If you’ve ever been to a racetrack, you’ve likely heard all sorts of made-up sounding terms being thrown around by the regulars there. Exactas, trifectas, superfectas — the horse racing community has its own unique language.
It can seem incredibly overwhelming, but don’t worry — it’s actually quite simple, and by the time you’re done with this article, terms like “horse betting trifecta” will be second nature to you.
We won’t stop there, though. You’ll also learn the smartest ways to bet at the racetrack (including the one bet you should never make), as well as how to maximize your winnings, especially if you bet online at sportsbooks like BetOnline.
Get ready — you’re just a few minutes away from being a bona fide sharp handicapper.
How to Make a Trifecta Bet Online
Nobody wants to look like a fool the first time they make a bet at a racetrack — and as we’ve seen, there are lots of ways to do just that.
Fortunately, betting on the ponies online takes all the stress out of the equation. Here’s how to do it, using BetOnline as an example.
First, Make an Account
- Go to the BetOnline website and click the green “Join” button in the upper right-hand corner
- Follow the instructions provided to create an account
- Fund your account using your preferred payment method
Head Over to the Racebook
- Click the “Racebook” link on the main page
- There will be a list of racetracks on the left-hand sidebar. Pick your desired track and race
- Click the “Trifecta” tab on the screen that pops up
Pick Your Horses
- Each horse will have a box next to it, and they’ll be placed in columns numbered 1, 2, and 3 — these are the orders in which you predict the horses will finish
- Tick the box in the “1” column for the horse you think will win, the box in the “2” column for the horse you think will place, and so on
- When you’re finished, click “Add to Bet Slip” and follow the instructions for finalizing your wager
Congratulations — you just made your first trifecta bet! Now all that’s left to do is sit back and watch the race to see how your picks fared.
Top Horse Betting Trifecta Sites
There are plenty of online sportsbooks where you can place trifecta bets on horse races. By comparing the odds and all the racetracks they cover, we’ve singled out the following ones as the best in the horse betting industry:
Types of Trifecta Bets You Can Place – Trifecta Horse Betting Guide
There are actually several different types of trifectas, including straight, boxed, wheels, and keys.
They’re fairly similar, but there are key differences you should know, which we’ll explain in more detail below.
This is the most basic type of trifecta. You pick three horses, and you must pick the order in which they finish. Get one wrong, and you lose the entire bet.
You can only pick them to finish first, second, or third, so don’t think you can game the system by betting on that fat, slow horse to finish last. This bet is available at nearly all horse racing betting sites like BetOnline.
A boxed trifecta is a lot like a straight one, but it gives you a little more leeway in terms of winning. You still have to pick the horses that finish first, second, or third, but you can get them in any order and still win.
If you get even a single one wrong, you lose the whole bet.
While boxed trifectas are easier to win than straight trifectas, there’s a catch: they cost more. You have to pay for every possible combination, so it will cost you six times the minimum to place a wager.
For example, if you buy a boxed trifecta for $1, you’ll actually have to pay $6, as you’ll be betting a buck on every single combination. So, while there’s more flexibility in terms of cashing on these, you’ll pay a pretty penny for the privilege.
You can bet on more than three horses in a boxed trifecta — but those extra combos really start to add up quickly. To get the amount that you’ll have to wager, you have to multiply the number of horses by the descending numbers.
For example, if you want to bet on five horses in your boxed trifecta, that would be 5x4x3x2x1. In this case, making the minimum $1 bet would actually cost you $120.
A trifecta key is like a combination of a regular and boxed trifecta. You’re still selecting horses that will finish first, second, and third — but you also have to pick a “key” horse, and that horse must finish first.
This bet addresses one of the key problems with boxed trifectas, which is that they weigh each horse equally. If there’s a clear favorite in the race, you can make that your key and then grab a couple of others to fill out the card.
Keys also keep your costs down. For example, if you wanted to bet $1 on a trifecta key and pick four horses, you’d bet $1 on the key horse, then just $6 on the remaining horses. Your payout will still be the same if you win, though.
A trifecta wheel is perfect for the bettor who only has one strong opinion on the race. In a wheel, you can pick one horse to finish first and then bet on all the remaining horses to finish second and third in any combination.
Wheels are expensive — a $1 bet on one horse in an 8-horse field and then the remaining horses for second and third place would cost you $42, as there are 42 different combinations to account for.
