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On The Rails
by Alan Aitken
On The Rails
by Alan Aitken

Hold your horses as the $1 bet is not the ticket

Anyone who thinks this is the cure for a downward trend in the Triple Trio and Six-Up pools belongs with the Curiosity on Mars

Turnover is up at the first three meetings, with a proportion of it certainly due to the healthy jackpots in the Triple Trio and the Six-Up - and it is to the ongoing health of those pools where we turn our attention.

Some colleagues have made much of the introduction of the $1 bet this season - the changes to betting rules which have made it possible to take certain bets for a single dollar per combination provided there is a minimum cost per ticket of $100.

Fortunately, though we suspect there would be minds at Sports Road keen to pursue the same route across the board, the club has elected to look at the results of this move across Double Trio, Treble, Tierce, Trio and First Four betting before they go anywhere foolish with it.

We have no information on whether it is deemed to have had an impact on the very small sample to date but any of those well-meaning folk who think this is the cure for a downward trend in the Triple Trio and Six-Up pools belongs with the Curiosity Rover on Mars. Or back home as it might be expressed.

Those who think it's a great idea point to the wider net the average punter can cast across the TT - let's keep the TT as the main focus, since the same principles also apply across the Six-Up, or any pool which has at the heart of its success or failure the underlying potential for jackpotting into a life-changing event.

In fact, if you want to take that simpleton's viewpoint, then there is no end to it. You could make the Triple Trio open to bets of 1 cent per combination provided there is a certain minimum spend. Maybe it could be $10.

In a very short time, you would have first-up dividend pools of not $2 million, not $1 million but $100,000 or $10,000. And let's see how long they would take to roll over into a worthwhile jackpot - interest would die altogether.

The critical aspect of moving to a minimum $1 bet per combination is the behaviour of "the customer", which can be neatly signposted in two different directions.

Let's say Customer A normally spends $200 on a TT, in $2 combinations. Customer A can react to the news by thinking, "Wow, I can take twice as many combinations for the same money" or "Wow, I can take the same combinations and spend half as much."

And the winner for the TT, for the Jockey Club, is behind neither door. It's the worst game show in the world.

Twice as many combinations covered means a sharply higher certainty that the TT is won every time it is played, or at the least within two outcomes.

The jackpots catching the eye this season are there only because they have been seeded by the club, which would become the only serious source of TT jackpots in the future and wheeled out for opening day, closing day and Chinese New Year. Even the seeding would be more modest, since that money comes from the TT slush fund, sliced out of bets made on each and every TT and tossed into the bottom drawer for a special occasion.

Or, punters can take the same numbers and pay less. The upshot of that should be obvious to all - since most players would bet $2 combinations now, the outlay on the bet type would halve. It's like pulling teeth now to get a worthwhile jackpot going, but like the dentist even tossing away the anaesthetic under that second behaviour pattern.

And most likely, the response of players would be some combination of both and thus with the potential for an even more slippery slope.

There is perhaps another response, wherein Customer A responds by thinking this is his chance to really have a crack at the TT and bet more than his $200 but we're seeing that as a real outsider.

An acquaintance, having struck a DT last week with a $1 unit, certainly doesn't agree with any of this - pointing out his particular dividend was clearly over the odds when lined up next to the Trio returns.

That is not unusual - the DT is more complicated than the Trio and the more complex bet is likely to pay over the odds when the takeout rate is the same for each.

Double Trios may not be much of a guide to how this would all work out for the TT, anyway, as Double Trios jackpot quite infrequently. (And we think the 50 per cent of the dividend pool paid in consolations in those cases is too much. Probably about 100 per cent too much, actually. The DT wouldn't be the cowed shadow of its former self it is these days if it was allowed to jackpot in full on those rare occasions.)

Over time, not only the turnover on the TT would diminish but the gloss would be lost from it altogether as the $1 bets led to diminishing dividends, paltry pools and scarce jackpots, and the lungs and pancreas could follow the heart in being ripped out of the TT. The appeal of the bet has always been in giant pools and the "what if" factor and that would disappear.

Whatever the ailment of the TT in the past decade - and the rebate pools didn't start the fire, they just poured on the gasoline - this idea of the $1 ticket is not a tonic but hemlock.

Not exactly the proposition that was once touted as the "world bet" from the world city. And if the HKJC boffins think this can all be proved wrong, we'd be prepared to admit our mistake - so let's try it out first by slashing the minimum bet per combination on something that is ghastly to begin with, like the Mark Six.



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This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Hold your horses as the $1 bet isnot the ticket