A $2.3 million jackpot is tantalizing gamblers at Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino — and the wager is one thin dime.
The Rainbow Pick 6 has soared past $2.3 million, and it’s growing fast. It more than doubled last week.
Players must select the winners of six horseraces in a row. That challenge, called a pick six, is common at horse tracks, but Gulfstream’s twist is that the jackpot can only go to one person. If two or more people win the pick six, they’ll share a consolation prize, but not the Rainbow jackpot.
“We’re at a point where a grandmother could play her grandson’s birthday numbers, and some serious handicapper could do his homework to figure out every winner, and they could cancel each other out,” Gulfstream President Tim Ritvo said.
Last year, the jackpot surpassed $5 million toward the end of Gulfstream’s racing season, but because nobody won it, the track split the loot among 1,311 Pick 6 winners on the season’s next-to-last day. (Such end-of-season divided payouts are common, and will happen this year, too, if no one hits it.) The most any single person has won since Gulfstream initiated the Rainbow Pick 6 three years ago is $791,364.73, on April 1, 2012.
Ritvo said the game in some ways competes with the lottery, offering “life-changing money.” The track even installed quick-pick kiosks to spit out random combinations of six numbers. (Assuming 10 horses of equal ability run in each race, the odds of picking the winners in all six races would be 1 in 1 million.)
Not everyone is a fan of the Rainbow Pick 6, which is open to bettors across the country. Andrew Beyer, perhaps America’s best-known handicapper, calls it an “expensive, elusive pot of gold.”
“For a handicapper armed with optimal strategy and a formidable bankroll, the Rainbow Six still presents an almost impossible challenge,” he wrote last week in his column for the Daily Racing Form. “But even those who recognize that the wager is a sucker bet may find it hard to resist the lure of a seven-figure payoff.”
The track pockets 20 percent of all money bet, about the same it keeps in most forms of betting — win, place, show, trifectas, perfectas, etc. It takes 40 percent of the remaining money and puts it toward the jackpot. The rest goes into the consolation pool. That puts the amount actually applied to the main jackpot at 48 percent.
“Worse than the lottery,” Beyer wrote.
But gamblers are playing it, chasing that dream of the big payout.
“I’m thrilled with just getting the consolation payoffs, and I think a lot of people are,” said Sheldon Glass, a longtime racing patron who bets several possibilities. “Where can you have so much action for, like, $20 to $30?”
This past Sunday, the consolation payout was $18,246.
Because there can only be one winner, the idea of betting every possible combination — “wheeling the field” — is a bad venture, Ritvo noted.
“The idea was to take the wheels out of it, so that when the pot built up, they just couldn’t come in and buy the jackpot,” he said.
Ritvo noted that because tracks everywhere can bet on Gulfstream’s races, the past three Rainbow Pick 6 winners have been out of the area. In order to create a rooting interest for the home track, he has added a bonus: Anyone who hits it while at the Hallandale Beach track also will get a Jeep.
“That would sure be fun to give away,” Ritvo said.