Superfecta

Superfecta is a betting game for two or more players. In Superfecta, players are betting on a horse race simulated by drawing cards from a deck. Players can simply bet on which horse they think will win, or can place more exotic wagers to try to predict the order of finish of two or more horses!

Superfecta is based on Horse Race, a much older game which appeared in John Scarne’s Scarne on Cards (written 1949, revised 1965). Horse racing has changed a lot since 1965, and so have card games. Bookmaking isn’t a part of horse racing anymore; horse betting is done with a parimutuel system, where the winning bettors are paid out from the bets of the losers. Fortunately, it’s much easier to implement such a system in a card game than it is to play bookie—most people don’t have such a reflexive grasp of probability to allow them to quote odds in real time.

Thus, we’ve updated the old game of Horse Race to create a new game we call Superfecta. We’ve eliminated the bookmaking, and worked in a few different wagers used in modern horse racing to add excitement to the game. We think the result is a smoother and more fun experience for your game night.

Object of Superfecta

The object of Superfecta is to win money by successfully predicting which of the four suits will win a race. Additional money can be won by successfully predicting the second, third, and fourth-place finishers.

Setup

Horse Race layout

To play Superfecta, you’ll need a standard 52-card pack of playing cards. Of course, using a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards will allow you to provide a polished and professional casino feel to your players.

You’ll also need something to bet with, like poker chips. Decide amongst your players whether you want them to represent real money or not. If so, each player buys their desired amount of chips. Otherwise, distribute an equal number of chips to each player. Determine what the minimum bet for each pool will be, for example $1. Additionally, you’ll need some paper and pen for each player to record their bets on.

The dealer will be responsible for managing three pots, each corresponding to the different types of bets available in the game. The three pools should clearly be labeled “WIN”, “EXA”, and “SFC”. You can create a betting layout on a piece of posterboard or felt. Another option is to place each pot in a bowl, or use the indentations in a cupcake tin. The exact form of the layout isn’t important, as long it clearly establishes which bet each pile of chips belongs to.

Remove the four aces from the deck and line them up on a horizontal row. This row represents the starting gate. Then, shuffle the remainder of the deck and deal a column of six cards perpendicular to the starting line, forming the rail. Refer to the attached image for an example layout.

Game play

Before placing any bets, the players can take a look at the rail to determine the probability of each horse winning the race. The more frequently a suit appears in the layout, the fewer cards of that suit are in the rest of the deck. Therefore, the more cards of a given suit are on the rail, the less likely that suit’s horse is to win.

After each player has decided on what they would like to bet on, they write down their name and their wagers on a slip of paper (their ticket) and pass it, along with the money needed to cover the wagers, to the dealer. Each wager must also list the horses the bets are placed on. The dealer verifies the correct amount of money has been provided. They then place the money in the three betting pools, according to the player’s bets. The dealer retains the ticket until later.

Types of wagers

There are three types of wager available to players: the win, exacta, and superfecta. Players may make bets on as many of these different wagers, or none of them, as they wish. The amount of each bet alone must equal the minimum bet. If the player chooses to bet a greater amount, it must be a multiple of the minimum bet. A player may make multiple bets of the same type, but must bet at least the minimum on each.

The three types of bets are:

  • Win (WIN): A bet on one particular horse to win. The player is only paid if this horse wins the race.
  • Exacta (EXA): A bet on a horse to win, and a second horse to come in second. The horses must finish in the exact order listed on the ticket (their order cannot be reversed).
  • Superfecta (SFC): A bet on the exact order all four horses will finish in.

On their ticket, players list each bet on its own line, starting with the amount of the bet, then the type of bet, then the horses (in order) the bet covers. For brevity, horses can be listed as “H”, “D”, “C”, and “S” for hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades respectively.

Example ticket

Here is an example showing how a player might fill out their ticket. In parenthesis is what needs to happen for that bet to win (this is for illustrative purposes, a player would not need to write this out). The minimum bet in this game is $1.

  • Player: James
  • $2 WIN D (diamonds comes in first)
  • $1 EXA D/C (diamonds comes in first and clubs comes in second)
  • $1 EXA C/D (clubs comes in first and diamonds comes in second)
  • $1 SFC D/C/H/S (horses place in this exact order)

This ticket would have a total price of $5. Note that both exacta wagers cannot win here; the player is making multiple bets of the same type to increase the likelihood of realizing a payout from at least one bet.

Running the race

After all players have placed their bets, the race begins! The dealer begins to deal cards, one at a time, from the stock. With each card dealt, the ace of that suit is advanced one space toward the end of the line (using the rail cards as a guide). The dealer continues drawing cards until one ace crosses the finish line (i.e. seven cards of that suit have been dealt). That horse wins the race. Further cards are dealt to determine the second- and third-place finishers, with cards belonging to already-finished horses simply being ignored.

After the order of finish has been determined, the bets are paid out. The dealer checks the tickets to determine who has a winning bet. A player with a winning bet takes the pool of that bet type. If there are multiple players with a winning bet, they divide the appropriate pool among themselves as evenly as possible. Any remainder, as well as pools that have no winning bets, are carried over to the next race.

Game play continues until a predetermined number of races (such as 12). After this race, any money left in the pools is divided equally among the players.


If you give this game a try, let us know what you think in the comments! Any suggestions that would improve the game would be appreciated.

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2 responses to “Superfecta”

  1. Stephen Rogers says:

    Y’all mention that there are four types of bets but only list three. Typo?

    • Funny story about that…in horse racing there is another bet between the exacta and the superfecta, called the trifecta. As you might expect, this is predicting the first three finishers in order. Originally, I included a trifecta bet in the game, only to realize that with only four horses, there’s no way to predict only three horses without getting the fourth one right too. Thought I caught all the references to there being four bets, but apparently not…

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