Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tiger Woods
- Masters Calcutta pools are one of the most popular and fun ways to wager on the first golf major of the year, but what's the ideal strategy?
- Peter Jennings gives some tips on how and when to bid on players, how to use the betting market as a resource, and how to take advantage of pools with quirky rules.
I have participated in a variety of Calcutta pools for different events over the years — and nothing beats a Masters Calcutta (with March Madness being a close second).
If you’re unfamiliar, Masters Calcutta pools involve gamblers bidding on all golfers in the field individually. There are various payouts depending how well your players perform, with the bettor who owns the winner getting the majority of the payout (more on this later).
A Masters Calcutta shares some of the same strategies that you can leverage for other sports, but there are a Masters-specific nuances you’ll want to factor. Here are a few key fundamentals that are critical to having an edge.
Know the Rules!
I know it sounds simple, but understanding the rules and payouts of your Calcutta is paramount. The variety of the pools and the different forms of payouts are part of the reason I love this format. For this piece I will cover strategy for more traditional payouts but try to reference some nuances and edges I have noticed.
The majority of pools pay out a significant portion of the prize pool to first place. Depending on your risk tolerance and strategy you can target top-heavy pools or those with flatter payouts. The depth of the payouts is very important, typically pools pay 5-10 places.
I prefer pools with flatter payouts and quirky rules to minimize variance. Why the quirky rules? You’d be surprised how many people ignore them, giving you an edge if you understand the nuances.
Here’s an example: Some pools will pay out a small percentage of the pot (normally ~1%) for high and low rounds of the day. Adding in high round for the day creates some value on the worst players. Larry Mize, Ian Woosman, Sandy Lyle and some of the other retired winners have essentially zero equity to win or place, but they do have value for high round of the day.
The amateurs fall into a similar bucket but with much higher place equity. Make sure you understand every payout so you have the correct inputs for calculating value in your pool.
Gather Historical Data
Know the people and the history in your Calcutta. Any historical data on total prize pool or previous golfers prices is extremely helpful in calculating the estimated total pool.
During the auction, you can leverage some of the historical data against what you’re seeing take place in real-time. Are the top-end golfers going for more than they had in previous years? If so, you can usually expect that the total pool will be higher this time around, too.
In addition to historical data, any information about “the room” is helpful. If you are doing a pool vs. finance guys, you can suspect the total pool will be bigger if the stock market has been doing well. If you are competing against oil guys, check to see how oil has done relative to the size of the prize pool. Knowing your competition and their appetite for action is imperative.