01/30/2014 6:57PM

Arias won NHC 15 fair and square

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It makes a good story. A young bettor, on the precipice of the score of a lifetime, takes an extra step to ensure that he has the best possible chance to make $750,000. He makes a five-figure bet on one of the four horses who can beat him in the last race of the NHC in the hope that the price will go low enough so that even if the horse wins, he still holds on to win the contest. The scenario works like a charm. Best of all, there’s nothing in the rules or the law against it, and the winner gets alternately celebrated for his cunning path to victory or accused of manipulating the contest.

There’s just one problem: None of it is true. I asked Jose Arias, the winner of the 2014 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, point blank if any of the rumors about contest manipulation were true. His response: “That is ridiculous, borderline absurd. I did not consider making any type of hedge bet on that race. I didn’t have time to even think about making any kind of bet. I was totally focused on the contest. Also, I come from modest beginnings. I don’t have the means to put that type of money out there. I did not do that.”

There are several issues relating to any potential bet that is made on the last mandatory race as the NHC is currently constructed. One is the concept of “contest manipulation,” that is, deliberately betting a horse down past the point where the leader could be overtaken, and the other is simple hedging. Neither is expressly prohibited under contest rules.

Arias said he did neither, and there is no evidence to the contrary, so let’s look at what did happen. The winner of the last race was Fit to Rule, one of the first two horses I would have included when constructing my pick six. The horse was announced in the program as a first-time gelding and had run over the Beyer Speed Figure par four out of 10 times at much higher levels, and while he was eased in his last start, he was dropping big time in class with a good workout – singled out for praise by Andy Harrington’s National Turf clocking service as “good for the level.”

The horse was 4-1 on the morning line. At 8-1, he was an extreme overlay. Additionally, while people say there was a large, late price drop from 8-1 to 6-1, late drops in price are common today in the advance-deposit-wagering world, an everyday occurrence. Plus, the horse really only dropped from 8-1 to just under 7-1, going off at 6.80-1.

Tony Brice, who backed Fit to Rule, knew he was unlikely to win the NHC even if his selection got up. “I had to go with the horse I loved in the last race, even though I knew it probably wouldn’t be enough to win it,” Brice said.

“But why was there such a discrepancy between the win and place prices?” ask conspiracy theorists. It’s possible, as some have pointed out, that there were betting-syndicate types who were hedging the pick six, thus betting down the win odds on Fit to Rule. But I believe there’s another reason. Because he was a horse with potential soundness issues, this was a classic win or run-out-of-the-money horse. If he’s overcome the soundness issues, he wins; if not, he’s up the track. He was not a horse a big bettor bets to place.

I have multiple sources within the Southern California racing community telling me that the late five-figure bet on Fit to Rule was made ontrack at Santa Anita by people who thought the horse would run well. These people have zero connection to Jose Arias or the NHC.

The whole incident does raise a number of interesting questions. One obvious change to prevent the appearance of contest manipulation is to not publish the other players’ picks until the race goes off. I fully expect that to be a policy in place next year.

But what about hedging? That is a totally different matter, and any person trying to ensure that he scores big is eligible to do so, whether protecting his pick six bet or place in a tournament.

The difference in money awarded from first to second and down throughout the top 10 at the NHC is extremely top-heavy in a way that could invite hedging, and I don’t think there’s any way to avoid the possibility in the future with the current purse discrepancy at the final table.

The fact is that Arias won the tournament fair and square, with never a hint of impropriety in any shape or form. He is a most deserving winner of NHC 15, pulling off an unprecedented three-day, wire-to-wire win.

