Los Alamitos Racing Association to Offer 3 NHC Seats this Saturday

NTRA NHC logoPress Release

The Los Alamitos Racing Association will offer a cash prize, three seats to the 2018 National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas and more with a live money handicapping contest Saturday, Sept. 23.

In addition to the berths in the NHC, there will be also be five spots available for the Autumn Handicapping Contest at Santa Anita (Oct. 6-8) as well as three to next year’s NTRA Last Chance Horseplayers Championship Qualifier in Las Vegas.

Cost to enter the Los Alamitos Fall Qualifier is $500. Of that amount, $100 will be placed in the contest prize pool with the remaining funds going towards a live-money wagering card.

Contestants must enter prior to 2 p.m. – post time for the first race – Sept. 16. Players can begin entering the contest once track gates open at 9:30 a.m. that morning and participants can purchase a maximum of two entries.

Tournament races will include the entire card at Los Alamitos with permitted wagers including win, place, show and exactas. Each entry must bet at least $100 on four races, but there is no wagering limit.

The player with the highest bankroll at the end of the day will be declared the winner and the player with the second highest bankroll will be the runner-up.

The winner will receive 50% of the prize pool, which will be capped at $10,000. The remaining payoffs: 20% (2nd place), 15% (3rd place), 10% (4th place) and 5% (5th place).

Players can sign up for the handicapping contest at losalamitos.com as well as review complete contest rules. For any further questions, contact larace@losalamitos.com or by telephone at 714-820-2690.

Qualifying Begins for $300,000 Kentucky Derby Betting Championship

The best handicappers will join the best three-year-olds for the 2nd annual TwinSpires.com Kentucky Derby Betting Championship on May 5-6 at Churchill Downs.

Featuring a $12,000 buy-in and the ability to play anywhere through TwinSpiresTournaments.com, the KDBC is a live-money handicapping tournament with $4,000 of the entry fee going to an estimated prize pool of $300,000 and a top prize of $150,000. Last year’s winner, Ron Myeress, won $152,752 in cash and prizes.

Churchill winner's circle“After the success of our inaugural Kentucky Derby Betting Championship, we’re looking forward to growing and improving it this year thanks to our players and Churchill Downs Race Track,” TwinSpires.com President Ted Gay said. “The addition of ‘play-from-anywhere’ through TwinSpires.com should add to the player and prize pool, truly making this one of the top live-money tournaments on the circuit.”

 TwinSpires.com partnered with Breeders’ Cup to offer online play of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Championship, an option that helped grow that contest to record levels this year. In conjunction with that partnership, TwinSpires.com and Churchill Downs Race Track will offer a $1-million bonus if the KDBC winner also wins the 2017 BCBC.

“It was a thrill to welcome the best contest players to the most exciting two minutes in sports at last year’s Kentucky Derby,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery. “The Kentucky Derby is all about the best of Thoroughbred racing, and adding a big-money live tournament to the mix enhances the race’s brand as the premier week in the Sport of Kings.”

Registration for this year’s Kentucky Derby Betting Championship is now available with a $500 deposit at KentuckyDerbyBettingChampionship.com. The website is also updated with rules, prize structure, and information on how to qualify via satellites on TwinSpires.com.

Record $2 Million Purse for the 2015 National Handicapping Championship (NHC)

NEW YORK CITY (Thursday, June 19, 2014) – The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) today announced that the estimated purse for the 16th Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC), presented by Racetrack Television Network, Sovereign Stable and Treasure Island Las Vegas, has been increased 25 percent to a record $2 million. The 2014 NHC purse was $1,590,000.

An additional $200,000 in previously announced prize money will be distributed as part of the 2014 NHC Tour, bringing the estimated NHC and NHC Tour purses to $2.2 million.

