Balancing The Odds

An application frustrated punters may find interesting

As a horse-racing punter, one is driven by the prospect of a quick solution to improve one’s financial position.

So suggests Marc Van Zyl of Immediate Solutions.

Van Zyl, who holds a Phd in Computer Science and is physically handicapped, has written an application which frustrated punters may find interesting.

Much Less

“ In all forms of gambling the odds of winning are substantially less than most players are aware. If one selects three horses out of ten, on a ‘win’ bet, one has a 3-in-10 (33.33%) chance of backing the winner, “ says Van Zyl.

He adds that with multi-race permutations (doubles, trebles, jackpots, etc), one’s chances are considerably reduced. He goes on to say that if one were to select three horses out of ten in each of two races, in a ‘double’ bet, the chance of backing the two winners drops to 9%.

“If one were to select, hypothetically-speaking,  5 horses out of 10 in each of four races, in a jackpot bet, one’s chances would not be 50% (as it appears on the surface) but just 6.25%! There are many more possible permutations (‘lines’) to choose from (10000, in this example)!” he says with obvious passion.


The computer science fundi says that die-hard punters would argue that raw permutations don’t apply in horse-racing because all horses do not have the same chance of winning. Merit-rating (handicapping), weight-for-age allowances and even plate conditions, are, however, intended for exactly that purpose. Although many ‘champions’ are capable of defying the conditions, win-capability (determined by performance history) is generally not a sufficient criterion.

“ Seasoned punters (and tipsters) study ‘form’, perform their own handicap-analyses and rate runners by jockey, trainer, current-form, barrier-draw, track-conditions, distance-preference, course-preference, field-size, change in headgear, rested-factors, gelding, etc and many tipsters rely on stable ‘disclosures”, he suggests.

Van Zyl argues that ‘luck-in-running’ can generally not be anticipated and is a common reason for tips falling by the wayside.

He says we only have to consider the paucity of millionaire-punters and millionaire-tipsters!

“ So, given the low probability of a winning permutation and the poor reliability that form-studying provides, is there a better means to approach punting?”, he asks.

Van Zyl concedes that there probably are a few,and suggests at least one approach.


“ The bet with the best winning chance would be a ‘win’ permutation. One would play the permutation – one selected from examining a number of races – in which the best combination of the following is determined:  the probability of winning  is (relatively) high and the expected returns are (relatively) high,” he said.

But, how on earth could one predict a relatively high probability of winning and relatively high expected returns?

Van Zyl smiled wryly and made the telling observation that one often intuitively knows when an ‘upset’ result is imminent – as most seasoned punters would argue.

But! Intuition is not a reliable yardstick, he says.


Van Zyl set about examining (empirically) what the factors are that contribute to ‘upset’ results. He says ‘Upset’ results are neither ‘bad’ nor ‘good’ – provided of course that one has anticipated well and selected accordingly!

Using these factors, an upset probability (UP) for each race could be determined.

This could then be used to evaluate one’s winning chance, by comparing one’s selections to the upset probability. A means for making measurements equivalent and a means for sharpening the accuracy of calculating the UP was created.

Van Zyl’s application  also calculates costs and permutations and various statistical parameters.

However, it essentially shows comparisons between UP and per-race selections using betting-spread average and also between UP and bet-selections.

A simple colour-scheme is used to show disparity between UP and per-race selections and between UP and bet-selections.

Worth A Try?

He has used this to good effect. In combination with an accurate form-rating method, it works even better, and he is working on improving and refining the latter.

Interested parties may wish to visit either, or search Facebook for ‘WhichBet?’ for ‘special offers’.

The current version is for South African racing only and is on promotion for R179 until 19 October 2012.

Maybe it’s worth a try?

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