06/24/2014 2:13PM

Ask Pete Fornatale: The ethics of multiple entries


Dear Pete:

Why is it that you seem OK with multiple entries/team tactics in the mythical $2 win-place format like the NHC but you’re opposed to them in live-bankroll formats like the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge?

- Confused

Dear Confused:

Great (and very fair) question that I’ll answer as best I can. In aggregate, players playing multiple entries, whether via the traditional route of simply purchasing them, or by having partners and employing team tactics, are going to win more on a percentage basis than players playing single entries. However, as long as these extra entries are bought and paid for on the square, and the opportunity is the same for everyone, I am OK with this because of the relationship between the amount of money being invested in the pool and the extra edge being gained.

In other words, as long as one plus one equals no greater than two, it’s OK. In fact, in fixed-bankroll contests, one plus one frequently equals less than two, which is why I welcome players having multiple entries in these formats. I’ll let Paul Shurman explain: “Playing two entries is really only an advantage until the first hit, then other factors come into play.  After that first hit, which would be twice as likely as players with one pick, your advantage is only slightly better than those players who had that same first hit, but who only have one entry. It is no longer twice as good, because that second entry has zero on it and is that far behind all the players who had the first hit.”

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Of course, there are lots of ways to play multiple tickets where you can keep the equation much closer to one plus one equals two, which is why so many players continue to employ the strategy. But split tickets – where you have half the winners on one ticket and half on the other – are always going to be an issue. If you could play two entries and get credit for points received on either one, that would be a travesty. But as long as one plus one equals no more than two, I’m OK with multiple entries.

As an aside, let’s briefly address the issue of “beards,” i.e., those playing tickets for others under their names. Ethically speaking, as long as these silent partners are on the premises, obeying the rules of the contest, I don’t see how this is any different than what I’ve described above. However, and this is a big “however,” the idea of simply using an associate’s name who isn’t even present at the event is a major no-no to me. This is explicitly against the rules in most contests – and where it is not, it should be.

If a wife is there in the ballroom studying the Racing Form like a rabbinical student with the Talmud while her husband is off getting his nails done, or a brother is deep diving on Formulator while his sister is down at the pub doing Jager bombs, they should be disqualified. NHC rules are clear on this: you must punch your own tickets.

OK, back to the question at hand: why are live-bankroll events different? It goes back to that mathematical analogy. For me, playing multiple entries in a live-bankroll event is a case where one plus one frequently equals more than two. I’ll let Bill Shurman address this one: “Where someone with multiple entries may have a substantial advantage is in live-bankroll events, where ticket consolidation is possible. In those cases, by combining multiple entries into one larger entry by making multiple bets in the same race, teams can greatly increase their chances of winning prize money or NHC spots at the expense of those playing fewer entries.”

Say three players are collaborating. They all bet different horses in the same field, and suddenly instead of three entries in mid-pack with $5,000 they have one entry on the top of the leaderboard with $15,000. That’s not to say it’s an easy strategy to implement or that teams are impossible to defeat in live-bankroll events, but in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge multiple entries are prohibited and I believe that’s the way it should be in all live-bankroll events. It comes down to this: in fixed-bankroll events, multiple entries offer players a chance to gain a fair advantage; in live-bankroll events, they offer an unfair advantage.

Hope this clarifies my position,