Betting carries an interesting balance; the desire to win consistently and the desire to win big and these two options aren’t always easy to do together. The higher the odds, the lower the chance of success. There is however an option you can use to keep stakes small, success rates high and still retain the possibility of a big win – permutations. Within betting, permutations generally mean the different variation that offer a solution to a problem. Let me give you an example that should hopefully make that a little easier to understand.

At Epsom today there is a three horse race. The horses are called “A”, “B” and “C”. They will obviously come home in first, second and third and you want to put a tricast on the race. This means that you are going to predict the first three horses in order. How many different orders can the horses come in?

Well lets see, they could finish in these orders:

ABC

BCA

CAB

ACB

BAC

CBA

These means that there are 6 permutations of three finishing orders from three horses. So what difference does that make to us gamblers?

Well, its fair to say that I am a strong advocate of straight singles betting. The problem with this is that the returns are very rarely spectacular. Of course, the best way to improve them is to do multiple bets in an accumulator but the more results you link together then the lower the chance of getting them all right. This is where permutations come in – if we had placed a bet on all of the options above then we would have guaranteed to have got the tricast for the race by covering every possible solution. Sounds great huh? Well it is and it isn’t. The fact that the bookmakers allow you to place these permutations in itself should be proof enough that they don’t see them as a risk. The main reason for this is that as multiple bets increase then the number of permutations also increases generally putting the cost of backing them higher than the potential reward. Lets look at the 3.15 today at Wolverhampton, there are 11 runners with odds ranging from 2-1 out to 33-1. If we covered every possible comination of three horses finishing in order we would have to cover 990 different combinations. This would leave us in a rather precarious position. If we had placed a £1 bet on each permutation then it would cost us £990 and if the three favourites came in first, second and third then we would get back £175.50. Thats a great return on a £1 bet but pretty awful when compared to a £990 outlay.

Of course, we could be lucky and the three furthest out in the betting could come in and we’d get back £9282 but that’s a difficult risk to incorporate and not one that I highly recommended, favourites are after all, favourites for a reason. For your reference the actual tricast returned £760.50.

So how can permutatuions be useful in betting? How can they be adjusted to make a usable solution?

Well the first thing to do is to decide on what you’re going to use permutations for. I personally only use permutations of the finishing order in Greyhounds – with only six runners the final numbers don’t get too high.

The other permutations could be the results of a contest. Lets say for instance that you have 5 football matches and you’re sure that the result is going to be a home win or a draw – you could cover all of the possibilities to ensure that you have a winning accumulator as long as there’s no away wins.

If your bet was as follows:

Tottenham Draw or Win

Dagenham Draw or Win

Liverpool Draw or Win

Manchester United Draw or Win

Stoke Draw or Win

Then there would be 32 different possible accumulators. This is simple to work out, just take the number of possibilities in each contest and multiply them by the number on the next contest and so on. In this case we are covering to options, the home win and the draw, so it would be 2x2x2x2x2 giving us a total of 32. The golden rule is that you must have odds on each result higher than that of the number of variations. In this case, there are two options in each match so the odds must be higher than evens.

If you decided to do a three horse race accumulator picking three horses in each race then there would be 27 different variations – 3 x 3 x 3.

Every Combination

You can of course cover all of the different constituent bets within a selection. This means that if you choose 4 different events, you could cover the accumulator of all four solutions, the four different ways of getting three results right from four, the 6 possible ways of getting 2 right from four and the 4 possible singles right from four. This exact bet is also generally known as a Lucky 15 and is a very common bet amongst horse racing bettors.Could you perm it? Well technically you could choose two horses from each race and then write out lucky 15′s to cover every possibility.

The most common format for winning with permutations is still the TOTE bets. The scoop 6 bet for example asks that you pick the winner of 6 specific races for a small fee. If we chose 2 horses in each race instead of 1 then we would pay 64 times (2x2x2x2x2x2) that small fee. Some people will have just one selection in a couple of races where they feel very confident allowing them to pick multiple fancies in other races without increasing the overall stake.

So whats the final word? Well permutations can be used to increase your amount of winnings and more specifically the chances of your winnings but they should be used sparingly as part of your arsenal rather than in every bet. Experiment with them, try different things and try to find the correct balance between covering every possibility and the cost of doing so. Always remember the golden rule that if you’re going to include a selection the odds offered must be higher than the number of selection you have in that event.