Robert More than 1 year ago
gotta tell you i sat at the same table as the winner for 3 days. jose was totally focused on what was happening at all times. quiet guy smiling at all times and i never say him make a cash wager. all bets were contest related. all 8 men vowed to return next year and again sit together, a great time was had by all
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Sounds like a plan! Hope to see you there. . .
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
Peter "The beards/shills issue is unenforceable" Since I'm new to looking at what tournament play is, can you touch on this a bit. Either here, or in a new thread. Was it a normal occurrence in the past? If so , those who qualified had to be putting in several thousands of dollars a year as part of their annual qualifying budget to get to the NHC. SR Vegas
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Yes, it's been a very common thing for players to play entries in the name of partners who aren't exactly partners. Again, I don't have an issue with it. I write about it in the book and will definitely write about it in a future column as well. Good idea!
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
Thanks Peter I have your book and will curl up and have a 'good read' very soon :) SR Vegas
mikey More than 1 year ago
I was next to a guy who told us what a great handicapper his wife is.She had a seat and played in the last chance to get a second(HE HAD 2).She had a shot the only problem was she never got out of her seat to bet all day.Rather than having ghost players let anyone get as many seats as he or she can get.Less people same amount of seats.We all know how hard it is to get a seat.Sometimes playing more than one seat can hurt.You put the wrong horse on the wrong ticket.With self betting anyone can bet for anyone.
Eddie Syno More than 1 year ago
congrats to jose,i was lucky enough to play in the tournament this year, and if you were there you knew he won fair and square. funny thing before they posted the prices in the lastrace i had the feeling the place price was going to be big, that made it even closer..
Ron Solberg More than 1 year ago
it is hard as hell to go wire to wire.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
You said it! Tho in truth, Jose took the lead late in day 1. But that was still before the first "pace call" so I do think the wire to wire bit applies!
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
Roger C You handicappers just amaze me. ...as always, a pleasure to see you each year, after year, and again this year. I kept stopping by to check in on you ( I was sitting a couple tables away ) and I am sure I will see you again next year in 2015. ( the Las Vegas gal ) SR Vegas
Roger More than 1 year ago
Yes you will SR…..RC
Roger More than 1 year ago
Nice to see you also SR its always a pleasure…RC
Roger More than 1 year ago
Congratulations to Jose Arias unlike me the year before he was able to hold on. Mr Arias played a great contest and deserved to win hands down. Peter the book is great also I'm really glad I could be part of it….Roger C
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Of course I thought of you when I saw the margin of victory -- same $1.20 that got you last year. Definitely a weird coincidence. . .great meeting you out there and I hope we talk soon. I hope you like the book.
Josh Kamis More than 1 year ago
I sat at the table next to Jose all weekend he was 3 chairs away. Pretty sure he walked into the room knowing as many people as I, maybe 2. He wired us all. Good for him! I caught up to him in the lobby later on and he had the deer in headlights, you could see it. He was walking on air and we all would be. From my spot in the back of the room there was zero chatter about a hedge. Those who started this must be pretty low on the pole, look the guy I sat next to was 9th going into day 3 and he ended 17th. All we were talking about was who we picked after we all picked. Attorney...yeah there a were a few in the room, Jose has his pick! and after they can hit the track! @JerseyJosh13
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Nice meeting you out there as well, Josh. Hope to see you next year if not before.
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
anyone going to Santa Anita tomorrow? just read this, (in part) : NHC WINNER ARIAS TO APPEAR AT SANTA ANITA SATURDAY ... will be the special guest at Santa Anita Park on Saturday for a 40-minute interview open to the public. The interview will start at 11:20 a.m. Pacific in the paddock gardens. Tom Quigley, the track’s VIP Player Concierge, will host. The conversation will also be shown on the Santa Anita simulcast signal. Arias will also appear on HRTV, The Network for Horse Sports, during the races that afternoon. SR Vegas
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Great idea to go see the champ in person! I'm sure he and TQ will do an excellent job breaking down the Santa Anita card. Tell those guys I said hi.
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
..I only WISH I could be there :) SR Vegas
Turnbackthealarm More than 1 year ago
