Exotic bets: Is there a point in wagering on Lucky 15s and other bets with fanciful odds?

Most of us have been guilty of it in the past; usually when we make our first foray into betting. For me, it was football accumulators as it was several years before I began betting on horse racing. The allure of the long shot is impossible to resist for the casual punter. The whole ‘look for value and bet on sensible outcomes’ mantra is not for them. Instead, they prefer the jackpot bet which comes in at 100/1 or more. In horse racing, in particular, landing an accumulator or one of the many exotic bets on offer can be even more lucrative.

It isn’t uncommon for a Lucky 15 or Lucky 31 to come in at odds of close to 1,000/1 in horse racing. For the record, here is a screenshot of some popular exotic bets in table form:

Here are a few more:

  • Exacta: Picking the first two horses to finish in the right order. Doing that in the 2005 Kentucky Derby would have resulted in almost £10,000 from a £2 bet.
  • Quinella: Top two in any order.
  • Trifecta: Predict the top three in the right order.
  • Superfecta: Pick the top four in the right order.
  • Super Heinz: 120 bets with seven horses: 21 doubles, 35 trebles, 35 fourfolds, 21 fivefold, 7 six folds and a 7-bet accumulator.
  • Goliath: The granddaddy of them all involves 247 bets from eight horses: 28 doubles, 56 trebles, 70 fourfold, 56 fivefold, 28 sixfold, 8 seven-folds and an 8-bet accumulator.

If you look at the Goliath, a £1 stake is actually £247, but then again, you’ll probably end up on a beach in Barbados if six of the horses win.

Sounds Like Fun: What’s the Catch?

I would have thought the ‘catch’ was obvious: An insanely low chance of winning! Also, for a lot of the wagers, it only takes one incorrect selection to torpedo most of the bet. For instance, if your first Lucky 15 horse fails, you wave goodbye to eight of the bets straight away.

The second obvious problem is the odds. We know that the bookmakers have an edge on the majority of selections, so unless you can find value for at least half the bets, you’re giving away an enormous advantage to the bookmaker.

Yet another issue is the expense involved. You’ll need a pretty big bankroll to even consider an exotic bet. With 31 times your stake on a Lucky 31, you won’t have much money if your first few attempts end in defeat.

Are There Any Systems?

We are talking about horse racing, so the answer is obviously ‘YES.’ There is a host of Lucky 15 systems doing the rounds. Betfred is probably your best option for Lucky 15s because it is the only bookmaker to offer Triple odds if only one of your horses wins.

The Lucky 15 Place System

Please note that Betfred doesn’t allow this system because of its large consolation bonus. For your four selections, choose the second favourite in a race where there is a clear, short odds favourite (6/4 or shorter). Obviously, you’re only looking for horses with a realistic chance of getting a place at least.

The best races for this system are non-handicap events with 8-10 runners. Frankly, it isn’t easy to find four qualifying bets on any given day. It is also crucial that none of your selections are non-runners because you won’t get a consolation. If you have a situation whereby three of your four horses place and one of them wins, you’ll be in profit most of the time.

When I picked four-second favourites at random, the £30 stake would be £39 if three of them placed and didn’t win.

Lucky 75

This system will only succeed if you receive the double or treble consolation price from bookies. It is a Lucky 15 system with a twist. You add a fifth horse, but instead of a Lucky 31, you place 5 x Lucky 15 bets in the following manner:

  •  A, B, C, D
  • A, B, C, E
  • A, B, D, E
  • A, C, D, E
  • B, C, D, E

It is a clever idea in theory because it maximises your returns if you only have one winner and receive double or triple odds as a ‘consolation.’ If you pay £31 for a Lucky 31 and get one win at say 5/1, you end up with a 15/1 shot with treble odds for a return of £16.

With the ‘Lucky 75’ option above, you could place £0.40 a bet and spend £30. However, each horse appears four times so if you get a 5/1 winner only, you enjoy a 15/1 winner on 4 bet slips. In this example, it means you get (16 x 0.4 x 4) or £25.6. Although it is still a loss overall, you win 60% more for £1 less with the Lucky 75.

There are other ways to manipulate exotic bets to your advantage. For instance, instead of trying a Goliath bet for 247 times your stake, you can make sure that your ‘bankers’ are featured more prominently so if your best bet is the only winner and you get treble odds, you benefit handsomely.

Final Thoughts on Exotic Bets

The last thing I want to do is discourage people from having ‘fun’ bets, but please remember, the bookies love this type of punter. Although the potential winnings are massive, and in some cases, life-changing, excessively exotic bets are akin to buying a lottery ticket. This is especially the case in the Sport of Kings when picking one winner is tricky.

Ultimately, while it is okay to have a go on an exotic bet occasionally, it should never come close to forming the foundation of a sensible betting strategy. For long-term success, stick to singles and the occasional double or treble because, with these bets, you’re relying on judgment more than luck.

Patrick Lynch

Patrick graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with an MA in Literature and Publishing but decided he would rather have the freedom of a freelance writer than be stuck in a publishing house all day. He has enjoyed this freedom since 2009 and has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics but sports betting is his passion. While his specialty is finding mismatches in obscure football leagues, he also likes to use his research skills to provide punters with detailed winning strategies in horse racing. You can check out his personal blog on or Twitter @pl1982 where he writes content to help small businesses achieve success.
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