The downside, of course, is that you’ll lose considerably more if you miss, as you’ll be betting on every single horse in the field.
You don’t have to make a complete wheel bet every time, however. You can also make part trifecta wheel beets, in which you limit yourself to only a few horses to place and show rather than wagering on the entire field.
Trifecta wheel bets are useful for situations when you have very strong feelings about the favorite or if you think a longshot has decent odds of winning. Be careful, though, because if you make a full wheel bet on a heavy favorite, you could find yourself losing money even if you win the bet.
Mystery Box Trifectas
These are the perfect bet for the pure gambler. A mystery box trifecta can be any type of the above trifectas, but with a catch: you won’t be the one picking the horses.
Instead, the track’s computer will pick them for you. You just decide how much you want to bet, and they’ll handle the rest.
Common Horse Racing Terms and Bets
While there’s too much horse racing slang out there for us to identify everything you might find at a track — especially since many places have their own unique lingo — here are some of the most common terms and sayings that you’ll hear pretty much anywhere.
Win, Place, and Show Bets
These are the most basic bets you can make at the track. They’re also the bread-and-butter bets for both recreational gamblers and dedicated punters.
A “win” bet means exactly what it sounds like — you’re picking a certain horse to win the race. If the horse finishes anywhere besides first place, you lose.
If you make a “place” bet, you have a little more wiggle room. This means you think a certain horse will come in first or second. If the horse comes in third or worse, you lose.
You can probably guess what a “show” bet is, then. You’re betting on the horse to finish first, second, or third — and yep, you guessed it: if the horse finishes anywhere outside the top three, you lose.
There’s no margin for error on a “win” bet — but the payoff is considerably larger than on a place or show wager.
Across the Board Bets
An “across the board” bet is actually three bets on the same horse.
You’ll be making a win, place, and show bet on the same entrant, and if the horse comes in first, you win all three bets. If they come in second, you’ll win the place and show bets, while a third-place finish only nets you the show bet.
It’s important to realize that since an across-the-board bet is three bets, your wager will be triple whatever you declare. Meaning that, if you make a $5 across-the-board bet, it will actually cost you $15 — or $5 each for win, place, and show.
Across-the-board bets are lots of fun, but they’re generally not a good idea if you’re betting on favorites; it will be a lot of unnecessary risk for minimal gain. Reserve these bets for fliers on longshots.
Exactas and Quinellas
Exactas and quinellas are very similar bets, with one key difference. In both bets, you’ll be picking two horses to finish first and second.
In an exacta, the horses will have to finish in exact order — meaning, you’ll pick one horse to win and another horse to place. If your horses finish first and second but not in the order you picked, you lose.
A quinella gives you more margin for error. You just pick the two horses that will finish first and second, and it doesn’t matter which is which.
As you might expect, quinellas are easier to win — but exactas pay out more.
A trifecta bet is just the logical next step up from an exacta. Instead of picking two horses, you’ll pick three — and they have to finish first, second, and third in exact order.
Trifectas are among the most popular bets you’ll find at a racetrack because they offer you the ability to hit a big score on a modest wager. It’s not uncommon to see six-figure trifecta payoffs at some tracks.
Of course, the odds of hitting a trifecta are long — but the rush you feel when you do is exactly what will keep you coming back to the track again and again.
You can probably guess what a superfecta is: a bet where you have to pick the top four in exact order.
“Superfecta” can also be a catch-all term for any bet that requires picking more than three horses; for example, some bookies require you to guess the top six horses in exact order, and they call this a superfecta.
Superfectas have even bigger payouts than trifectas, but even longer odds. They come in so rarely that they’re not quite as popular, but they can be extremely cheap — at many racetracks, you can make a superfecta wager for as little as a dime.
Daily Doubles and Pick 3s
Most tracks will pick two specific races each day that make up their “Daily Double.” You have to correctly identify the winner of both races to win.
You’ll also find Pick 3s, Pick 4s, and Pick 6s. These are the same as Daily Doubles, just with more races involved.
Pick 6s can carry some of the biggest payoffs you’ll find at a racetrack. At many places, if no one wins the Pick 6, a portion of the prize pool is divided among all the bettors who got 5 out of 6 correct, with the rest rolling over to the next day.