I second much of what has been said about Mr. Arias winning fair and square. However, horseracing has a terrible reputation for manipulation of all sorts and it would do the NHC well to close the loopholes in the contest rules to prevent future "conspiracy" theories. It really doesn't matter if fans want to know the picks prior to the race so they can live vicariously and root for their favorites. What matters is that the contest is believed to be run cleanly and fairly. This year,I thought it was smart to allow players who had qualified multiple times to have two entries, and to have announced it ahead of time. It did not sit well with me and a companion last year when we overheard a very indiscreet conversation in the ladies room about how a tournament player (s) had gotten over on the NHC by having "ghost" entries which were being bet under another name (s). It just gives horse racing another black eye and makes a current fan jaded and turns off a future fan, which is very sad. It also would have been pretty pathetic if the ghost bettor had won and was incapable of having a reasonably informed interview about his/her strategy and betting success.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
The beards/shills issue is unenforceable. It's my view that if people are good enough to get qualifications in other folks' names, more power to them.
Roger More than 1 year ago
I know a lot of people that have multiple entries every year with Spouses / Friends / Family they spend a lot of resources to get multiple entries. Its ironic that as far as I know one of these people hasn't won yet !!! I finished 2nd last year and really could care less how many entries other people have. It doesn't guarantee them anything except for a bunch of 100-120th place finishes….
Joel Winicki More than 1 year ago
Congrats to Arias! A VERY humble and deserving winner. All of these conspiracy theorists can go suck an egg! NHC 14 was a first class tournament event! After the fact, I felt like the format could still use some tweaking still. After an awful first day for me ($15.40), I managed to finish 13th overall on Saturday's card, and 9th overall on Sunday's 10 wagers. I'm pretty sure that after the 40 bets before the final table, my accumulative score would've placed me pretty high up there, but Sunday only factored into the consolation tourney. No sour grapes here, as I was very aware of the format/rules prior to the start of the tournament, but I would've loved the opportunity to continue chasing the leaders on Sunday! The biggest adjustment that needs to be made is spreading out the last couple of races to have enough time for the players to know where they stand so we can make the necessary wager to accomplish our goals. I was still showing $64 as my score, when in reality I had $114 (approx.). I cancelled my last wager to play something with higher odds, because I did not know where I stood in the standings. That winner I cancelled would've made me an extra $1,300 or so. What a great time had by all! The quality of people I had the pleasure to meet was second to none! I'm looking VERY forward to seeing them all again!
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I love your attitude!
Joe Kasperski More than 1 year ago
I believe that an agreement can be made with the track hosting the last contest race to close the betting one minute to post so that the selections could be announced nation wide prior to the start.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
A super fun idea I'd love to see. . .but I would imagine it would be a bear to implement. Still, if you can lead the charge. . .
Ron Solberg More than 1 year ago
if theres a late scratch?
1971 Whippet More than 1 year ago
Peter- Sorry, if the answer is somewhere else, but.... Wasn't the unusually large WPS handle on that last race, to a novice, at least worthy of a bit of investigation? I mean, those horses didn't warrant that much additional play, did they?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I'm not a habitual pool watcher enough to know that the pool was larger than usual, was it?. I have to think with the big P6 carryover and all the attendant hedging that the pool was more or less in line with expectations.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It seems to me that ten thousand to place on the 1 would have gotten any conspirators more debang for their buck,(with less risk) In any case, from a TV perspective revealing the bets at the final table is almost mandatory. Or haven't we learned anything from watching poker? I mean, if betting manipulation is actually that serious of an issue, then assign each contestant the board odds of the horse at the time the selections are revealed. Remember, for the player the game might be about skill, but for the viewer it's about vicarious thrills.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I don't think that revealing the bets right at the off with an on screen graphic would be any less dramatic. Plus, it could all be post-produced for television anyway (a la poker). You are totally dead on that if one was attempting to manipulate the pools, the place pool would be where'd you go. You could tilt the odds with way less money b/c the plc pool is so much smaller that win. How funny would that have been to see Fit To Rule $17.00/$3.60/$3.80?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wasn't trolling or being libelous. I was curious. But I can only speak for myself. Anyway, two thoughts: 1) I think it would/should be considered contest manipulation and against the rules IF someone would have placed a large bet to guarantee themselves a win. 2) I like the idea of announcing picks. But maybe the finalists should be in a separate room when they make their final selection in the last race, and it can be announced afterwards. Just for the last race. Congratulations to the Champ!
