How to Use the Superfecta Bet

Fans watch the stretch drive of a race in this file photo. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

The superfecta might seem like an imposing wager. If you struggle to hit an exacta - where you need to predict just the first two finishers - it’s understandable to view picking the first four finishers in order as an impossible dream.

Yet the feared superfecta can actually have a strategic role in your wagering, largely because of its minimal cost. With a 10-cent minimum wager at many tracks, you can drop a lot of dimes in building a ticket that cover a lot of bases for a relatively small amount of dollars.

Admittedly, the 10-cent superfecta will not pay off like a 50-cent Pick 5 ticket, but you can certainly turn a nice profit off a modest wager.

The key part of playing the superfecta involves how you build your ticket and what sticks out as the focus of your wager.

For example, if you like four horses in the race, you can box them and it will cost you just $2.40 for a 10-cent base wager or $24 for a $1 ticket.

Of course, that leaves you with little margin for error. Increasing the number of horses in that box will increase your protection but it will also drive up the cost of the ticket rather dramatically. A five-horse box sells for $12 (10 cents) and $120 ($1) and a six-horse box will cost $36 and $360, respectively.

Conversely, keying a horse in one spot will give you plenty of room to add horses in the other spots. For instance, if you believe a horse will win, playing it alone to win and using six horses in each of the other three spots will cost $12 for 10-cent bets and $120 for $1.

Expanding the wager from spot to spot is a more economical way of playing the superfecta while building in coverage.

Let’s say you like one horse to win, believe three can finish second, four third, and five fifth, that 1 x 3 x 4 x 5 ticket will cost only $2.70 for a dime and $27 for $1. You can also reverse the bet for the same cost by going 3 x 4 x 5 x 1.

Another model might involve liking one horse to win and one to finish fourth. If you bookend them around eight horses in the second and third spots, the cost will be $4.20 for 10 cents and $42 for $1.

Taking it to another angle, if you believe two horses can finish 1-2, you can use just them in the top two spots and eight horses for third and fourth at a cost of $11.20 for 10 cents and $112 for $1. If you make it a cold exacta in a 1 x 1 x 8 x 8 play, the cost is cut in half to $5.60 and $56.

You can also cut the cost of both of those plays significantly by reducing the horses in the last two spots to four: $1.20 for 10 cents and $12 for a $1 bet.

Whatever tactic you use, thanks to the low minimum wager, it should be clear that trying to hit a superfecta might not be as difficult as it seems.

It’s hardly a snap, but at 10 cents a try, there’s surely no need to commiserate with Don Quixote.

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