The purse increases are fueled by robust participation in NHC qualifying contests by NHC Tour members (Tour membership is a requirement to be eligible to qualify for the NHC).    
“Virtually all of our qualifying tournaments – onsite and online – continue to perform very well,” said Keith Chamblin, Senior Vice President of the NTRA. “We have more than 1,350 new Tour members thus far in 2014. The NHC will only grow as more people are introduced to tournament contests and experience the thrill of competing for a spot in Las Vegas and a chance at the winner’s share of $2 million in prize money. These are life-changing sums being offered to the top finishers.”
The 16th NHC will be held January 23-25, 2015 at Treasure Island Las Vegas. The 2014 NHC Tour schedule and the official rules for the 2015 NHC have been posted online at NHCTour.com. For the second year in a row, the Championship will feature a three-day format with a Final 50 and Final Table of 10.
Three tournaments scheduled for Saturday, June 21, offer NHC berths, including two online contests currently open for registration. DRF Bets (DRFBets.com) hosts the first of two Super Summer Challenge preliminary rounds leading to a July 5 final with four NHC spots up for grabs and HorseTourneys.com presents a “Live Format” NHC Qualifier with three guaranteed NHC entries available. The Belmont Park Handicapping Challenge at Belmont Park is sold out.
About the NHC
In its 16th year, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, Presented by Racetrack Television Network, Sovereign Stable and Treasure Island Las Vegas is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers. There are no “buy-in” entries at the NHC. It is the culmination of a yearlong series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino racebooks, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping websites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals. Every year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards. The 15 NHC Champions since the event’s inception, in chronological order, are Steven Walker, Judy Wagner, Herman Miller, Steve Wolfson Jr., Kent Meyer, Jamie Michelson, Ron Rippey, Stanley Bavlish, Richard Goodall, John Conte, Brian Troop, John Doyle, Michael Beychok, Jim Benes and Jose Arias.
[show-callout-bar]

Tournament Tips for the 2012 Season

by Rich Nilsen

Before Louisiana political consultant Mark Beychok had even accepted his title and seven figure check for his NTRA Handicapper of the Year victory, many horseplayers were already plotting in their own minds how they were going to attack the tournament scene in 2012. Now that the winner of the National Handicapping Champion (NHC) earns a huge paycheck for two great days of picking the ponies, the interest in the year-long event has skyrocketed.

Here we are in June and the contest season is in full swing. There are tournaments every week and tons of opportunities. Tournament players don’t even need to leave the luxury of home to compete against the best and earn their way to the coveted Las Vegas championship. However, in doing so, players typically give up the chance to win serious money. Most of the online tournaments fail to offer much in the way of cash prizes. Instead, the carrot dangling out in front of the players is the NHC berth, valued at roughly $7,000.

Online Opportunities

NHC Tour membership is mandatory in order to earn an entry into the NHC Finals, so make sure you have paid your $50 membership dues prior to playing in any online events. An added perk of the membership fee is that NHC Tour members get to play in exclusive, online qualifying events that are free to play. These tournaments offer a total of 10 seats to the 2013 NHC.

Longtime horse racing executive Mark Midland created a tournament site in 2011 at DerbyWars.com. Yours truly was one of the beta testers for this innovative contest platform. On DerbyWars contest players can chat with one another during the event. Members at DerbyWars can also “connect” with their friends via the contest interface, for example, knowing when one of their friends have registered for a contest on the site. It’s the first tournament platform to integrate social networking-type features.

“Since we started DerbyWars,” explained Midland. “One of the things that surprised us was how well newer racing fans took to the game.  Part of that speaks to the fun and interaction of DerbyWars, but part of that speaks to the fact that tournaments are fun and easy.  Since you’re not betting, you only have to pick a horse, and you can see many others picked the same horse you did.  So it’s a much easier learning curve than wagering.  That’s why we think it’s a perfect introductory game to create new horseplayers.”

DerbyWars offers numerous types of tournaments, many of which are cash games with a very low takeout, and contests are offered up to five days each week. If you haven’t tried Derby Wars, I highly recommend it.

McKay Smith, former NTRA Tournament Director, is the man behind HorseTourneys.com, another great site for players looking for online opportunities. With the generous sponsorship of Ron Geary from Ellis Park, HorseTourneys.com has many NHC and HPWS qualifiers throughout the year.

BCQualify.com is another favorite site of mine. This one gives players the opportunity to qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC), the big money tournament where the buy-in is a steep $10,000 fee. Last year Patrick McGoey won his way into the event via a $100 contest at BCQualify.com before parlaying that into an incredible six-figure score at Churchill Downs on Breeders’ Cup weekend.

There are several other online sites for players to choose from, including HorsePlayersQualify.com, NHQualify.com (which is the NTRA’s site), and some of the leading online ADWs such as TwinSpires.

NHC Tour Changes

The NHC Tour continues to evolve. In 2012 there were several changes put in place. First, the season is broken up into two halves for the first time, as prizes will be awarded half way through the year based on players’ performances.

The overall NHC Tour prize money has been increased to $250,000, which includes a $50,000 payout to the top finishers in the first half of the Tour year and another $50,000 to those who perform best during the second half of the year.

Point totals within each half year segment will be based on a player’s top four scores. The NTRA is requiring that a player must earn at least one of his or her four scores at a live, non-online event. I understand the logic behind this, but it an unfair rule for players who reside in states where either pari-mutuel racing does not exist or where contests are not available. A player not earning points in a live event would be credited with a zero for the fourth score. Also, winning at an on-track event will be worth more tour points than winning an online contest.

End-of-year payouts will total $150,000, with points based on a member’s top six scores.  Again, one of those six year-end scores must come from a live, non-online tournament.

Another interesting change for 2012 is that the top 100 players at the end of the year will be guaranteed entry into the 2013 NHC Finals. Last year 12 players would have benefited if that rule existed then. This year I anticipate that number being higher.

Also new for 2012 is an automatic $5,000 bonus paid to anyone who wins more than one NHC qualifying tournament (live or online). A small handful of players accomplish that impressive feat every year, so it would be a surprise if the NTRA did not have to pay out on that – multiple times.

Tournament Advice

I have learned a lot over the past decade about how to approach an upcoming tournament. For starters, it is critical to be prepared. You need to have handicapped all the races ahead of time. Doing so, you will know how the races later in the day shape up, which would likely affect your decision making during the afternoon. Let’s say you’re in a contest with a lot of optional plays, but the last couple of races on the day are short fields at the two West Coast tracks. Obviously, you would not want to “save” a play and end up having bullets in your holster for those races.

If you are at a live event, stay focused and don’t get influenced by the talk of players in the tournament. “So and so had that one.” Or, “So and so hit a $10 trifecta in that last race.” Unless you actually know this for a fact and seen the leaderboard reflect such a result, there is no sense letting “rumors” affect your play. Stick to your gameplan, and weed out the distractions. You and your game will be better off for it.

Speaking of distractions, tournaments are fertile ground for just that. It is very easy to get distracted, especially when one is playing at a live event. You run into people you know. You’re talking to other players at your table. You’re trying to get comfortable and figure out the best view of the tv’s. Most likely you are in a different environment that you are used to when playing the races. Something as simple as getting “late changes” for today’s races is different, especially for players used to clicking a couple of buttons on their computer at home. Stay focused and anticipate the distractions that could occur…because they will.

Fully understand the format of the contest you are playing. You shouldn’t have to look up anything up in the rules during the course of the tournament. Read the rules multiple times, just in case you missed something the first time. And just because you played the contest last year, doesn’t mean the rules are the same this year.

When you understand the rules and the format, you’ll be best prepared to have a game plan going in. You should have a good idea of what it takes to win the contest. What scores have previous winners had? Knowing the scores of previous winners and qualifiers will provide you an excellent barometer of what it will take to succeed in this year’s event. Little details can mean a lot, especially in handicapping tournaments.

I suggest mapping out a schedule for the year based on your budget, life schedule, willingness to travel, and overall passion for the handicapping tournament scene. One of the many advantages of doing this is that if you are attending a contest at an unfamiliar track, you can start following that circuit in the month or two leading up to the event.

Make sure you are not at a disadvantage when it comes to information. There are many sources of great handicapping resources in this day and age, and a horseplayer trying to win a tournament cannot afford to be in the dark. For example, there are some excellent private workout services such as the National Turf Clocker’s Report. You can’t afford to be ignorant about the fact that the favorite in the 7th at Santa Anita has been training like a slug, when some of your fellow tournament contestants are fully aware of this.

Finally, play to win. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a contestant make their final play to finish somewhere “in the money.” This has become even more prevalent since the NHC Tour was started. It’s true that in some tournaments, like at NHQualify.com, it may not matter at the end of the day if you are first or fifth. However, in most tournaments it does matter. When you have the chance to win a tournament with a lucrative grand prize, take the shot. It doesn’t come around every day.

Join BetPTC

Interview with 2011 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Winner

Patrick McGoey, a commercial litigation attorney from New Orleans, parlayed a winning $100 entry into the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge into winnings of $270,600. McGoey had won his way into the $10,000 event by qualifying online back in May for only $100.

In its third year, the BC Betting Challenge saw 115 of the country’s best horseplayers face-off in a live money $10,000 buy-in betting tournament.

Patrick McGoey

Patrick (left) alongside his brother

McGoey won first place in a dramatic come-from-behind effort in the last race of the contest by wagering $7,000 to win on 14-1 longshot Drosselmeyer in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Drosselmeyer’s victory resulted in McGoey’s win bet returning an amazing $110,600. Combined with the first place winnings of $160,000, McGoey took home $270,600.

McGoey had earned his spot in the BC Betting Challenge on May 28 by defeating 90 other players in a $100 qualifying event for the Challenge at www.bcqualify.com.

His last-race heroics also earned him an automatic berth into the National Handicapping Championship (NHC) at Treasure Island in Las Vegas where over 500 qualifiers will be shooting for approximately $2 million in prizes.

We sat down with McGoey a few days after his memorable win.

 AGOS:  Patrick, congratulations on a tremendous accomplishment. You defeated 114 of the best handicappers in the country over the two biggest racing days of the year. What was your general philosophy going into the event?

McGoey: You know my basic philosophy for day one was to be conservative and just “hang in there” until day two. I wanted to have some money for the second day. I never planned on letting it all ride like it did on the final race.

 AGOS:  How did you catch the horse racing bug, and how long have been handicapping?

McGoey: I started about 10 years. My brother handicaps a lot and he kind of got me involved. I follow The Fair Grounds and Churchill Downs quite a bit, but I don’t play every day.

Around 2005 some buddies and I said, “wouldn’t it be fun to own a horse?” So a group of us bought a $30,000 claimer and then Katrina kit that summer and shut down the track. The horse ended up running at Louisiana Downs, so we had to drive about six hours to watch him race. But the horse did fairly well, so over the years we got up to six claiming horses.

But owning horses is what really got me into the sport.

AGOS:  How many tournaments a year do you typically play?

McGoey: I played three to four satellite tournaments trying to qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. I played a few last year, trying to qualify for this as well as the NHC, but not many.

 AGOS:  Had you played in this tournament or similar money-bankroll tournaments before?

McGoey: I had not. This was my first time in the tournament and I had no experience in this type of contest.

 AGOS: Have you qualified for the National Handicapping Championship before now?

McGoey: This is a first. I had other things on my calendar the last week of January but I have cleared them out!

AGOS:  What handicapping tools did you utilize in ‘capping the Breeders’ Cup cards?

McGoey: I use the Daily Racing Form. Sometimes I will check stuff on Equibase but primarily DRF.

 AGOS: What type of wagers were you making in the two days leading up to the final race?

