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Homeracing

Pros and cons of boxing your bets

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

July 20th, 2022

When horse racing bettors talk about boxing wagers, they’re not talking about betting on boxing matches. They’re talking about a specific wagering strategy for horse racing bets like the exacta, trifecta, and superfecta.

Have you ever wondered about the definition of a boxed wager? Let’s define the details and explore the strategies for boxing your bets.

What is boxing a wager?

Bets like the exacta, trifecta, superfecta, and Super High 5 (pentafecta) are known as vertical exotic wagers, and they involve selecting the top finishers in a specific race. The exacta requires selecting the top two finishers, the trifecta the top three finishers, the superfecta the top four finishers, and the Super High 5 the top five finishers.

But here’s the trick: you don’t have to bet one specific order of finish and hope the horses come home in your perfect order. Say you’re playing an exacta, and you’re certain Horse #1 and Horse #5 will sweep the top two finishing positions, but you’re not sure which will win and which will finish second. You could randomly pick one on top and play the wager straight, or you could play both combinations and cash a ticket regardless of which horse wins. The latter strategy is an example of boxing a wager.

What are the advantages of boxing bets?

The main advantage of boxing bets is obvious—you increase your chances of winning. You could box three horses in an exacta and cash as long as two of them finish 1-2 in either order. Or you could box five horses in a Super High 5 and come out a winner if your five horses run 1-2-3-4-5 in any order.

What are the disadvantages of boxing bets?

Unfortunately, boxing bets can be an expensive strategy. On a single ticket, you’re covering every possible combination of results involving your horses. The more horses you play (and the more slots they’re required to fill), the greater the cost.

Let’s give some examples. Boxing two horses in a $1 exacta is pretty inexpensive—it costs just $2, since you’re playing two combinations. Boxing three horses isn’t bad either—it costs $6 for six combinations.

But box five horses in a $1 Super High 5, and the cost balloons to $120. Add a sixth horse, and you’ll be spending $720. If favorites dominate, it’s possible the payoff will be less than you spent and you could lose money on a “winning” wager.

When should you box bets?

Generally speaking, boxing bets is something of a scattershot approach to betting that should be used judiciously. If you’re confident you’ve identified the top few contenders in a race, but find it difficult to split them, boxing vertical exotic wagers might be the way to go. This is especially true if at least one of your horses ranks outside of the top betting choices, boosting the prospective payoffs.

On the other hand, if you’re confident one horse is superior to the rest, it doesn’t make sense to box the superior horse in vertical exotic wagers and spend a lot of money covering the possibility of defeat. Why not play the superior horse on top of your tickets, then box a few other logical contenders underneath if you’re having trouble splitting them?

This is called a key box bet, and it’s considerably less expensive to play than a regular boxed bet. Remember that five-horse Super High 5 box that cost $120? If you key one horse on top and box the rest underneath, the cost plunges to $24.

Now that you’ve learned how (and when) to box bets, be sure to give it a try the next time a suitable opportunity arises!

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