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I don't think it's fair to ask the players not to hedge myself. And it's a fine line between hedging and contest manipulation. As for your second point, I think that's too extreme. The energy in that room around the final table was awesome, with all the players surrounding it. It would be lousy to lose that. I think my idea will work and keep that going.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Someone had sent me a comment along the lines of "why do you moderate your blog?" For some reason it didn't post. But the answer is simple: I moderate because there are a lot of knuckleheads out there. But there are also a lot of thoughtful, interesting people with thoughts to share that I want to hear. I moderate to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were. Thanks for reading.
Héctor Lebrón More than 1 year ago
I agree All the accusations sound like sour grapes to me!
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Some of the stuff out there was sour grapes, other folks had legitimate concerns about the possibility of this type of thing happening in the future. In any case, I think the contest will continue to improve as time goes on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Peter Thanks for this article. I was waiting for your thoughts and input to temper all the other opinions out there. I do agree that a change should be made for the time that the top 10 contestants selections are announced publicly. .. a learning experience for the NTRA for sure. Just as the $4 best bet' wager from last year, was eliminated this year. I can understand from a marketing point , letting the fans participate (vicariously) to root on their friends "picks" keeps the crowd involved ( but unless there is some marketing material to take from this ) a final day is always exciting when one simply posts the results for the fans to see, race to race , up until the final race. But as you proposed, limit any contestant picks to be shown until after the race starts. With that said, Congratulations to Jose Arias. A gentleman. It was a pleasure to chat with him (and his friend) after the banquet, quietly and with no crowds or hoopla around. Talking about the pleasure of handicapping, it's rewards , or just for the love of it.. Handicapping sure beats doing a Sudoku puzzle :) Jose, I hope to see you in Las Vegas for NHC next year . SR Vegas
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Thanks for commenting, Sharon. Your thoughts are always appreciated. Nice meeting you out there!
Lounge Lizard More than 1 year ago
Congratulations Juan on a job well done. His response is dead on. I was there, witnessed it all. No one at the final table was going to the windows. There were only 6 to 8 windows to wager thru and most people were getting shut out throughout the final table event. If they want to change anything, maybe they can shut down betting early in the ballroom to facilitate the exposure of the players picks. It was exciting for those watching and a lifetime of memories for those that made it to the First Final 10. For the conspiracy theorists, believe what you like. Maybe one day you'll make it to the final table, if you find the time to handicap at this level. Nobody competing is worried about you though as you are the players that are defeated before you place a bet. The betting world was out to get Juan for 3 days. He showed the resolve and faith of the Champion he is.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Jose is truly the man, one of the nicest guys I've met on the circuit -- and there are a lot of them!
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
Again, congrats to Juan, he won fair and square. Please note, he said he uses the DRF as his bible. See, once again, it is where the winners are! No conputer BS for our winner, just good handicapping from the form. Great Job.
Mitchell Schuman More than 1 year ago
I hope the trolls who are making careless and borderline libelous accusations against Mr. Arias will read this piece. Great job. And congratulations to Mr. Arias, a well deserving champion.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
It's odd because there are definitely some folks who seemed out to get Jose but I do believe some people were just curious, more about a hedging scenario than a contest manipulation scenario. But I have a whole lot more evidence that it's all hooey. That said, I have some ideas for tweaking the rules going forward.
Brian More than 1 year ago
I guess that's the point...whether a bet was made or not, Arias won fair and square. He certainly was entitled to hedge just like any other financial position. The travesty here isn't whether Arias or his posse made the bet, but that DRF and NTRA have failed to step forward and acknowledge that giving out the selections prior to the race being won was just a bonehead idea that will be corrected in the future. If they would have acknowledged that it was a simple error in judgement, the rest of the tournament world could begin focusing on next year. Instead, everyone is left to wonder whether the decision of officials leading a tournament even as large and prestigious as the NHC could unwittingly put at risk the accomplishments of such a successful handicapper as Arias. Last call to accept responsibility NTRA. The handicappers are loading the gate for next year and deserve more than just interviews and blogs about rumors. Fall on the sword and let's move on!
