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Exotic Betting - Intrarace

Intrarace exotic bets are the Exacta, Trifecta and Superfecta bets.  We'll take a look at each one a little more in depth, but as a rule you need to have a handle on who you think will win the race and who could run second or third to play the Exacta or Trifecta.  Because of this, as a rule I only play exotic bets on my races that a label as Prime or Play.  Exotic betting is a lot of fun and where I spend the majority of my money, but it is also extremely frustrating when you miss the Trifecta by one horse.  There are a lot of factors that go into making a successful exotic wager, from good handicapping to most importantly understanding how to structure the wager.  If you are really good at one and not the other you will likely loose money.  If you are an intrarace exotic player learning how and when to play more than just one type of exotic bet will make you a lot more successful. 

With any of the intrarace exotic bets the object is to be able to eliminate horses who you think are unable to finish within the exotic you want to play.  However, most of the time I let my handicapping tell me which exotic to bet.  Let's say that I have a one or two horse who could win or run second and 2 other horses who have a chance to run second, but from there the field is wide open.  Then I would look to play an Exacta.  But, if I have the same two horses with a chance to win and only 1 more who could run second and then say another 3 who could run 3rd then I may to play a Trifecta.  You can also back up your Trifecta bets with a couple of Exacta's as a saver bet to get your money back.
  Superfecta's in my opinion are a little harder to play because just about any horse in the race could run fourth.  But they still have their place and a lot of handicappers love to play them because of the larger payouts.

When it comes to playing the exotics it is extremely important to make good notes on each race when you handicap it.  How well do you like your winner?  Are there only a few horse who can run second or third?  Come up with a way to rank your selections (ex. A,B,C or 1,2,3).  My method allows me to see which horse or horses I need to bet in each spot.  However you rank your horses in a race make sure once the race is run you keep good stats in a database or spreadsheet.  Also, making good notes on the horses you like as you handicap will help you later, especially when the scratches come out.  And, after I handicap cap a 9 race card I have trouble remembering why I liked a certain horse in an earlier race.

One mistake a lot of exotic players make is spreading to then.  You would think the less clarity you have in the race the more you should spread to try to hit, but actually the opposite is true.  If you can't clearly identify the top contenders in a race then you are mostly likely throwing money away on combinations that aren't likely to hit.  I usually try shorten up with less clarity in a race, betting only to win or a small Exacta like A,B/A,B,C.

Whether you are at the track or betting online, when playing the exotics make sure you have access to a good toteboard.  First of all the Exacta payouts are listed there.  Also, when betting blind pools like the Trifecta or Superfecta it's important to be able to see the odds on the horses you are betting.  This allows you to make an educated guess which horses hold the value and where you may need to weight a little heavier in your betting.

Tracking your Success & Failures
In order to become a good exotic bettor it is very important to keep good stats on your selections and bets.  You need to know not only how much your A horse wins, but also where do your bottom selections (B,C,D,E etc.) finish.  This will help you better construct your tickets later.  Unfortunately, the only way to do this is to handicap a lot of races and you need a database or spreadsheet to keep the stats.  I'm sure you could do it by hand if that is your only avenue, but it will be time consuming.  By keeping these stats you quickly begin to see where you are successful or most importantly not successful.  For instance you may find that your A,B/A,B combination hits 50% and your A,B/C hits 15%, but other combinations hit a lot less.  Or, that you need to weight your selections when you bet like $5 - A/B, $3 - B/A, $2 - A,B/C and $1 - A/D,E.  That is just an example, but keeping these stats will certainly increase your success when it comes to exotic bets.

Ways to Play the Exotic Bets
There are several different ways to play the intrarace exotic bets.  Below I've listed each with it's pros and cons.

Straight - Straight betting would be 1/2 for an Exacta or 1/2/3 for a Trifecta.  Straight exotic bets cost a lot less, but hit a much smaller percentage of the time.  Though if played in races where you feel there is only one horse who can win and another horse who is easily second best then a straight Exacta will yield a higher return then boxing or wheeling.  This is especially true if the Toteboard tells you the 1/2 combination is not going to pay a lot.

