Recently, I reflected on how betting options have increased for the keen punter since I began my punting odyssey way back in 1967.

By far the greatest volume of betting, as I remember, revolved around the traditional win and place and as far as the exotics were concerned, the daily double and quinellas were always foremost in the mind of most punters I knew.

They dabbled in both, hoping to add extra returns to the same horses they selected for their normal win and place bets. Since then the Aussie punter has been treated to a number of options ranging from the ridiculous spinner to the sensible exacta to the testing trifectas and right through to the mind boggling straight six.

Tucked away within this range is a betting format that has been massively popular overseas, especially in the UK, where it has several variations that go under names like accumulator, banko, fido, goliath, heinz, multi, patent, yankee, super yankee and yap.

Here in Australia we know them better under the American term of parlay betting or the recently named formula betting. 

Basically, formula/parlay betting involves re-investing the total collect from one race into another race or races with win or place or each way or quinella bets; thus it differs from doubles which require winners only.

In the UK, some punters have been known to amass massive amounts of money via some of the parlay types mentioned and all for a relatively small investment.

The day Frankie Dettori rode the card at Royal Ascot some bookmakers were savagely beaten as his fans were so infatuated with his riding ability it was not uncommon for many to take all his mounts in a variety of parlay bets.

A bet like the accumulator, where every winner  goes directly into the next winner, amounted to astronomical payouts overall for bookmakers. I am not sure if a bet like the heinz is still available but can you imagine a bet which encompasses a six horse yankee (a yankee covers 11 bets on four selections, six doubles, four trebles and one accumulator), 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 accumulators, six, five timers and one, six timer. I am not even going to list all the combinations in a goliath but this monster covers 247 stakes and includes 28 doubles and 56 trebles amongst other mind boggling returns if THAT day arrives.

The majority of punters disregard formula betting for the simple reason that they do not understand the complexities involved and, let’s be honest, initially it IS hard to follow.

The bright side, though, for the punter wishing to extract maximum benefit from the few good days the punter has per year when all the winners stroll in with reckless abandon, is that one or two good days will set you up for the rest of the year. I must admit I have not paid much attention to the parlay option; however, a couple of punting mates swear by the approach with such fervour that I have decided to explore this betting approach as a possible adjunct to my own normal win betting.

The first thing to remember about formula betting is that the formula number you choose is the number of times you have to be correct across your series of bets. If you choose three races and choose Formula 2 for the win, then two of your selections in any of the three races must win.

Let’s break down the bet to explain where your three selections will be called A, B and C. In a Formula 2 ticket on three races you will have three bets: A into B, A into C and B into C. If A loses then two of your tickets are dead but you can still collect with the B into C combination. In this example if you chose a Formula 3 ticket you need the three selections, A B and C to all win (remember: the formula number you choose is the number of times you have to be correct).

Where some confusion occurs is that in this case (a Formula 3 over three races) the bet is an all up bet aka parlay. This always occurs when the number of your formula is the same as the number of races you select.

Re-read the above paragraph and firmly entrench the principles involved as they are the key to understanding formula betting. At this stage, let’s present an example with a number of formula options to highlight what has been written so far with a recent real life example on the May 16 Belmont Park meeting  over five races and compare the collects with single win bets on the same horses.

  • Selection A = Race 1 No 1  Explosive Mak:   Lost
  • Selection B = Race 4 No 1 Special Witness:   WON $1.70
  • Selection C = Race 5 No 1 Vintrack:   WON $3.50
  • Selection D = Race 6 No 1 Lachino:   WON $2.20
  • Selection E = Race 8 No 1 Lord Baumay:  WON $5.30

If $20 was placed on each runner the collects totalled $254 for a $100 investment.

This series of bets covered 10 combinations: AB, AC, AD, AE, BC, BD, BE, CD, CE and DE and to keep the figures in perspective, we must also keep the outlay to $100 as per the $20 win bets, thus each Formula 2 ticket has to be for $10. All combination starting with A (AB, AC, AD, AE) are all losing bets, however, the returns on the successful bets respectively are $59.50, $37.40, $90.10, $77.00, $185.50 and $116.60 for a total of $566.10 or $312.10 more profit than the win only bets.

This series of bets also covers 10 combinations: ABC, ABD, ABE, ACD, ACE, ADE, BCD, BCE, BDE and CDE. Again all combinations starting with A are losing bets and all the others provided collects of $130.90, $315.35, $198.20 and $408.10 respectively for total collects of $1052.55 or $798.55 more profit than the win only bets.

If you combine Formula 2 and Formula 3 (10 all ups, 10 trebles), we have 20 combinations which again means we must make each combination $5 to total all bets to $100. The total collect for this approach is $809.30 which finds you $655.30 better off than the win only bets.

This series of bets involves five combinations: ABCD, ABCE, ABDE, ACDE and BCDE. I reiterate: the number of your formula equates to the number of times you have to be correct which in this case is four, therefore, we are looking at requiring four collects (basically a quadrella each time!). There is only one collect (BCDE) which returns $1387.50.

FORMULA 2, 3 and 4
This series of bets covers 25 combinations (10 each for Formula 2 and Formula 3 and five for Formula 4), which means we have $4 on each of the 25 combinations. The returns will be $924.95.

As you will note from the examples shown,  there are several ways to tackle the formula betting option depending on your confidence in selecting a certain number of winners, however, do not forget there also are place, each way and quinella options which can be snuck into the bets made.

In order for you to grasp the combinations more clearly Chart 1 is provided.

CHART 1: Single selection or quinella (Only 1 horse or 1 quinella per race)

No. of Races 1 2 3 4 5 6


This chart shows the number of combinations for each formula depending on the number of races chosen. The beauty of this chart is if you flop with a selection, all you have to do is move one square to the left to see how many combinations are still alive. Eg. five races, Formula 3 totals 10 combinations (go along the “number of races” row) and then “go down to Formula 3”). If one selection loses move one square to the left in the Formula 3 row and you have four combinations left. Another eg. six races, Formula 2 = 15 combinations. One loses = 10 combinations left.

You can take win or place or each way or quinellas on parlay tickets. You can mix bet types across your races (win or place or each way) in the same race BUT you CANNOT take win and quinella or place and quinella or each way and quinella in the same race – there can only be ONE of the bet types per race.

The secret to long term success with formula betting is realistically assessing how often you can be right on any given day. Some days some races seem easier than other days where the fields may contain several chances and you should bet accordingly by selecting appropriate formula numbers. Here are some tips my punting friends have passed on to yours truly:

  • With long priced runners or quinellas stick to the smaller formula numbers.
  • With short priced runners try the higher formula numbers.
  • If you are a place punter on short priced runners take the formula number which is one short of the number of races taken.
  • Remember that collects on formula betting will not occur regularly so your bet size should be aligned in a sensible proportion to your normal bets each week.

In the next article on this absorbing bet type, I shall outline how you can overcome the frustrating minimum bet size per ticket (currently $3 on SuperTAB), by using Formula 1 tickets.

Other charts will also be provided which will detail each way options or two selections per race and even three selections or a Box 3 quinella per race.

Until then, why not start practising by attempting a few parlays yourself. Play safe and just bet for the place without worrying too much about the dividends: it’s more important to get used to filling out the tickets first.

By Roman Kozlovski