combine to make a reasonable, effective 23.5% takeout on a daily basis. A 23.5% takeout compares favorably to other exotic wagers and is a fair bet regardless of whether there is a carryover. 

The Empire 6's actual takeout is only a little higher, at 20%, but combined with dedicating 25% to the jackpot, this creates an effective takeout of 40% on a daily basis. Gulfstream's Rainbow 6 is slightly higher at 44%, while the Santa Anita version of the Rainbow 6 comes in at 46.6%. 

So do high effective takeouts of 40% or more make these bad bets on a daily basis? The answer is, simply, yes. No horseplayer can come close to breaking even against an effective takeout that high.

The 
best strategy is to wait for days like this Sunday with a mandatory payout of the carryover. On these days, not only is there no percentage siphoned off for the next day's carryover, but you have a huge pool to play into and additional carryover funds added to the pool to combat the takeout.

For example, if the jackpot carryover for Sunday's Empire 6 is $500,000, and the takeout is 20%, this means that if there is $2.5 million bet into the pool there would essentially be zero takeout. 

Example pools, takeout and carryover on mandatory payout days... 

Pool sizeTakeout Carryover Net takeout Takeout % 
$2,500,000 $500,000$500,000 $0 0% 
$3,000,000 $600,000$500,000 $100,000 3.3% 
$3,500,000 $700,000$500,000 $200,000 5.7% 
$4,000,000 $800,000 $500,000 $300,000 7.5% 
$4,500,000 $900,000 $500,000 $400,000 8.9% 

As for playing these high-takeout jackpot pick 6 wagers on non-payout days, that comes down to whether you're playing the wager for fun or trying to generate a long-term profit.  

The 20-cent base wager does create an opportunity to generate a large number of combinations for a low price. For example, at a base of 20 cents, you can get 500 combinations for $100. This does give any bettor the chance for a larger win at a low entry point. The first five days of the Empire 6 provided payouts ranging from $622 to $9,951. So it can make sense to take the occasional "flyer" wager on a card you may like or a big event day. 

That being said, while the daily jackpot amounts advertised sound exciting, they are actually not much attainable because they require a jackpot winner to have the lone winning ticket. At a major track like Saratoga, players should not kid themselves about being the only jackpot winner. For example, on Friday, with a pool of $207,330 and a payout of $9,951, there were only 13 winning tickets. That's out of a total of 1,036,650 combinations played. 

As for me, I will probably wait for the mandatory carryover on Sunday, as I want to preserve my record for a few more days. I actually played the Empire 6 on Wednesday when it debuted, got lucky and hit the wager.

Empire 6

 

That night I texted a friend: I've never lost playing the Empire 6. But even after I do lose, I can always say I was one of 125 winning tickets on the very first day ever of the Empire 6, for whatever that's worth. It's a tough game, and you have to remember the victories when you get them.

Let's hope the Empire 6 carries over until Sunday and I'll be back with some recommended tickets for the wager's first-ever mandatory payout.

 

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