If you are a very casual horseplayer – the kind who likes to make a bet on the Triple Crown and maybe the Breeders’ Cup – then there’s a good chance that you find all of the different betting options in horse race betting a bit overwhelming and maybe even intimidating. Fear not – we’re here to help. Here’s a crash course in the four types of exotic bets that are most attractive to casual bettors, the ways that casual bettors can best apply them, and mistakes to avoid when betting on them:
Exacta – This is the second simplest of the exotic bets behind the quinella. All you have to do here is pick the horses that are going to finish first and second in the race in the right order. Depending on the track the minimum bet will either be $1 or $2, and you can bet any dollar amount above that. The payoff won’t be determined until after the race – as is the case with all of these bets – and will depend upon the amount of money bet on the winning combination compared to the amount of money bet on all the other combinations. You could just bet one combination if you wanted to, but it is far more common to bet several combinations to give yourself a better chance of winning. There are a few different way you can do that. First, you could just pick out a few different combinations that you like and bet each one individually. Second, you can bet an exacta box. That’s when you take a number of different horses and bet all the possible combinations of those horses. For example, a three horse box would have six different combinations, and a four horse box offers 12 different combinations. You have to pay for each combination separately, so a box can be very expensive if you include a lot of horses. The third common way to bet an exacta is a wheel. This is useful when you have a strong feeling of who will win, but less of a sense who will finish second. A simple wheel allows you to bet one horse to win and as many horses as you want to finish second. Again, you pay for each combination separately.
Exactas are a good way to bet on Triple Crown races because there s so much public money bet on the races. That means that the payoffs are often higher than normal, and the chances for profit are better when you are correct. Any time you bet exactas, though, the biggest mistake you have to avoid is betting too many combinations. There is no better way to feel stupid than to cash a winning exacta ticket and still wind up losing money because you bet too many combinations. It’s especially important to show restraint if you are including favorites in your box or wheel. The payout if one or two of the favorites make up the exacta will be much lower than it will be if they don’t, so you need to adjust accordingly. For example, if your Preakness exacta box this year includes both Lookin at Lucky and Super Saver then you can probably only afford to include at most two more horses to stand a good chance of profit. If you don’t like either of those favorites, though, then you may be able to bet five or six horses and still come out ahead if you are correct. As a loose rule I generally like to box no more than a quarter of the horses in a race.
Trifecta – A trifecta is exactly the same as the exacta, except that you have to correctly pick the first three horses in the race in the correct order. You can play the trifecta in the same ways – by picking combinations yourself, or with a box or wheel. The biggest thing to remember with these bets is that they are much more expensive than a comparable exacta. A four horse exacta box, for example, has 12 different combinations that you have to pay for. A four horse trifecta box has 24 combinations. The difference is even more pronounced with more horses – a five horse exacta box has 20 combinations, while a five horse trifecta has 60 combinations. The payoffs for the trifecta are also obviously higher than the exacta, but it can also be significantly more expensive, and therefore at least as easy to cash a winning ticket and still lose money overall.
Superfecta – A superfecta is the same bet as the two above, except it involves picking the top four horses in order. As you can figure out by now, more horses means more combinations, so a superfecta box can be very expensive – a five horse super box has 120 combinations. Superfectas are dangerous for casual bettors because of the risk and required investment, but there are some cases where they make sense. If your bet includes the belief that there is one horse that is a clear favorite, and then a muddled picture after that then you can get the benefits of a superfecta payoff while only paying for a trifecta box. If you single a horse – only pick one horse – to win in your superfecta, then you can box five horses to finish second, third, and fourth, and only pay for 60 combinations. If you’re feeling a bit braver, you can even get a bit fancier. For example, you could believe that there are two horses that are superior, and then four more with a shot at making a decent showing. You could box those two superior horses to finish first and second, and then box the other four horses to finish third and fourth. That would require you to pay for just 24 combinations. Superfectas are a great way to use some creativity to maximize value.
Daily Double – The first three options have been inter-race bets, and the Daily Double is the first of the intra-race bets. In this bet you have to correctly pick the winners of two races in a row. There is also a pick three or win three that involves three races, a pick four for four races, and a pick six which involves six races, but those are too expensive, difficult, and complicated for casual bettors to use effectively. The Daily Double is more manageable, and can provide some nice profits. Essentially, the Daily Double is just a parlay of two consecutive races. You can bet any number of horses in either race, and to determine the number of combinations you have to pay for you just multiply the number of horses in each race together. You could use the Daily Double to bet on three horses in each race for a total of nine combinations, or you could bet two horses in one race and five in the other and pay for just one more combination – ten in total. Daily Doubles are a decent way to get good value if you are betting on a heavy favorite in a big race like a Triple Crown race. In that case you could bet the one horse in the Triple Crown race and four or five horses in the race before or the race after the big race and give yourself a shot at a better payoff than you would get from just betting on the one horse to win.