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I don't think there is any onus on the NTRA or DRF to acknowledge anything at this point. What will happen is they'll look at the mistakes made in the set up and fix them for next year.
Mitchell Schuman More than 1 year ago
I think there is little doubt that next year the final table picks will not be announced until the gates fly open.
Gary Peacock More than 1 year ago
Congratulations to Mr. Arias. It's surely a fact that he was too involved that day with the contest to be fooling around making bets to advance his cause. And he says so in the first person. All true. Someone else in the mix? Who knows. Are electronic devices allowed in the playing area? Can contest participants move in and out of the playing area and talk to others? Even if not, a leader throughout , even someone in a stalking position could possibly have a future plan in place after day one. For a leader, the bankroll for a knocking a horse's odds down as the event draws to a close WOULD be available, would it not, since the day one winner recieves a considerable check for acheiving that milestone. Not that it would be necessary for such funding with so much more money riding on the outcome. "Everybody" wins. Regardless, the contest currently has a loophole that allows for such a possibility. Anyone that might take advantage of it is actually a shrewd indidual. And would still be a "fair and square" winner. Smart. I'm sure it's just coincidence that Mr. Arias' two longshot winners were at Santa Anita, on the circuit that he probably knows best. But, from such stuff, conspiracy theories are born. Is he much of an insider? Does he have backstretch friends who are? This is a fact that troubled me when I would travel to a small east coast track when I first became involved in contest play. When I saw a certain trainer's less than everyday name in the top ten, I was made to wonder. This wasn't the trainer himself, mind you, but a family member more than likely. The trainer might have one prepped, ready and entered on contest day. Inside information is a valuable tool. A big edge. I've worked inside the game. And seeing names like Wolfson winning one year led to more made me wonder. Big time family edge; over "Joe handicapper; " and not in the reading glasses department. Not that this was or has to be the case. And the races still have to be run. But we all know, and have seen in practice during our lifetimes, the old addage, "It's who you know." If I'm ever "lucky" enough to be sitting in a January garden spot entering day two in Vegas, give me a call.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
FACT: There was no one else in the mix. FACT: NO HEDGE BET OF ANY KIND WAS MADE. There were four horses who could beat Jose. The odds dropped on the 1, the winner. The odds on the other three drifted. If someone was hedging on Jose's behalf, all four horses who could have beaten him would have gone in. That's one (of the many things) I never understood about all of this. The leader was smart enough to hedge one horse who could beat him but was going to sit back and take it on the chin if the other three won? Makes zero sense.
Brian More than 1 year ago
FACT: A large 5 figure WIN bet was made on the #1 horse at SA just minutes before the race.
Gary Peacock More than 1 year ago
How many thousand?
flooker More than 1 year ago
@Brian, FACT: There were FOUR horses that could beat Jose. Only ONE took a heavy win bet. Did you not read all of Peter's reply??? Are you that narrow-minded?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Brian: You are correct that there was a large, semi-unusual bet made. I uncovered the source of the bet and it had nothing to do with Jose or the NHC. Didn't you read the article? Also, had the bet, as you say, been made "several minutes before the race," it clearly couldn't have been a case of contest manipulation because picks were revealed with about a minute to post by my reckoning.
Slew32A More than 1 year ago
Look it's right nice to go out and write a story that casts horse racing gamblers who see something that doesn't look right as just plain crazy which in itself is a problem with how people, including people who work within racing view the most important individuals for the survival of the sport. Think about this, in most instances If you told people you bet on football or any sport for that matter, if you played cards, strolled up to the casino on Saturday nights, no one would say anything derogative but tell them you play horse's, your a degenerate and some of the biggest offenders in that way of thinking are people who make their living through horse racing, including trainers, race track personnel and writers trying to make like everyone who has a negative opinion is not in their right mind. This particular instance with odds dropping after the gates open has been going on for a very long time and it's time it stops, whether it's antiquated software or holding outside betting hubs money, whatever, it stinks on it's appearance and should be rectified. There's your story!