Like with the lottery, if the Pick 6 rolls over multiple days in a row, you could be staring at a truly incredible jackpot (and, like the lottery, it’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll be the one taking all that money home).
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How Much Can You Win Betting on Trifectas?
There’s no simple answer to how much money you can make betting trifectas. It depends on the size of the pool, the type of wager, and how much you bet.
Most trifectas have either a $.50 or $1 minimum, but as we’ve seen, the total you risk on a “minimum” bet can be quite a bit more than that, depending on how many horses you’re betting on.
Trifectas are a form of pari-mutuel wagering, and as such, you’ll be winning a share of a prize pool rather than getting straight odds.
For example, if a hundred trifecta tickets are sold for $1, then the pool will be $100. Of those, five get the trifecta order correct. Those five winners would split the hundred dollars (so their $1 bet would win them $20).
Why Bet On Trifectas?
Given that trifectas can be notoriously hard to win, why should you bet on them at all? Wouldn’t it be easier to pick a single horse to win rather than trying to figure out the top three?
The answer is yes — but it’s hard to win much that way.
The simple fact of the matter is, the favorite wins most of the time — that’s why they’re the favorite. You’re not going to get very good odds betting on them, so although you’ll win often, you won’t win very much.
You could choose to bet on longshots instead, but even then, the payout won’t really make up for all the time and money you lose waiting on those underdogs to come in.
With a trifecta, the payoffs can be truly massive (as we showed above). No, you won’t win very often — but when you do, it will definitely be worth your while.
The fact that there are so many trifecta options to choose from also keeps the betting experience fun and fresh. You can mix it up every time you go to the track, keeping you engaged in every race.
Trifecta betting is also something that you can optimize with a little skill. We’re not saying you can go pro in betting trifectas, but with time and effort, you can win more than the rest of the betting public.
Visit BetOnline to place a trifecta bet on any of the current horse races taking place.
Online Horse Betting Trifecta Strategies
While trifectas are, by their very nature, long-shot bets, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways for sharp bettors to exploit inefficiencies in the market.
The fact of the matter is, most of the public has no idea how to bet trifectas — so there’s little reason for bookies to worry about the few who actually have a clue.
Below, we’ll show you how to be one of the bettors who has a clue.
Only Bet Trifectas in Large Fields
We wouldn’t recommend betting a trifecta in any race that has fewer than ten horses in it. While it’s certainly easier to pick the top three when there are only five or six horses running, the payoff for doing so will be minimal, so it’s not worth your time.
Take Advantage of Key Bets
As mentioned previously, the favorite usually wins — so why not take advantage of that? By keying the favorite (or whichever horse you feel will win), you can set yourself up to be a third of the way to winning your bet already while simultaneously making the rest of the wager much easier to hit.
Key bets give you most of the same flexibility that boxed bets do, but at a much lower price.
You will need to be at least moderately confident in your handicapping abilities (or those of the racetrack) if you’re going to undertake a key bet strategy, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a great way to give yourself potentially massive value.
Avoid Races with Clear Favorites
While it’s ok to bet on a race with a single favorite — especially if you’re making a key bet — you want to avoid any race where there are three or four horses that stand out from the rest.
The reason is that, in those races, there will be too many winners, which will severely cut into your earnings.
Another good strategy is to find a race with a clear favorite that you think might be vulnerable. If you’re one of the only ones to leave that horse off your ticket, you stand a very good chance of taking home a tidy little payday.
Know Your Horses
This is just good handicapping advice overall, but it’s especially important for trifecta betting. You need to know the horses in the field and their running styles, which will help you get a better mental picture of what’s likely to happen once the race begins.
For example, if you know the two favorites are early starters, one of them might burn themselves out trying to compete out of the gate. This could open the door for a late bloomer to sneak into the top three.
Don’t just look at the horse racing odds and pick from there. Ask yourself how you feel the race is likely to play out, then make your bets accordingly.
Be Careful with Wheel Bets
While wheel bets may seem like a good way to cover all your bases — you could literally be betting on the entire field, after all — they’re often a poor choice.
Most races have at least one or two horses that honestly have no shot at winning or placing. If you bet the field, you’re going to be placing some money on those ponies — and that’s just throwing your cash away.
Instead, limit your wheel bets to races where the entire field is at least somewhat competitive, or stick to part wheels that omit the slowpokes.
Drop the Longshots and the Favorites
This is a strategy that will very rarely win — but when it does, it will likely bring about the largest paydays of your handicapping career.
