How and when to bet a Power Box
Boxing bets. There have always been pros and cons to this catch-all strategy. On the bright side, they cover a lot of possible outcomes. On the downside, they can be expensive to play.
If only there were a way to box bets in a more nuanced manner, reducing costs while allowing bettors to emphasize the horses they like best. Well guess what? That’s what a Power Box is for.
What is a Power Box?
Before we can define a Power Box, we have to define a regular boxed bet. Say you’re betting a trifecta, and you believe horses 1, 3, 4, and 7 are candidates to finish in the top three. Boxing the trifecta allows you to cash if any three of those four horses run 1-2-3 in any order. That sounds great, except you’re covering a lot of possible outcomes, so the cost is expensive. A $1 trifecta box featuring four horses costs $24. Add a fifth horse, and the price jumps to $60.
With the Power Box, you can favor certain horses over others. If you believe 1 and 3 will definitely finish in the top three, with either 4 or 7 occupying the remaining slot, you can bet a 1 with 3 with 4, 7 Power Box for only $12—half the cost of a traditional four-horse box.
How to bet a Power Box
Betting a Power Box at TwinSpires is simpler than it seems. Select a vertical exotic wager from the betting menu—an exacta, a trifecta, a superfecta, etc. Then switch the type of bet from “Straight” to “Power Box.”
Now comes the fun part. Say you’ve chosen to bet a Power Box trifecta. You’ll be adding horses for first, second, and third place, except those definitions are no longer relevant. To cash a Power Box trifecta, you simply want one horse from each of the three categories to finish in any of the top three positions.
In the example above, a 1 with 3 with 4, 7 Power Box trifecta pays out if 1, 3, and 4 finish first, second, or third in any order. It also pays out if 1, 3, and 7 finish first, second, or third in any order. It will not pay out if 4 and 7 both finish in the top three, since that doesn’t leave room for one horse from each of the three categories to finish in the top three.
For a more detailed explanation of the math and structure behind the Power Box, check out this explainer courtesy of Brisnet.com.
What are pros and cons of the Power Box?
The main advantage of a Power Box is the potential to cash big payoffs on relatively small investments. By carefully structuring your tickets, you can include a wide variety of horses (including longshots) without breaking the bank.
Another upside of a Power Box is the ability to organize many possible outcomes onto a single ticket, simplifying and speeding up the wagering process.
On the downside, if a race unfolds with a predictable outcome, playing a Power Box laden with longshots will decrease your return on investment, since you’re spending money on lots of combinations that won’t pay out.
When to bet a Power Box
The Power Box can be a good betting strategy if you think there’s a legitimate chance a heavy favorite will fall to defeat, but you’re not entirely sure which longshot(s) will steal the show. By covering a lot of potential outcomes, the Power Box gives you a chance to take down a big payday.
The Power Box can also be a suitable play if you believe the favorite might win, but you’re confident a longshot or two will finish in the top three. Consider the 2023 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park, a Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifier in which reigning champion two-year-old male Forte was favored at the arguably generous odds of 1-2.
Forte might have been a shorter price except he was returning from a four-month layoff, and the Fountain of Youth has a recent history of heavy favorites falling to defeat. Given these circumstances, a Power Box trifecta would have been a viable bet.
Even bettors who were skeptical of Forte off the layoff had to acknowledge a top-three finish was likely. And this writer had confidence that 15-1 longshot Cyclone Mischief would finish in the trifecta. True, he’d disappointed in the Holy Bull (G3) one month prior, finishing seventh behind Rocket Can. But Cyclone Mischief had previously trounced Rocket Can by 5 3/4 lengths in an allowance optional claimer, suggesting his Holy Bull misfire might have been a fluke.
By counting on Forte and Cyclone Mischief to finish in the top three with either Rocket Can, Holy Bull runner-up Shadow Dragon, or Champagne (G1) winner Blazing Sevens occupying the remaining slot, a $1 Power Box trifecta could be played for a cost of $18—a reasonable price considering it included five horses and covered for the possibility of Forte finishing first, second, or third.
In the end, Forte proved ready to roll off the layoff, strolling to victory by 4 1/2 lengths. But Rocket Can (6-1) and Cyclone Mischief rounded out the top three, triggering a profitable $1 trifecta payoff of $70.40.
When to skip a Power Box
Playing the Power Box should be avoided if you believe a chalky outcome is probable. If you’re almost certain the favorite will win, with other short-priced runners filling out the minor awards, spreading deep with longshots in your Power Box introduces the risk of cashing a payoff that’s smaller than the cost of your bet.
Even in situations where a Power Box triggers a profitable payoff with a favorite, you might be better off playing more traditional wagers if you believe the favorite is strong.
Using the Fountain of Youth example from above, suppose you had been completely confident Forte would take home first prize, with Cyclone Mischief finishing second or third. You could have played a pair of $3 trifectas—“Forte with Cyclone Mischief with Rocket Can/Shadow Dragon/Blazing Sevens” and “Forte with Rocket Can/Shadow Dragon/Blazing Sevens with Cyclone Mischief”—for the same $18 investment as a $1 Power Box. In that case, the payoff would have been $211.20.
Of course, keying Forte on top would have eliminated the chance for a big payoff by defeating Forte, a possibility the Power Box covered. But when a favorite looks invincible, doubling or tripling down on playing the favorite on top can yield bigger payoffs than a chalky Power Box.
The next time you feel like boxing your bets, stop and consider whether a Power Box is a better strategy than a traditional box. In many cases it can save you money, boost your return on investment, and open the door to a big payoff.