Boxing - Boxing is how the majority of bettors play the exotic bets.  It allows you to take a group of horses and bet them all to finish in each leg of the exotic bet you are betting.  So a three horse Exacta box would look like this 1,2,3/1,2,3 or a three horse Trifecta box would be 1,2,3/1,2,3/1,2,3.  Seems like a great way to bet, right?  Pick the three best horses horse and box them up!  Except boxing is a horribly inefficient way to bet, because you are giving each horse an equal chance of winning or running second or third (depending on which bet you are playing).  If your handicapping tells you that the 1 or 2 have a shot at winning and the 1, 2 or 3 have a shot at running second, you are giving the 3 the same chance to win as the 1 and 2.  Even though your handicapping tells you he doesn't have the same odds of winning.  The $1 - 1,2,3/1,2,3 Exacta box would cost you $6.  Wouldn't a better to bet $1 - 1,2/1,2,3 for a cost of $4 or weight your bets based on your opinion like $2 - 1,2/1,2 for $4, $1 - 1,2/3 for $2 and $1 - 3/1,2 for $2.  Now you are getting much for bang for your buck than boxing because your not making bets that have a small percentage of winning or at least not giving them as much value.  A lot of people at the track, especially newbies tend to box horses and that can actually help you, because it creates overlays in the pools.  We'll go over that in detail later.  There are a couple of spots where I box horses.  When I have two horses that I give equal chances to win I will box them in an Exacta.  Also, when the Exacta payouts are all high and I can't eliminate several horse, but can single a winner.  I will box several of these horses in combinations based on what I see are the pace scenarios.

Wheeling - Wheeling maybe considered more efficient than boxing, but still leaves you vulnerable to placing bets that do not have a high percentage of winning.  An example of a wheel would be A/B,C,D,E and B,C,D,E/A.  Or, A,B/A,B,C,D,E and A,B,C,D,E/A,B.   Wheeling bets usually hit at a higher percentage than boxing, but you'll find you are still losing money and here is why.  It is costing you so much to bet all these combinations that it eats up the profit you make.

Part-Wheel - The Part-Wheel is the bet that makes the most since.  An example of a Part-Wheel would be A,B/A,B,C,D and you could break this out further and weight each unit based on your selections.  For example you could play a $2 Exacta A,B/A,B = $4 and a $1 Exacta A,B/C,D = $4.  One of the things that reading books from Andrew Beyer and Steve Davidowitz pounds into you is to get paid when you are right.  By part-wheeling this allows you to make more when your selections run well and make a little or at least get your money back when you are "almost" right.

Types of Intrarace Exotic Bets

The Exacta is the simplest form of intrarace exotic bets.  You have to pick the first and second place finishers within the same race.  An example of an Exacta bet would be 1/2,3 - meaning the #1 horse has to win and the #2 or 3 would need to run second.  Sounds easy enough and while it is the easiest intrarace exotic to hit, it certainly is not without its challenges.  One of the things that makes play the Exacta so great is also what makes it frustrating and hard to play - you can see the payouts before the races. Knowing how much the Exacta is going to pay before you bet allows you to adjust the amount you bet on each combination.  But the rest of the betting public has this same knowledge and you'll often find that the best bets from a handicapping standpoint are often underlays in the Exacta.  However, because the vast majority of horseplayers, especially newbies, box horses this creates overlays in the betting pools which you can take advantage of if your handicapping allows.  Most uneducated horseplayers and newbies have a hard time leaving the favorites out of their Exacta boxes and it suppresses the payouts on these combinations.  But, because this is a pari-mutuel system, where one payoff is suppressed another is increased.  Sometimes all it take is combining a favorite with a horse that is outside of the top 3 horses in the race to create a decent payoff.  And that scenerio happens everyday multiple times at tracks all across the country.

When playing Exacta's I usually don't like to spread too far unless the prices are really good.  Usually I'll play A,B/A,B along with A,B/C,D.  But if those prices are too short I'll shorten my bet to A,B/A,B and A/C.  One of the most important things about exotic betting is learning how to weight your bets.  This is easily done with Exacta's because you can see the payouts while planning your bets.  Let's say the A/B combination is going to pay $8, the B/A is paying $12 and the A/C is paying $24.  By your handicapping the A/B is the most likely outcome, but it is also paying the least.  If you bet $3 - A/B, $2 - B/A and $1 - A/C you would have put $6 in the race and getting paid the same if your top 3 combinations hit.  Compare this to a $1 - 3 horse box of the A, B and C.  If your handicapping is right and the A wins with your B second, then you only get paid $8!  And by betting a box you are betting on combinations (like
C/A) that by your handicapping you don't think have a high percentage of hitting.  Even worse you are giving those less likely combinations the same value ($1) in the box as the A/B. 