Pick a race with a largely competitive field and no odds-on favorite. Then, discard the top and bottom three horses.
We’d recommend boxing the remaining horses, but if you’re feeling lucky, you can try a traditional trifecta or pick a key. This will further reduce your chances of winning, but it will also reduce your outlay.
This strategy virtually guarantees that you’ll be one of the few winners if your bet comes through, as dropping the top three horses is a very difficult thing to do. It’s the ultimate high-risk, high-reward play.
Guide to Trifecta Horse Betting
How Much Do Trifecta Bets Cost?
The cost of a trifecta bet can be calculated by multiplying the wager amount times the number of combinations in the bet. For example, a $1 trifecta bet on four horses would cost $24 because there are six possible combinations (so, six combinations times four horses).
What’s the Minimum I Can Bet on a Trifecta?
The minimum amount you can bet on a trifecta will depend on the horse betting site you’re using. For a long time, a $2 minimum was the standard, but there are books that are offering $1 or even $.50 minimums nowadays. You can check that for the current horse races at BetOnline or Bovada.
How Much Does a Trifecta Bet Pay Out?
The amount a trifecta bet pays out will vary from race to race. Trifectas are a form of pari-mutuel wagering, so all of the money wagered on trifectas in each race will go into a big pool. The money will then be divided up among all of the bettors with a winning ticket.
Is Trifecta Horse Betting Profitable?
The fact of the matter is that all horse betting is usually not profitable, regardless of what strategies and methods you use. There are people who can make a living betting on horses, but there aren’t very many of them — and they don’t make as much as you might think.
Instead of trying to bet trifectas for profit, treat it as part of your entertainment budget. The good news is that betting trifectas is at least as much fun as the newest Marvel movie.
Tips for Betting Trifectas Online
Betting on trifectas at online sportsbooks is a little different from doing it in person, but the good news is that almost all of the differences work in your favor. Here are some tips to maximize your bets when gambling on the internet.
Open Accounts at Multiple Sportsbooks
Different bookies offer different odds on each race, so if you stick to just one, you’ll be missing out on tons of value.
The smart play is to open accounts at several sportsbooks, then check each of them before you make a wager on a race. While spending a few minutes finding the best odds won’t increase your chances of winning, it could have a dramatic effect on your paydays when you guess correctly.
Take Advantage of Deposit Bonuses
The great thing about internet sportsbooks is that they have to compete for your money and attention. There’s always another bookie just a few clicks away.
Most brick-and-mortar racetracks don’t have that problem — since there’s usually only one in each city, where else are you going to go?
As a result, most online bookmakers offer lucrative deposit bonuses to attract your business. By taking advantage of these, you can boost your bankroll and fund your trifecta betting.
Winning a trifecta is an incredible feeling — but winning a trifecta with bonus money? It doesn’t get any better than that. Both BetOnline and Bovada offer generous bonuses for new players who join their platforms.
The great thing about the internet is that it brings the world closer together. That might one day lead us closer to world peace, but more importantly, it makes every single racetrack in the world accessible to you.
You don’t have to just bet on the races at your local track. Instead, spend some time researching races all over the globe. You may be able to find juicy bets across the planet, and the money you could potentially win on those races will spend just as well as the money you get from winning a trifecta at home.
Are You Ready to Try Betting on Trifectas?
Trifecta betting isn’t for everyone, but if you have some gamble in you and are interested in chasing a big payday, it can be a great (and fun) way to stretch your gambling dollar.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can now wager on just about any race in the world, and we feel that BetOnline is the best place to do it. They have a ton of fun trifectas you can bet on, and their deposit bonuses allow you a little cushion when chasing those longshots.
Of course, you could always skip trifectas and keep on betting on single horses every race, but come on — you didn’t come down to the racetrack to be boring.
DISCLAIMER: Online gambling comes with risks. There’s no guarantee of financial gain, so you should only gamble with what you can afford to lose. All information on this site is for entertainment purposes only.
While gambling can be fun, it can also be addictive. If you or anyone you know suffer from a gambling addiction problem, we recommend that you call the National Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700 to speak with an advisor. Please remember that our guides and all gambling sites are only for people who are 18+. Also, check with local laws to find out if online gambling is legal in your area.
For free online gambling addiction resources, visit these organizations: