Harness Handicapping Take Out The Takeout First
If there's a slim margin between whether you win, lose or break even, one thing you really need to watch is the takeout rate on your wagers. Takeout is what the track takes out of each wager when they pay out your winnings. It can range anywhere from a little over 16 percent at Cal Expo and some other tracks for Win, Place and Show wagers, to 35% for Trifectas and Supers at Pocono. That's a big difference!
One of the reasons I play so many Win and Place bets, is because of the lower takeout percentage on them. Why give back any more of my hard earned cash than I have to, is my theory. I like to play tracks that have no more than a 17% rate on takout on these bets.
Some of the tracks that do keep their takout rate no higher than 17% are Cal Expo, Flamboro, Mohawk and Woodbine, although there are others too. Some tracks with a high takeout rate include Georgian with almost 25% on WPS and Northlands with almost 23% on WPS. Then there are the middle of the road tracks like Hoosier, Saratoga, Scarborough and The Red Mile, to name a few, that keep their takout rate no higher than 18%.
When it comes to exotics, it can get even harder to make a profit, even if you hit a trifecta or super. I've already mentioned Pocono's 35% rate on Trifectas and Superfectas. Better to stick with WPS and Exactas there, if you're playing Pocono, at 19% and 20% respectively.
All the exotics are over 20%, except at Freehold, where Exactas are 19% and at The Meadowlands where Exactas are 19% and Superfectas are 15%. Pick 4's are 15% takeout there also. Hoosier and Indiana are the most reasonably priced for Trifectas and Supers at twenty-one and a half percent, with Lebanon just a tad higher at twenty-two and a half percent.
Takeout can change suddenly, also, I've found. In 2013, it changed dramatically at three PA tracks: Pocono, The Meadows and Harrah's Philadelphia. It pays to check on your favorite track's takeout rate every month just to make sure that it hasn't suddenly skyrocketed. You can call the track or check online for some tracks. While the general rule of thumb is that it's better to play WPS for a lower takeout rate, of course you have to consider whether that's what you're most successful at handicapping for. If you can't hit a wager, the takeout rate doesn't really matter. So, if you find that you can hit trifectas, for instance, often enough to make a profit in spite of the takeout rate, don't switch to WPS until you test your accuracy with hitting them first. Most importantly, no matter which wagers you play, be aware of what you'll give back if you hit something. It's the only way you'll really know what your bottom betting line is.