Gulfstream’s Rainbow 6: Thing of beauty or sucker bet?
Some love it, some hate it, but a lot of people are talking about the Rainbow Pick 6, Gulfstream Park's jackpot bet that is horse racing's best answer to the life-changing payoffs we hear about so often in multi-state lotteries like Powerball or Mega Millions.
The jackpot pool is just short of $3 million for Monday's Presidents Day holiday program, and even experienced horseplayers who think it's a sucker bet are tempted to sink at least a small part of their bankroll into chasing the potential pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.
Gulfstream Park's president, Tim Ritvo, is loving every minute of it.
The bet is a unique stepchild of the traditional pick 6 in that it only pays out its carryover jackpot when there is one correct winning ticket identifying the winners of the day's last six races at the South Florida track. Unless there is a single winning ticket that claims the entire pool, 60% of each new pick 6 pool is paid out daily to the players correctly picking six (or when no one picks six, five) winners. The other 40% goes into the jackpot, which carries over until there is one lone winner.
And that jackpot has grown, slowly at first, since it was last hit on Dec. 29, when a single ticket took down $327,110.
It took seven days to reach a $100,000 jackpot, five more to hit $250,000, five more to get to $500,000, then six to pass $1 million on Jan. 31. Seven more programs passed without an individual Rainbow 6 winner and the pool reached $2 million on Feb. 9. And now, going into the Feb. 18 Presidents Day, the Jackpot has reached $2,965,689.
(UPDATE: the Rainbow 6 Jackpot grew to $3,107,159 for Thursday after $442,094 was wagered Monday. There were multiple tickets selecting all six winners, each paying $4,613.)
The beauty of the bet, according to Ritvo, is that it costs just a dime – unlike most pick 6 bets that require a $2 minimum. When the Rainbow 6 jackpot was hit by a single player for $791,364 last April, the cost of the winning ticket was $2.40. The winner picked four horses in one race, three in another, two in another and one horse in each of three races. 4x3x2x1x1x1=24. Divide 24 by 10 and you get 2.4 or $2.40.
The low minimum is the great equalizer, Ritvo said, because when a traditional pick 6 has a big carryover it is often brought down by a syndicate of bettors who pool their resources and try to cover all the logical outcomes of the six races with a huge ticket. But the Rainbow 6, in many ways, defies logic because, for there to be just one winner, especially as the pools grow, the outcome requires more luck than skill.
“A lot of our people love this bet,” Ritvo said. “In the $2 pick 6 the everyday customer would build the pot up and the syndicates would take it down. The syndicates can move in on the Rainbow 6, but we're getting a lot of tickets worth about $300. The neat thing is the winner could be a grandma who plays a 10 cent ticket using her grandson's birthday.”
The bet is modeled after a similar wager at Beulah Park that failed to catch on and Puerto Rico's Poolpote, which has had several multi-million-dollar payouts.
It is confounding to a lot of handicappers and veteran horseplayers because, in many ways, only an illogical outcome can ultimately win. “You have to pick winners,” said Ritvo, “but you have to pick winners that nobody else will pick. It does kind of play with people's minds.”
One of those people is the horseplayer and author, Andrew Beyer, who wrote recently about the Rainbow 6 in Daily Racing Form, calling it “an almost impossible challenge.”
Ritvo read the piece and the more than 150 reader comments that followed it.
“I look at the blogs and listen to people,” said Ritvo, who added that he is considering changing the format for next year as a result of some of the comments. “When we get to a $1-million carryover, maybe we'll switch the distribution from 60/40 to paying out 90% every day (adding 10% to the jackpot).”
Critics of the bet have said the 40% carryover provision when there are multiple winners makes the daily takeout on the bet too high. Beyer and others have referred to it as a 52% takeout on daily pick 6 payouts. (If $100,000 is wagered and the current takeout is 20%, that means of the $80,000 remaining only $48,000 is paid out that day, with the other $32,000 put into the jackpot.) Technically it's not a 52% takeout, because the $32,000 will be paid out eventually, but they do have a point.
Daily Rainbow 6 pools have averaged over $400,000 per day the last two weeks, and Ritvo said many of the players are playing for the consolation, which has averaged $15,472 since Feb. 1. During that period, the low payout was $294.30 on Feb. 14 and the high was $111,535.94 on Feb. 6.
Gulfstream Park is promoting the bet by distributing $100 worth of Rainbow 6 tickets daily; at a cost of $.10 each that's 1,000 tickets. “Everyone at the track is following it and watching it come in,” Ritvo said.
The best news, he added, is that the Rainbow 6 is not cannibalizing other bets, something that originally concerned Ritvo. In fact, he said, other wagers including pick 5 and pick 4 bets have increased as the jackpot has built. People are handicapping the Rainbow 6 races but not playing huge tickets on the bet, even as the jackpot rises, leaving them plenty left over for other wagers.
“It's really been a phenomenon,” Ritvo said.