McGoey: I made some large $500 show bets on Friday which got me through some of the races. I wanted to get the mandatory bets out of the way and just “stay in the game.” I ended Friday with about $8,200.

 Then on Saturday I hit the first couple of races with win/place bets on the favorite along with $200 exactas that were fairly chalky. That got me up to about $12,500, but then I started to give it away after that.

I was on Shackelford and he looked strong turning for home but he got mowed down for the top spot. I lost Union Rags by a nose. I also had bets on Turralure who suffered a tough break getting nosed out at the wire in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

My brother was in the contest as well. With about four races to go, he told me he was “bowing out. I am going to bet some Pick 3s and Pick 4s and I am disqualifying myself.”

 Well about a race or two before the Classic, I told him I was going all-in on Drosselmeyer. My brother just looked at me and said, “nah, don’t do that!”

 AGOS: When did you know that you were going to go all-in on Drosselmeyer in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and why?  Did you consider other types of wagers, such as exotics?

McGoey: I actually started thinking about this approach only about two races before the Classic.

I was on Flat Out [one of the favorites for the Classic] going into the day. I had bet on Royal Delta on Friday, and that filly closed from off the pace to win for trainer Bill Mott.  Birdrun ran big also, so I was thinking that Mott’s horses were doing really well. I started looking more at Drosselmeyer [also trained by Bill Mott] and noticed the huge improvement in his last race. He had run a big Beyer speed figure and had lost to my top choice, Flat Out, by only 2 1/2 lengths.

Flat Out was 7/2 and Drosselmeyer was 15/1, a big discrepancy in odds despite those horses running one-two in their last start.  Other horses were turning the tables on runners [who defeated them previously] over the weekend, so why not Drosselmeyer? The last time Mike Smith had ridden him, it was the Belmont Stakes and he had won. Good workouts, Mike Smith had ridden him well, and Bill Mott horses were hot, so I decided to take a shot.

Except for those first two races that were chalk, I wasn’t hitting exactas very well during most of the day, so I just decided why not a win bet on a live longshot. I said if I hit this, it could mean $300,000. How often do you get a shot at a $300,000 score? I thought Drosselmeyer should have been about 10-1, but I got about 40-1 on him [by betting him in the contest].

I loved the format of the tournament because you get to keep the money that you won. The guys in the lead late in the day had real money in the bank so I could understand why they wouldn’t take the type of risk I took.

I was sitting next to the guy who hit a huge exacta using Perfect Shirl on Friday so he vaulted to over $40,000. So for most of the tournament I wasn’t even in the same zip code as him.

AGOS: Why do you think you have chosen handicapping over other forms of gambling?

McGoey: I still do fantasy football and I have done some poker. Once I started doing more and more handicapping, the other forms of gambling didn’t interest me at all. The casinos are boring. You don’t get the same types of odds at the casino. The odds are so much better with the horses. For example, I don’t like betting 1/1 shots and in football that is the best case scenario.

It’s super exciting, too. I get a rush when the horses are going into the gate.

If you lose five or six races in a row, you can get it back in the next race. Whereas in a game like blackjack, it can take forever to get back to even.

AGOS: This website is devoted to improving the game of racing. What are the key areas that this industry should focus on in the coming years?

McGoey:  Focus on getting younger people involved. I was probably one of the youngest in the room.

It’s easy to pick a football game, given a 50% chance and everybody has a “gut” feeling about a game without doing any research, but handicapping the horses takes time.

I really think these tournaments are great and should be promoted more. The potential return you can get is excellent. You can play some of them from home online. You can put in picks early, go out and do things, and then come home and see how you did.  There are a lot of opportunities like that. It’s a flexible sport that doesn’t take all of your time.

The industry needs to focus on contests and getting younger people involved. A lot of younger people are just intimidated by both the sport and “The Form.” I learned how to read the form was I was pretty young. I got away from the sport in later years. Didn’t do it much at college or law school. But then when I came back to it, it was much easier for me to picks things up, compared to someone who didn’t have any prior exposure to the game.

