What Is a Trifecta Bet?


A highly complex bet with a high payoff – this is how one could perfectly summarize a Trifecta Bet. It is one of the bets where you can win hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a minimal wager or money outlay.

However, to win, you need to overcome the difficulty of correctly choosing 3 top finishers instead of just 1.

Many people shy away from this bet due to its complexity and believe that the odds of winning are low. However, winning between $150 to $500 is very common with just a small wager (a couple of dollars) if you play it smart.

It may seem challenging initially, but with this article, our The Wizards Picks, and a few races under your belt, you will be an expert horse handicapper in no time.

Get a leg up on the competition and buy one of Wizard Race and Sports Horse Handicapping products today.

There are many ways to master difficult concepts. Breaking the concepts into easy yet powerful snippets is an excellent way to start, and this guide will do just that for Trifecta Bet. This reason is why we structured all the information with sub-topics and clear heading, so you can go back to the concepts you struggled with and dig deep on those topics.

Once you have an excellent conceptual understanding after reading through this guide and reflecting on it, you can experiment with your learning (Trifecta bet can be placed with really small outlays, as low as a couple of dollars). Slowly, but surely you will be able to master this complex betting system and enjoy the high payoffs.

This article about the Trifecta Bet covers:

  1. What is a Trifecta Bet?
  2. How do I place my Trifecta bet?
  3. What are my betting cost and expected payout?

What is a Trifecta Bet?

Getting the horse betting terminology and the concepts right!

Trifecta Bet is when you predict the first, second, and third runners in a horse race and their winning order. The first, second, and third-place horse runners are called Win, Place, and Show, respectively (we cover this in detail in our Win, Placer Show article).

If the race finishes with the same order as you predicted, you can win big. To get an idea of how big you can win, read about one of the most famous Trifecta bets in the 2005 Kentucky Derby. A $2 bet in this race won a payout of $133,000.

How Do I Place My Trifecta Bet?

Getting the variations and betting methods right!

There are different ways you can place a Trifecta Bet:

  1. Straight Trifecta
  2. Trifecta Box
  3. Trifecta Wheel

In this section, we will look at each one of them with examples. We will assume $5 as our minimum bet, and #4, #1 and #7 as our winning horse numbers.

Straight Trifecta Betting

This bet type is the simplest version and is precisely like the concept we just discussed. You will pick three horses and the order.

Your betting slip will read – $5 (4-1-7)

This strategy would mean you bet $5 for the #4 horse to win, #1 horse to place, and the #7 horse to show. If the winning order is the same as your prediction, you get your share from the payout pool (payout concept explained below).

Trifecta Box Betting

This betting approach is a more advanced version of the Trifecta betting, taking it a step further from the straight betting, as you include all possible winning orders. For three horses, the winning order has six possibilities.

Since you are betting for six possibilities, your amount would be $5*6 = $30. You would include in your slip all the possible options. 4-1-7, 4-7-1, 1-4-7, 7-4-1, 1-7-4, 7-1-4

In this box betting system, you could also add more horses to your mix. That would increase the amount you need to bet and the winning combinations you need to include in your slip.

For instance,

4 horses, 24 combinations  = $120

5 horses, 60 combinations = $300

6 horses, 120 combinations = $600

This tactic is one of the most preferred systems due to simplicity; however, they are not always super-efficient. Not all combinations have an equal chance of winning, and you waste a lot of money if you bet on multiple combinations.

The best strategy to win at this is to only bet with 3 to 4 horses in a specific scenario.

Wizard Race and Sports have winning Win Bets, Exacta’s, Trifectas, and more for top US tracks. Learn more about our Handicapping products here.

Trifecta Wheel Betting

Under this method, you are confident about which horse could finish first, but not so much about the other two positions. So you bet on two possible combinations.

Your winning slip will include: $5*2 for 4-7-1 and 4-1-7 (assuming you are confident about #4 finishing in the first place, and doubtful about the order of the other two)

There are more variations for the Wheel Betting:

Trifecta Banker

Under Wheel betting, you could bet on more than two horses to finish in the second and third positions.

So, carrying on from our previous example. We are confident about #4 in the first place. But we add #1, #7, and also #5 to bet for the 2nd and the 3rd position.

So we place the following in the betting slip: 4-1-7, 4-7-1, 4-1-5, 4-5-1, 4-5-7, 4-7-5

You could add any number of horses to bet for the 2nd and 3rd positions. However, in that case, the calculation could get a bit tricky. You can follow the steps below to calculate your cost and weigh it against expected payouts to make your call.

To calculate the cost of betting on one horse in the first position, with all the other horses to finish in the different two positions, do the following:

  1. Multiply the number of horses in the field minus 1
  2. Multiply that by the number of horses in the field minus two
  3. Multiply that number by the denomination of your bet

For example, your total cost to put #4 in the wheel position and bet that with all the other horses in the field (in our case, say 6). Then your cost would be: (5*4)*$5 = $100

Trifecta Roving Banker

Under this variation, you bet on one horse (called the banker) to win any top 3 positions. Next, you select three or even more horses to win in the other two positions.

So from our top 3 horses, say you pick #4 as your banker horse. And #1, #7, and #5 as your other options. There will be 18 possible winning combinations under this, and each one of them needs to have the #4 as one of the winning horses.



and so on…

What Are My Trifecta Betting Cost and Expected Payout?

Getting the cost-benefit right

Trifecta Costs

The minimum bet denomination is as low as $0.50 to $1. If you place one straight bet, then your total outlay is just $1. But considering the odds of winning with only one bet is extremely low (unless you have The Wizard on your side), people bet many combinations.

Your cost increases based on the number of combinations you bet on.

It is interesting to note that winning with just one straight bet is challenging; however, not impossible. In the 2009 Kentucky Derby, a $2 bet gave a payout of $41,500.

You really can keep your cost low in the trifecta system and win decent payouts. This substantial upside is because of their pool sharing concept (explained in the next section). Due to the low-cost, the bettor’s pool is wide, and if you are smart about your bets, you could win at least a couple of hundred dollars.

Trifecta Payouts

Trifecta bets are pari-mutuel wagering. This means that you share the benefits with a group, and your profit depends on your contribution to the pool. For each race, a new pool is created. All the proceeds of the trifecta slips go into that pool, and the winners get their share from this pool.

For instance:

100 $5 trifecta slips are sold for a particular race.

The pool amount – $500

Winning slips – 5

Each ticket will get $100 (however, the operating costs, organizer cost, and other expenses are taken as a house cut). If you had 2 of those slips, you could get $200.

Since there are way too many betting and winning combinations, viewing your payout on the track tote board is not always possible. You will get your payout information from the pool organizers, which is sometimes available in realtime.

Either way, you will have to wait until the end to find out your winning share amount.

Recall and Reflect on Your Trifecta Wagering

At the end of this guide, you should have all the necessary information you need to understand the Trifecta bet options. You could use this to form your strategies (or read our article explaining different trifecta strategies), and then purchase one of The Wizards products to help level up your Trifecta Betting.

By using the Wizard Race and Sports products, you keep your costs low, and the chance of winning high, forcing you to be strategic about your horse racing bets.

Even if the whole Trifecta Betting process seems confusing and takes some time and effort, the feeling of winning a $500 payout with a $12 ticket makes the entire effort worthwhile.


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