What Is A Pick 3, 4 Or 6 Bet In Horse Racing?

Most people around the world will be able to tell you the difference between a win bet, a place bet or a show bet. The reason why most people are aware of these bet types is due to the fact that they are some of the most popular and straightforward bets in the world.

However, if you are interested in making bigger profits from horse race betting, we highly recommend you look into exotic bet types. If you haven’t heard of pick 3, pick 4 or pick 6 bets, or you are just unsure of how each of them work, you’ve come to the right place.

Here, we will take an in-depth look at pick 3 bets, pick 4 bets and pick 6 bets. We will also tell you how payouts are calculated for each of these exotic wagers and the differences you will find when you compare a pick 3 bet with a trifecta bet. There’s more, too, including a look at the biggest payout on a pick bet and an explanation of what will happen in the event of a late scratch.

There’s also a handful of FAQs, giving you more than enough information to confidently place an assortment of pick 3, pick 4, or pick 6 bets. When it comes to these exotic bets, we’ve got you covered.

What is a pick 3 bet?

A pick 3 bet is an exotic horse racing bet that will require you to select three winners from three consecutive horse racing events. Your selection must be made prior to the start of the first racing event.

In order for you to win a pick 3 bet, each of the three horses you selected will be required to win its respective race. It’s essentially the same as winning a trifecta bet where you need to select the top three finishers of a single race in the exact order. However, with a pick 3 bet, you will need to accomplish it over three racing events, as opposed to a single racing event.

Selecting three different horses to win each of their respective races can seem quite daunting for most bettors around the world. However, with a bit of luck and some research, you could potentially unlock some significant profits if your selection is spot on. You can make a pick 3 selection for as little as $1, and you’ll be able to select more than one horse per race to be the winner. Let’s take a look at a few examples to give you a better idea of how this works.


Let’s say you narrow down the field to three horses for each of the three horse racing events. Your ticket would look like this:

  • First leg: Nos. 2, 7, 10
  • Second leg: Nos. 2, 7, 10
  • Third leg: Nos. 2, 7, 10

If you go with the above selection on a pick 3 exotic bet, your ticket would cost you $27.

Example of a Pick 3 Bet

You can also reconstruct the ticket in different ways instead of using the above example.

For instance, let’s say you are confident that horse No. 2 will win the first leg. Therefore, you don’t have to select three horses in the first leg, giving you more betting opportunities in the second and third legs.

  • First leg: No. 2
  • Second leg: Nos. 4, 7, 10
  • Third leg: Nos. 4, 7, 10, 12

If you go with this selection, your ticket would only cost you $12, and if you correctly predicted the first leg, you would have more opportunities to win your pick 3 bet due to the fact that you covered more horses in your second and third legs.

Example of Pick 3 with 1st Leg Winning

What is a pick 4?

A pick 4 bet is an exotic bet in horse racing that requires you to select the winners from four consecutive horse racing events. A pick 4 bet is a relative newcomer in the world of horse race betting and is more difficult to achieve when compared to a pick 3 bet. However, the winning opportunities in a pick 4 bet are far greater.

You will notice that a pick 4 bet will provide potential payouts that can easily exceed $1,000, and if you manage to get a handful of long shots in your selection, you can easily walk away with a payout well over $10,000. However, to successfully achieve this with a pick 4 bet, you will need to have a decent betting strategy and a heavy dose of luck on your side.

The more horses you select for each of the four racing events, the more you will need to pay for your ticket. Therefore, we highly recommend that you select a race where you will only pick one horse to win, giving you more horse selections in the other races where you are not too sure on who the winner will be. Let’s look at a few examples to help you understand.


Let’s say you select three horses in each of the four horse racing events. Your ticket would look like this:

  • First leg: Nos. 5, 6, 8
  • Second leg: Nos. 5, 6, 8
  • Third leg: Nos. 5, 6, 8
  • Fourth leg: Nos. 5, 6, 8

This ticket would cost you $81. However, you can easily decrease such a large betting amount by simply selecting a single horse from one or two of the four upcoming races. Once you have a single winner on one of the races, it will also give you more betting opportunities on the other events.

  • First leg: No. 5
  • Second leg: Nos. 5, 6, 8
  • Third leg: Nos. 5, 6, 8, 9, 11
  • Fourth leg: Nos. 5, 6, 8, 9, 11

The above example would cost you $75 as opposed to $81 on the first example. Now, if you can manage two events where you only select a single winner, the overall ticket price will be even cheaper. It all comes down to research and an optimal betting strategy.

What is a pick 6?

A pick 6 bet in horse racing is considered the most exciting and the most difficult to achieve. Your objective with a pick 6 bet is to correctly predict the winner of six consecutive races on a single ticket. You will also notice that the minimum bet for a pick 6 is $2, which means you will need a sizable bankroll if you are interested in making pick 6 bets.

A pick 6 bet is essentially the lotto of the horse racing world, and the payouts can be truly astronomical, especially when it carries over to the next day without anyone hitting a pick 6. Instead of a couple of thousand dollars, you can receive a couple of million if you manage to correctly predict a pick 6 bet, especially if there’s a carryover.

A pick 6 functions in a similar manner as a pick 3 bet and a pick 4 bet. However, you will need to have deep pockets, luck and a great deal of skill to correctly predict the winners of six horse racing events in a row. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few examples to give you an idea of how a pick 6 works.


Let’s say you select two horses from each of the six horse racing events. This would cost you $128 for the ticket, and it would look like this:

  • First leg: Nos. 2, 4
  • Second leg: Nos. 3, 5
  • Third leg: Nos. 2, 7
  • Fourth leg: Nos. 5, 9
  • Fifth leg: Nos. 1, 3
  • Sixth leg: Nos. 9, 12

However, let’s say you did your research and you are able to select a single winner in two of the events. This will give you more betting opportunities in the other racing events, increasing your chances of winning a pick 6 on races that you are not too comfortable with when it comes to picking the winner.

  • First leg: No. 2
  • Second leg: No. 5
  • Third leg: Nos. 1, 4, 7
  • Fourth leg: Nos. 2, 5
  • Fifth leg: Nos. 1, 3, 5, 8, 10
  • Sixth leg: Nos. 1, 4

As you can see from the above example, you will have more freedom to select more horses in other races when you select one winner from two races. This ticket would cost you $120.

How to calculate pick 3, pick 4, and pick 6 payouts

Regardless of whether you select a pick 3, pick 4 or pick 6 bet, all of them fall under the pari-mutuel betting system. This essentially means that the overall payouts will not be calculated with odds. Instead, you will receive a payout based on the overall betting pool and the amount you spent on your ticket.

Let’s take a look at a simplistic example to give you a better understanding.

  • 100,000 pick 3 tickets are sold at a cost of $2 for each ticket.
  • The overall betting pool reaches $200,000 ($2 x 100,000 tickets).
  • Only 10 bettors manage to win with their pick 3 selections.
  • Therefore, the 10 winners will each receive a payout of $20,000.

Remember that this is not 100% accurate, though, as the track will take a percentage of the betting pool before winners are paid. However, this will give you an idea of how a pari-mutuel betting system works.

Pick 3 vs. trifecta

Most people struggle to differentiate between a pick 3 and a trifecta exotic bet. The main reason these two bet types are so difficult to separate is due to the fact that both require three wagers on a single ticket. The difference is that a trifecta bet requires you to select three horses in a single racing event, while a pick 3 bet requires you to select three winners over three consecutive horse racing events.

Big payouts on past pick bets

One of the biggest pick 6 payouts occurred on March 3, 2004, at Santa Anita Park when a three-day carryover worth $1.4 million created the final pool that impressed with over $7 million in winnings. Once the event was done and dusted, three winners were announced to claim their winnings on the pick 6 exotic bet. Each of the winners walked away with more than $1.5 million.

Another impressive pick 6 win occurred on May 25, 2015, at Gulfstream Park when one lucky bettor managed to be the sole jackpot winner on a pick 6 selection for $0.20. Dan Borislow was the lucky man behind the bet and won himself a jaw-dropping $6.6 million from the $0.20 ticket. Dan admitted after the win that he actually invested well over $15,000 before he claimed the enormous jackpot.

In the event of a late scratch

There will be times during your betting experience when a horse, scheduled to participate in an event, will be removed or scratched. This can occur either before the start of a race or during, especially when you make an exotic bet like a pick 3, 4 or even 6.

If your selected horse is removed from the race before the first leg takes place, you will receive a full refund from most horse racing tracks. If your bet is still active leading into the second or third leg and your selected horse is removed, you will likely get a consolation payoff if your bets win the other two legs. Other horse racing tracks might provide the post time favorite for your removed horse.

Frequently Asked Questions

The cost of a pick 3 bet will be significantly less than a pick 6 bet. The reason for this is that a pick 3 bet requires a minimum of three selections over three races, while a pick 6 bet requires a minimum of six selections over six races.

When a horse racing event is moved from turf to dirt, it usually occurs due to bad weather. Once the turf track becomes too wet, the horses will not run on it. This is to preserve both the surface and the horses. When a race is moved from turf to dirt in New York after bets have closed for pick 6 selections, it’s declared an all-win race and all selections are declared successful. If only a single race is moved, those who successfully picked the other five winners will win their share of the entire betting pool along with the carryover. If two races are moved, those who selected the other four winners will share the betting pool but not the carryover.

This primarily depends on the horse racing event and the odds that have been posted for each of your selected horses. The higher the odds are for each selected horse, the higher your payout will become. The payouts are unlimited as they are determine through a pari-mutuel betting system.

A jackpot for a pick 6 bet will usually be paid out on a designated date or on the last day of the horse racing event. The jackpot can also be paid out once a minimum amount has been reached.

The 2019 Preakness Stakes provided a payout of $209.55 on a successful pick 4 selection where a single ticket was a mere $0.50. That’s quite impressive!

Privacy Policy