04/29/2014 7:51AM

Ask Pete: How can I compete against multiple entries?



I really want to participate in handicapping contests. They appeal to me on several levels: head-to-head battles, a chance to win decent money for a reasonable ante, a camaraderie among participants. But I can’t get past the troubling issue of how many competitors post multiple entries and/or compete in teams with multiple entries. As a sole handicapper looking to show his stuff in a contest, how do I compete with that?

--Bill Pizzo


It is my belief that the good in contests far outweighs the bad but it’s definitely a question that’s worthy of further explanation.

Let’s start by looking at the popular $2 win-place mythical bankroll format. It’s my belief that playing against multiple entries in these contests really isn’t that big of a deal, certainly it isn’t something that should scare you away from playing.

Do players with multiple entries have an advantage? They do, but I wouldn’t call it an unfair advantage – it is an advantage that is bought and paid for, one that any player could replicate on his/her own simply by purchasing a second entry. The advantage comes because a player with multiple entries has a head start when it comes to finding the first longshot. But having multiple chances isn’t a guarantee of anything. Even with perfect strategy, there is plenty that go wrong when playing multiple entries, between the problem of having winners divided across one’s tickets or just missing the key horse at crunch time. In a two-entry maximum contest like the ones on NHCQualify.com, a person with two entries might have twice the chance (less in reality because of the splitting tickets problem) but he or she is paying twice as much, thus no unfair advantage. And if we’re talking about people trying to play three or more entries in tandem in a fixed bankroll event, it will cost more still and it becomes a prescription for splitting tickets.

Where this issue gets trickier is in live bankroll contests where the possibility of multiple partners attempting to consolidate their independent bankrolls into one large bankroll exists. Team tactics in live bankroll events also afford players the chance to take swings the individual player would be less likely to take.

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The Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge rules take a dim view of this strategy and has limited that contest to one entry per player as a result. However, as anyone who watched the Horseplayers TV show can attest, some players clearly are willing to find a workaround for this rule. Perhaps in the future, more effective means of enforcement might be found, even if only the honor system. But that's a topic for another day.

It's important to not that players using multiple ticket strategy in live bankroll events still have to pick the right horses and they are contributing more to the prize pool than single participants. Personally, their presence wouldn’t put me off playing (though I wouldn't want to see them win either). Plus, in an event like the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, the value of the contest itself is so undeniably excellent that you’re not really at any disadvantage in the big picture.

So back to the initial question of how you can compete – you can compete by doing the work and playing with optimal strategy. If you do change your mind and commit to contest play, I’d recommend worrying less about what your competition is up to and more about your own ticket or tickets. If you decide you want to play, but the idea of others with an advantage bothers you, stick to fixed bankroll events where any edge players employing team tactics has is significantly less and firmly grounded in the realm of what is fair.