AGOS: Yes, there is definitely an intimidation factor when it comes to horse racing.

McGoey: I took my wife and three girls, and then each brought a friend last year at The Fair Grounds. There was a horse with a name the girls liked. I bet the horse for all of them. She won, and I think I hooked every one of those kids!

I have a picture on my wall of The Fair Grounds with 50,000 people in attendance, many dressed to the tilt. Now you go to the track and you can shoot a cannon off in there. To think that is how the track used to be…you got to do something to get people back into the sport.

Online is definitely the best way to grow the sport. The access is so easy.

AGOS: Have you seen any overlap with the casino crowd and the racing fans at The Fair Grounds?

McGoey: To be honest with you, I haven’t even walked through the slot area. For one, I can’t stand slots. I’m sure it is helping their bottom line, but it is not generating more fans for racing.

You know what has been great is the Fair Grounds, like Churchill Downs, has experimented with night racing, and the place is packed on those nights. Tracks could have events like a jazz festival. Fair Grounds could use the facility more and hold a jazz festival inside the track. People would come. We know how to throw a party here in New Orleans. Most people simply can’t attend during the day.

Additional Notes from the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge

Christian Hellmers of Los Angeles California finished in second place behind McGoey, winning $121,700. Hellmers held the contest’s lead over the last four races until Drosselmeyer’s upset and McGoey’s last race theatrics. John Allunario won $78,480 by finishing third in the event. Allunario also qualified in a bcqualify.com on October 1 in a $400 online event.

“The Betting Challenge has quickly become the ‘go to’ tournament for horseplayers throughout North America,” said Kenneth Kirchner, the tournament’s administrator for Breeders’ Cup. “The BCBC has grown by fifty percent in just three years and we are working to expand the opportunities for players to qualify at more racing facilities and sites for next year’s contest. I believe there is tremendous upside for this event in future years.”

For those who didn’t win their way in, the BC Betting Challenge requires a $10,000 buy-in per player, with $2,500 going towards the prize pool and $7,500 towards the player’s two-day betting bankroll. Total prize money was $315,000 with cash prizes to the top ten finishers.

Cash Prizes every Saturday in Equibase Contest

Play free every Saturday for cash prizes (top 3 finishers) in the Equibase.com handicapping contest sponsored by Premier Turf Club/BetPTC.com.

Discover a Great Aspect of the Handicapping Scene

By Ross Gallo

I’ve been going to the track since I have memory.  Fell in love with this grand game of horse racing at first site, even loved the smell of the Daily Racing Form.  (I know, crazy right?)  So, I’ve been making a living playing the horses for the better part of thirty years, but it wasn’t until around 1997 that I discovered a wonderful and often overlooked alternative way to play and enjoy the races.  It is the reason I’m writing this article and it is for those of you that are either not familiar with, or have not ventured into, the world of handicapping tournaments.

Horse Racing Handicapping Tournament

Popular Bankroll-based Tournament founded by Ross Gallo

In a game that has declining attendance and handle nearly across the board.  Has tracks closing their doors.  Questions surrounding drug use by super-trainers, odds changes during the running of races, questionable stewards decisions, and a myriad of other problems; there is one cross section that is growing and thriving, handicapping tournaments.  The NTRA/DRF National Handicapping Championship (NHC), our U.S. Open so to speak, which was introduced in 2000 with a purse of $200,000, offering $100,000 to the winner; will be having it’s 13th rendition in January of 2012 at Treasure Island In Las Vegas. 

You can only participate by qualifying, which is unlike any other tournament we have and what makes the NHC so special; well that and the fact that this year the purse has grown to $2,000,000 with $1,000,000 going to the winner!  That kind of growth in a mere 13 years, and for some reason we’re not singing it’s praises to the rafters?! 