I like to play the Exacta where I feel the 3rd leg of the Trifecta could be wide open or maybe there is enough value in the Exacta that I don't want the extra risk of the Trifecta.  Also, if I have a horse at a big price who figures to be the lone speed in the race I usually like to bet him to win along with some back up Exacta's.

In a Trifecta bet you
have to pick the first, second and third place finishers within the same race.  An example of an Trifecta bet would be 1/2,3/2,3,4 - meaning the #1 horse has to win, the #2 or 3 would need to run second and the #2,3 or 4 would need to run second.  The payouts from a Trifecta a little larger than an Exacta because there is more risk involved.  Also, the Trifecta is a blind pool, meaning that you can't see the payout before the race is run.  The same boxing that goes on in Exacta betting is just a prevalent in Trifecta betting.  But it creates even more overlays in the pool because of the additional 3rd leg of the bet.  For instance if you consider that the top 3 or 4 horses in the odds are the majority that are going to be boxed.  That means in order for those bets to win the top 3 or 4 horses have to run 1st, 2nd and 3rd.  If in your handicapping you can get just one horse outside those top 4 to finish in the Trifecta then you are likely looking at an overly.  The one scenario where this doesn't hold true is when the top 2 horses are obvious to run 1st and 2nd.  Then a lot of bettors will key them over several horses in the 3rd spot, creating several underlays.

In order to play the Trifecta I like for my handicapping to tell me that there are only 2 contenders that can win and only another 3 horses who I consider can run 2nd or 3rd (occasionally, I will add a 6th or 7th horse on a big day of race in larger fields, but only if my daily bankroll allows).  Also, I like the play the Trifecta at tracks that offer it for $0.50.  One of my favorite Trifecta plays looks like this:

$2 - A,B/A,B/C,D = $8 (you could play this at $1 for a $14 total bet cost to save some money)
$.50 - A,B/A,B,C/D,E = $4
$.50 - A,B/C,D,E/A,B,C = $6

This allows me to get paid if I am right or almost right and gives me good coverage in some savers for not a lot of money.  Basically, I'm hoping to hit the $2 bet, but if I happen to be a little wrong I have two savers which almost always pay enough cover my bet if not give me a profit.

One of the best parts about playing the Trifecta is that you can get some high priced horse to finish within it's legs.  Even a 10 or 15 to 1 shot can really boost the payout.  I really like to look for higher priced horse who figure to be on the lead, but may not fade out of the Trifecta.  This is especially if there figures to be a slow pace or in sprint races where the closers may simple run out of ground.  Also, a horse who run evenly but figures to get a clean trip where some others maybe compromised is also a good Trifecta horse.

In a Superfecta bet you must pick the first four finishers in a race correctly.  Just like the Exacta and Trifecta you can use multiple horses in each leg.  One of the things that makes playing this bet difficult is with the right trip almost any horse in the race can run fourth.  I'm not opposed to the Superfecta, I just don't play it much.  I'd rather take the smaller payout of the Trifecta with the less risk.  However, there are horseplayers whose sole focus is the Superfecta.  Most tracks now offer $0.10 Superfecta bets which make it a whole lot more affordable.  However, even at this low amount I've never been able to justify the risk versus the payout for my style of play.  The best Superfecta bets to hit are the ones where you can get a couple of favorites to finished outside of the top 4 and being able to play it for $0.10 makes that much for affordable.  For instance let's assume you have an 8 horse field.  A Superfecta bet for $0.10 structured like A,B/A,B,C/A,B,C,D,E/All would cost you $6.

Picking horses to finish in the Superfecta is similar to the Trifecta with one extra step.   When I do play the Superfecta I like to look at the first three legs and construct it as if I am putting together a Trifecta bet.  Then I look at the 4th spot and consider which horses I do not want to leave out.  There are a lot of times in fields of 10 horses or less where I hit the All button (use all the horses in the field) for the 4th leg of the Superfecta.  For a few extra dollars I'm not willing to the loose the payout to an inferior horse who got a dream trip and lugged in fourth.

As with any gambling or betting you need to decide what your tolerance is for exotic betting.  You'll hit a lot more Exacta's than you will Superfecta's, but the payout will be much lower.  Are you willing to sit those losing streaks out for the Superfecta payday?  I strongly urge any new intrarace exotic player to start with the Exacta and master that first.  From there you'll have a foundation to build on and a better understanding of types of horses that can finish in the exotics, making it easier to move to the Trifecta and Superfecta.  After all if you don't learn to play the Exacta successfully, you're not going to hit the Trifecta or Superfecta anyway!

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