William More than 1 year ago
With all due respect, multiple entries are a farce. I completely understand that these tournaments do not want to turn business away, especially in a live-money format where tournament players are contributing to the wagering pool, but the NHC Tour is at a crossroads, in my view, in terms of trying to make itself into an exclusive club of well-funded players who do nothing but traverse the U.S. and play multiple tickets in online circuits in hopes of amassing Tour points, or working on the principle of finding the best handicapper in particular tournaments or a particular season. This is where a tournament like the Public Handicapper helps to level the playing field. The Tour took its eye off the ball on its new point format, in that awarding Tour points based on number of individuals, rather than paid entries, is totally askew. Ask the player who finishes, say, 20th in a 300-entry tournament but 198 of those are players with 2 or more entries apiece. Let's say a person with 3 entries finishes way off the board. I'm not so concerned that a person with such largess is out 3 entry fees with nothing to show for it, but rather the guy or girl who bought one entry, had a REALLY good day finishing 20th out of 300 entries (Top 5%) and has nothing to show for it at the end of the day. That's garbage, and THAT is where contest players toward the middle and lower end of the Tour food chain are going to say enough's enough and not renew their Tour memberships.
Cougar Paisley More than 1 year ago
I totally agree with you, William. I made the same point in a post here yesterday. Some of my fellow tour players were asking me why they did not receive tour points after a competitive placing. I had to inform them of this year's rule change. So, not many players are even aware of the rule change. Also, an average of about 270 players competed in the on-track Monmouth Park Simulcast Series Challenge in 4 separate qualifyng tournaments. That's close to 1,200 players who will not receive any tour participation points (150), except the 80 entries that made it to the final. Those top 30 entries in the final will receive the tour points in addition to their participation points. They will earn these points upon the backs of all of those other players who participated in the qualifiers. Truly unfair.
Starks43 More than 1 year ago
I read a lot abt how multiple entries provides little to no advantage in non real money contests. Why do so many do it them? Are the people who routinely play two and even three entries just stupid? I don't believe they are stupid many seem damn sharp too me but isn't that logical conclusion if there is little to no advantage?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Starks, I think you're misunderstanding my basic point. Having a second entry is DEFINITELY an advantage in that you will win a lot more contests if you have two entries rather than one. The point I was trying to make is that it's a fair advantage -- that is, it's available to anyone who goes ahead and purchases a second entry. If one's chance of winning with one entry is X, I'd say that having a second entry gives a chance 2X - 20% or so (the subtraction is non-scientific and meant to account for the possibility of splitting tickets). The more tickets you have, the greater that number to subtract is, but of course, in aggregate, players with two entries are going to win more often numerically than players with single entries. As long as they are paying twice as much, I have no problem with this. Also, extra entries are no guarantee of anything. The Top 5 in last year's NHC all had one entry and there were A LOT of people with two entries in the NHC. Having a second entry is definitely something that many players will want to do, it just isn't any cause for players to be scared away. I hope that's clearer.
Cougar Paisley More than 1 year ago
With the new NHC tour rules this year, multiple entries in a tournament actually hurts the NHC tour players. The new rule states that the total number of individuals (not total entries entered) is what is used for determining the top 10% for tour points. If 240 people enter a tournament and 50 of them take second entry, the number the NTRA uses is 240 not the 290 (total entries). So if you are playing with one entry and you should finish in 26th place, your not getting tour points for your effort. Even though you had to compete sgainst 290 entries to earn your placing. Totally unfair and the NTRA and Players committee have to revisit this inequity.
Jorge Cruz-aedo More than 1 year ago
My problem is not with players that play with max entries because like you say the advantage is bought & goes in to the prize pool and not that big of advantage to get upset about. what does frustrate me is when online tournaments that offer bigger tournament entries as prizes allow you to transfer the prizes. i analyze leader boards to see differnet styles and trends and after a while you notice the same players winning the tournaments. No big deal if your good enough to win regularly more power to you but when a tournament that allows 2 max entries and a player online has won 4 or 5 and is allowed the transfer the surpuls it is maddening. Not illegal according to the rules and impossible to enforce but man is it frustrating
Roger More than 1 year ago
Bill I have been playing tournaments for a long time one thing for sure is that I always try and concentrate on playing my entry and not worry about what the others are doing. I have had success playing multiple entries and have had days that were very frustrating having multiple winners on different tickets. The SSC Finals at Monmouth last Saturday were a perfect example. There were 80 Entries in the tournament that had to prequalify during 4 live tournaments during the winter and spring the top 20 in each of those 4 gained entries. It was a $200 Live money contest some people had as many as 3 entries I had just one and had the lead most of the day until the last race and wound up finishing 2nd with $2300 and earning an NHC Spot. . It just proves that there is no guarantees regardless of the number of entries people have. Enjoy….RC