I’m not much of a preacher, but this is a worthy cause.  You love the game of horse racing like me?  Good.  Then do the game and yourself a favor and start playing handicapping tournaments.  They are eventually going to pull the game back into the mainstream of Americana.  You don’t know me, but I know what I’m talking about so take a leap of faith, you won’t be sorry.  There are so many different formats out there, I’m positive you can find one you like.  Don’t want to leave your couch?  Well there are probably, on average, 10 opportunities a week, maybe more to play online.  There are low-end, high-end and in-between entry fees.  There are even some free tournaments that offer trips to the NHC.  There are tournaments away from the NHC and its Tour as well.  So many opportunities to have fun, win money, and many times for a very small investment.  Go to ntra.com or horseplayersqualify.com or nhcqualify or bcqualify or twinspires or drf or derbywars or horsetourneys or publichandicapper (note I stopped with the .coms they’re all .coms got sick of .com-ing) or even your local tracks website.  There are sooooo many places to get started, and you don’t have to do anything but turn on your computer.  What are you waiting for?  Go.  Play.

“…over the last decade-plus I have met some of the best people on this planet.  Men and women I consider lifelong friends.”

Okay, so I’ve hooked you a little, admit it.  Now I’m playing my trump card.  Online tournaments are great, but you know what’s even better?  Going to a venue for a tournament.  Awesome!  When I first started, there weren’t any online tournaments, you had to travel.  It was the best thing that ever happened to me, in my professional life at least.  You see there is an amazing phenomenon attached to handicapping tournaments; they attract the highest class of human beings I’ve ever met in any walk of life.  In what I call “real” life, I’d say the percentage of how can I put this? (I’m not a fisherman but it rhymes with bass poles).  The percentage of “bass poles” is really high, maybe 75%.  Hey, takes one to know one right?  But anyway, at handicapping tournaments it’s like 2% counting me. 

Allow me to illustrate further.  If you put 800 tournament players into a ballroom or two at the Orleans in Vegas for a three day event, you MIGHT be able to ferret out 16 “bass poles” if you try hard.  Put 800 conventioning doctors, lawyers, funeral home directors, bricklayers, writers, plumbers etc in the same couple of rooms and guaranteed you’ll have three quarters “bass poles.”  Three.  Quarters.  Bass.  Poles.  Just saying!

Seriously though, over the last decade-plus I have met some of the best people on this planet.  Men and women I consider lifelong friends.  Some I talk to nearly every day, others I just catch up with when we get together and others somewhere in between. 

You see handicapping tournaments draw thinking people.  Ours is a cerebral game.  Any shmoe can sit down with two cards in front of him or her and play poker.  Horse racing requires more use of the brain, and what the hell is wrong with that?  Let me tell you something else about these people.  We go to tournaments and try to beat each other’s brains out, but when we get to the point where we know we can’t win, we GENUINELY root for our friends to win.  No lie.  Find that in a poker room or your local boardroom.  I haven’t been to a tournament in ten years where a bunch of us haven’t gone out for dinner after the last races were run.  I would like to mention names, but they wouldn’t mean anything to many of you, and if I left anyone out, I’d feel like a crumb. 

The bottom line is this: handicapping tournaments are fun, convenient to play from home, can offer value, trips to Vegas and also the opportunity to meet some of the finest people you’ll meet in your life.  Eventually someone will figure out how to bring them to television in an entertaining way (YEAH I know how already, just ask me!!!) and that is when we will rejoin the “real” world, and return to the glory days of the early to mid-part of the 20th century.  If you care about horse racing, be a part of the solution while improving your quality of entertainment at the same time, and maybe enriching your life while you’re at it.  Once you go to a handicapping tournament, you’ll no never go back.

Exciting, new Tournaments at DerbyWars.com

If you are into handicapping tournaments or always wanted to try your hand in one, check out the new site DerbyWars.com, the branchild of longtime racing executive Mark Midland. DerbyWars offers free games, NHC qualifiers as low as $25, and cash games with guaranteed pots. Sunday’s (Oct. 9) game is a lucrative $15,000 pot. $115 entry fee.