In horse racing terminology, a trifecta is a parimutuel bet in which the bettor must predict which horses will finish first, second, and third in exact order. The word comes from the related betting term, “perfecta.”
The term has been extended to the realm of politics, where it is used to describe a situation in which an executive of government appoints another elected official to a position and is also allowed to appoint his successor. This process can be chained together; in other words, the executive can appoint an elected official to a position, appoint another elected official to the other’s previous position, and finally appoint anyone to the second official’s position. The first permutation of this chain is called a “quadfecta”.
The trifecta system is seen by many as a loophole in democracy, because it allows an executive to essentially override a choice by the voters. This is mitigated by the fact that the system requires the agreement of all parties involved. Executives have been able to get around this by making the position offered a very financially lucrative or long term one.
In first-person shooter video games such as Counter-Strike, a trifecta can refer to a situation in which a single bullet kills three players.
A trifecta can also refer to any sequence of three (generally unfortunate) occurrences, drawing on the traditional belief that deaths (and presumably, disasters and other bad things) always come in groups of three.
The word trifecta is also slang for a three-point field goal in the game of basketball.
“Trifecta” is also gaining popularity as a slang term to describe any successful phenomenon that comes in threes, for example: “She has the ‘trifecta’ of attractiveness, intelligence, and career success.”
It is also a term in Limit Hold’em poker where a player checkraises on the flop, turn, and river.