Joel Winicki More than 1 year ago
I must admit, I am NOT a fan of multiple entries in ANY format. As someone who likes to compete (at anything), I would much prefer that there be no advantages of any kind, even at the expense of the prize pool being smaller. I realize that some will utilize the loopholes, by using others to attain the multi-entry advantage. Yes, it IS an advantage. Otherwise players wouldn't consider paying twice as much, sometimes five times as much, to try to win a single tournament. More importantly, I believe the disadvantage (or even perceived disadvantage) is detouring hundreds (possibly thousands) of horseplayers from diving into tournament play. So while most of the "whales" of the tournament world will argue with comments like " well you don't seem to mind the large purses these tournaments carry," which they ARE helping to fund.. I feel like the purses would actually INCREASE over time with the single entry only format. I believe the amount of horseplayers avoiding tournament play currently, would reconsider if they felt they were going to be playing on a level playing field. For those who think these multiple entry players are only winning tournaments because of that circumstance.......you are very much mistaken, These guys are awesome at their craft! They can beat with one entry. Regularly. It's not as easy, as some think, to play with multiple entries. It can be very frustrating to hit the right horse on the wrong entry. Nonetheless, if it's on the wrong entry, it was likely not their first choice. yet now that player will have TWO chances to catch the leader, rater than one. Advantage, multiple entries.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Any thoughts on how to police the elimination of players playing multiple entries in a realistic way?
Joel Winicki More than 1 year ago
I'm not too sure, that's a daunting task. I would think that if single entry only tournaments were the norm, more competitors would frown upon those that are "teaming up" or using others names' to play multiple entries. It would, at least, make it a lot more uncomfortable to do so. It would likely be perceived as cheating, rather than taking advantage of the current format. Big difference. Multiple entry players are NOT cheating. They are simply paying more money to acquire the best chance at winning any given tournament. If they have the bankroll to do so, it's in their best interest. Tournament play will never "blow up" like poker did until the "little guys" feel like they have the same chance at winning as do the "whales". The NHC purse money is dwarfed by WSOP money. Why? They targeted the masses, as opposed to appeasing the current whales of their sport/game. They also targeted a much younger demographic. There is SO MUCH room for growth here.
Starks43 More than 1 year ago
Put it in the rules and ban for life any offenders
Brett Wiener More than 1 year ago
In a mythical$ WP contest, it's easier to beat 100 people with 2 entries each than it is to beat 200 seperate people. So...never worry about multiple entries. And....it's still hard to get the correct winners on the same ticket. Just play your game and take your shots!
shurmanw More than 1 year ago
I totally agree with Pete. In a typical mythical $2WP contest one person having two entries is little different, in terms of competing against them, than two people buying one entry. In fact, if anything, it is a slight disadvantage. The person buying two entries has spent twice as much, yet can only earn tour points once. If it is an NHC qualifier and that person already has won an entry to the NHC, they can only win one more.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Thanks, Bill. Great point about the Tour points. . .
gus stewart More than 1 year ago
Here's what I have heard from several tournament players who play them just about every week. Sometimes its hard to believe or understand as was the case on the tournament on Sunday, that many entries came upon the same longshot in the middle of the tour. The leader was on fire from the start. If you are playing with partners lets say 3 people with two entries each, it gives to much of an advantage in trying to get into the top 3 spots. Playing the pick and pray limits that advantage or a live cash tournament. It is not worth my time to play in a tournament that is giving that much of an advantage in qualifying. These guys I mentioned still play in these tours and don't partner up, that I don't get.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I find it odd that you think partnering is less of an issue in live bankroll contests than in fixed bankroll ones. As I wrote in the piece, I think that's a much bigger issue, although still not enough to make me not want to play.
Bob More than 1 year ago
Multiple entries are BS, PERIOD! It is no different that sitting down at a table stakes poker game with half the chips that your opponents have. You are at a statistical disadvantage when playing against multiple entries, just like you are at a statistical disadvantage when you have half the chips as your competition and no opportunity to buy more chips. There is no other way to slice the pie, I don't care what Peter Fornatale says. You wouldn't expect a football team with 6 players to be able to beat a team with 11 players and you should expect your contest results to be much the same if you compete with a single entry in contests that allow multiple entries....If you are going to enter these contests you need to purchase the maximum number of entries or stay out of the game. Otherwise you are wasting your money.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
You're entitled to your opinion of course, but poker is a lot more like the live bankroll contests in that if you had multiple entries, you could gain an outsized edge. In the fixed bankroll contests, whatever edge is gained is bought and paid for and that's why I don't find it troubling myself.