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Eliminating late odds drops would be wonderful. I am becoming convinced that it is never going to happen, however.
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
Peter, any player who puts up $300 K to eliminate horse via dlowering the odds is not making a good bet. It's like bridge jumping. Who would bet 300 to make 700. Very poor odds for such a large gamble.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
you wouldn't have to put anywhere near 300k. . .I did the math and figured that it would have taken about 80k in hedges to lock in another 100 or so. But, of course, as we know, that's not what happened.
Jeff More than 1 year ago
Mr. Fornatale: I have been a close watcher of the mutuel pools at the NYRA tracks for the past four decades. It is simply not possible for any rational bettor to engage in manipulation of the NY or for that matter, the So Cal pools. All of this manipulation banter is just sour grapes and sore loser talk from those people who do not like that Mr. Arias beat these guys at their own game. In any event, I agree with you that not only is hedging acceptable, I believe that failure to hedge is grossly irresponsible. At Saratoga this past summer, the people who won the Hendrickson/Whitney contest had the opportunity to hedge their win bet. It even came up with the Wise Dan race in the Fourstardave. The opportunity to hedge and remove the chance-part of gambling must be utilized wherever possible. All of us lose too often to ignore the chance to ensure certain victory.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Agreed. The idea of odds manipulation here was always a nonstarter for me -- in that timeframe, one would be as likely to shoot oneself in the foot as execute the maneuver correctly. What would eventually happen in the future though (if current pick reveal system remained in place) is that you'd get a cold blooded pro up there who'd hedge out the field (completely legal), which would cause de facto pool manipulation. That's why I'd like to see the picks revealed after the off and less of a crazy top heavy payout structure at the final table.
Ken Wiener More than 1 year ago
I agree picks should be revealed only after the off but the top heavy payout should remain pretty much as is so first prize can have the potential to be life changing for the winner and hopefully generate publicity for racing in that regard.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I hear you. Perhaps the answer down the line is to create a GREAT tv product that will draw all manner of sportsmanship where finishing in the top ten will be a six figure score. Wouldn't it be nice?
Mitchell Schuman More than 1 year ago
Any suggestion that Mr. Arias did not win fair and square is libelous and if I were him, I'd be scanning these lists for any trolls who dare to make or assume otherwise. He can now afford an attorney to protect his reputation and if I were him, I would not hesitate to litigate this issue. Congrats to Jose Arias and shame on those conspiracy nuts who are tarnishing his accomplishment.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I have a feeling that the nasty portion of the conspiracy theorists will leave Jose alone and go back to their attempts at proving the moon landings took place on a sound stage in Arizona.
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
Peter, youi using my site 56 logic on thees conspiracy theorists.
BeychokRacing More than 1 year ago
I'm replying to this comment because I was one of the "trolls" or "sore losers" or "nuts" who brought up the idea of hedging on a public blog. First and foremost, congratulations to Jose - a fantastic job of winning. Secondly, it is a FACT that there were people in the room talking about hedging beforehand. I have no idea and am not saying Arias or anyone in his party talked about it - he said he didn't and I take the new champ at his word. My entire point in bringing up the possibility of hedging was to point out the bad rule of exposing the picks well before betting closes. I was too cute in doing so and should not have used the Arias example as prime - my fault - I fall on my sword. The rule needs to be changed because there are plenty of contest players who being in Arias' position would have hedged - at least against a few horses - to win. Betting 20k to win 750k is pretty solid and there are folks who can and would do it. It shouldn't happen so NTRA needs to fix the rule. That is all from this "sore loser". Michael Beychok
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Hey Michael: Thanks as always for taking the time to comment on here. Always fun to see a former champ in the comments! I don't think Mitch or I or anyone else meant to refer to you in a derogatory way -- but there was an undercurrent of nastiness by some commenters elsewhere online that drew or ire. I don't there's a sole in the world who thinks revealing the picks ahead of time was a good idea and I can not see it happening in future. I sat down with a pro gambler who is known for his math skills and we spent 30 mins breaking down all the possible hedge scenarios as part of my research. At some point -- with copious amounts of alcohol involved -- we should sit down and discuss. Talk soon! Pete