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Homeracing

What is a guaranteed pool, and how does one work?

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

August 11th, 2021

Sometimes, you’ll see racetracks advertise high-profile wagers featuring “guaranteed pools.” The guarantees are usually lofty dollar amounts — $50,000, $100,000, $500,000, or even $1 million.

But what exactly is a guaranteed pool, and how does one work?

A guaranteed pool is exactly what its name implies — a wagering pool guaranteed to reach or exceed the listed dollar amount. If a track guarantees their Pick 6 pool on a special race day will reach $1 million, that’s a promise they’re bound to keep. If less than $1 million is wagered, the track will chip in its own money to make up the difference.

A guaranteed pool is not…

  • …the definite amount that will be distributed among winning bettors. A Pick 6 with a $1 million guarantee might actually draw $1.5 million in wagers. The guarantees are often conservative. But a certain percentage of the pool will be removed through takeout, so if the takeout rate for a $1.5 million pool is 20%, only $1,200,000 will be distributed.
  • …a guaranteed payoff. If you hit a Pick 6 with a $1 million guaranteed pool, you’ll split the pool with all other winning bettors. If the pool reaches exactly $1 million, and 15% ($150,000) is removed through takeout, and 100 bettors cash winning tickets, your share will be $8,500.

So what are the advantages of guaranteed pools? The main upside is the knowledge you’re playing a wager with the potential to generate a big payoff. Suppose you play a midweek Pick 6 at a small track where the pool is just $2,500. No matter what happens — even if you select six consecutive winners at 50-1 or higher — you can’t win more than $2,500 (actually less, when takeout is considered), because that is all the money available. Play a pool with a $1 million guarantee, and at least there’s a chance you could assemble huge score, because so much more money is available.

Now that you’re up to speed, be sure to play along the next time you see an enticing pot on the agenda!

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