06/24/2014 3:13PM

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.”

:: Click here to purchase a copy of “The Winning Contest Player” by Peter Thomas Fornatale

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,


Keith Chamblin More than 1 year ago
That some people will always seek an edge if they believe there is an edge to be gained is a time- honored fact and human nature. The issues involving multiple entries and “beards” outlined in this article and in these comments have been swirling around the NHC since its inception. Some thought allowing two entries at the NHC might solve the issue of beards. It did not. Some thought the advent of the NHC Tour – where an individual’s scores accumulated throughout the year can lead to prize money and awards – might solve the issue of beards. It did not. Both have led to increased tournament play and increased prize money, however. We welcome any and all ideas on how to reduce the number of beards.
mikey More than 1 year ago
No way other than let a player win as many entries as they can win.This will save the NTRA money on rooms and air fare.If 10 % are beards that's a lot of money to add to the prizes.The NTRA does not have to give away free vacations.Give away spots to player's who play in the most contests and miss winning a seat.These players support the NTRA all year.The money saved on beards will be better spent.
paul Caltagirone More than 1 year ago
using 6 players to get a 1 winner advantage only puts you even with the other 20 or so players who used the same winning horse. the tactic puts your other 5 entries in last place. a good handicapper will use the extra entries on 6 differing horses and hope to get 2 or more entries at the $15,000 level. then you have some room for a speed bump when you decide to make your big move.
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
Peter, you and I briefly touched on this strategy used by Joe H. in past tournaments. He might have upwards eight entries ( I know, I counted the id badges). Quite possibly more on occasion. In some races he might come up with two or three bombs. He then cold spread these two or three on the eight tickets. If one of the three won, he then might have three tickets each with a nice winner on it. Going into the next race he might then like two horses. He put one horse on two entries and one on the other. Joe, knew how to play multiple tickets. The advantage is that most of us in tournament plays come up with more than one horse in the majority of races. With one entry, we have to hope that we pick the right horse to use on the ticket. Obviously, with the bigger prize money now being offered, players will do what they can to get an edge. Some have multiple entries as their perceived edge. As Robert Bertolucci ( a multiple contest winner) just remarked below, you can't stop someone from having additional entries, so just play your game. Whether it's one entry or ten, you still need to pick the winners. The added problem with multiple entries is you still have to put winning plays on the tickets with previous winners.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I am fascinated by how Joe H used to operate -- I've heard lots of stories but it's great to get the facts. Thanks for contributing.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Joe H was a group all by himself.At the Orleans he had a reserved table with his daughters and friends.Most of the times he took entries for all of them.He was ahead of his time.
Robert Bertolucci More than 1 year ago
Just shut up and play who cares how many entry people.
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
Robert, Hope you are well......Good luck!!
Ron Rios More than 1 year ago
Pete, I would love to see the stats on contest with mutiple tickets as oppose to just a single ticket, a sport that loves stats, yet for contest very little stats, it would be great if NHC qualify or a live one would show stats on this, transparency… anyway, I think in live bank events if one can afford it, two entries are better than one, I look at it as insurance. Early in the contest you can be aggressive with one and take a chance it that hits early you don't even need to worry about the 2nd one, if the first one zeros out, you have the 2nd to play, just make sure you have enough races to play...
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Yes, a good idea to try to collect some data. Perhaps I will do that and post again in the next week or two.
Edward Wright More than 1 year ago
I think there are 78 official players with 2 entries in the 2014 NHC. There were also many couples/family/friends partnerships with 2 entries between them and couple/family partnerships with 3 or more entries. The following couples/families had four: Nicole and Kevin Cox Cheryl and Mike McIntyre Kevin and Robert Engelhard The following couples/families had three: Lee and Kevin Geraghty Sally and Richard Goodall (son Chris also has an entry) James Michelson Sr. and Jr. Cheryl and Craig Kaufman Paul and William Shurman Cheryl and Greg Knepper Lynn and Mark McGuire Alan and Paul Hoffman Karen and Mark Richards Yolanda, Darwin and Thomas Labordo Only 4/10 at the final table had 2 entries. Skotz, Flanders, McIntyre and Schurman. Lynn McGuire only had one entry but her brother Mark also had 2 entries. It's interesting that these 5 players finished in the bottom half of the top 10. Many times MORE equals LESS in handicapping contests. Multiple, non-beard, entries can lead to mass confusion. In last years HPWS (792 Entries) 11 players had 4-8 entries for a total of 57 entries. Only 3 received prize money. Craig Kaufman with 5 entries finished 16th to 439th, Brent Sumja (2013 NHC Tour winner) with 4 entries finished 40th to 168th and Mark Streiff with 5 entries finished 41st to 476th. Other than that George Chute finished 109th to 759th with 8 entries, Eric Moomey from 232nd to 742nd with 6, Tom Blosser 265th to 776th with 6, James Politano 203rd to 757th with 6, Robert Bertolucci 109th to 739th with 5, Angelo Partipelo 304th to 679th with 4, Fred Cipriano 252nd to 652nd with 4 and Lee Geraghty 313th to 773rd with 4. Food for thought.
Paul Hoffman More than 1 year ago
Alan and I have never met. We do share a last name.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Pete .Why not cut out all of these games and let a player get as many spots as he /she can get.We know it is not easy to win a contest.When they spend a lot of $$$$ to fly/ drive/ pay for food and hotel they earn those spots.When a player has 2 and gets 2 for his wife/ partner/ girlfriend or family member it's the same as having 6 or 8 spots.We all know people who have had beards sit next to us with no form or idea what track or race is next.I have done it and know many other's who do the same.The day will come when someone wins the NTRA and gets up and has no idea what they are talking about.Think how ths will make the contest look.This is a contest for horse players who love the game .Have you ever seen a major sport where they let a fan from the stands play with the pros.When we play for this kind of money lets do it right.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
There is certainly a case to be made for your approach, but I could also see it having unintended consequences. I suppose if a collective were to have enough entries to literally cover EVERY horse in EVERY race that could be a case where 1 + 1 equaled more than two. Right now, however, there isn't anyone trying that approach that I know of. It still wouldn't be a guarantee of anything, but ti would compromise the integrity of contests more than the current set up IMPAHO.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Thank's for posting my comment.Let's see other thought's.I just feel the NTRA is our whole year in a nut shell.They will bet the same way no matter whose name is on the seat.The ring leaders are making the picks.Thanks again it is great to have a place to post our view on this the mega contest of the year.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
No problem! Keep reading and posting. . .