You have only a vague idea how much you’ll win if your predictions turn out to be dead on the mark, you’ll lose a lot more on average than by blindly backing favourites, and you simply can’t shop around for a better price. No, I’m not talking about the National Lottery, but the Computer Straight Forecast. The bookies absolutely love it, which is no surprise, but so do many punters. Why, and what are the facts? The CSF (or Computer Straight Forecast) is a bet designed for those who think they can predict the first two animals past the post, in the correct order.
The payout is not announced until after the event, and is based on an esoteric computerised formula, which includes starting prices, number of runners, and a number of other less obvious factors. Of course, if you are clever or fortunate enough to solve the puzzle, you stand to earn a tidy sum, especially if on all known form there was no earthly reason why the beasts should have bothered to turn up at all.
Still, you’d have earned a rather tidier sum if you came up with the six Lotto numbers drawn each week, but that’s not enough to make it a good bet. The problem with CSF bets is that unlike single bets, settled at the starting price determined by trading on the racecourse, there is no equivalent competitive process in arriving at the computerised odds.
Thus, although bookmakers are at liberty to set odds on forecast bets, in practice the payout is almost always determined in accordance with a national formula, which is determined by the industry. In other words, bookmakers in the UK explicitly coordinate the prices of CSF bets. The potential implications of this pricing strategy are clear.
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Even if the prices for single bets are close to competitive prices, the industry may build in an extra markup into its pricing formula for CSFs. The only real competition for this type of bet is the Exacta offered by the Tote, which is their equivalent. Prior to the existence of the Exacta the Tote offered a similar, but slightly different rival called