05/06/2014 9:25AM

Ask Pete: How do I deal with frustrating close calls in contests?


If you have a question about contests or contest handicapping, feel free to post it in the comments of the blog. I’ll try to get to as many as I can. Here’s one for this week:


I’ve been playing in a lot of contests recently, both online and in person. On one hand, I think I’ve been doing really well. I’ve had several results where I’ve gotten one entry into the top 10% of all finishers and I’ve won enough prize money to basically cover my expenses. On the other hand, it’s really frustrating to be doing so well and not have more to show for what I consider really good efforts. Do you have any advice for a player who has been doing well but doesn’t have tangible results?



Dear Frustrated:

I have walked in your shoes. The first advice that comes to mind is to not get down on yourself. Any gambling endeavor is going to be inherently frustrating at times – that’s just the way it goes. To paraphrase the excellent handicapper James Jones (@dmrsurfside) paraphrasing Hyman Roth in The Godfather, Part 2, “This is the life we have chosen.” You should feel buoyed by the fact that you’re finishing in the top 10% -- that’s an accomplishment. As I’ve written many times, the difference between top 10% and top 1% is often just a little bit of extra luck.

The first thing I’d suggest is to take a step back and analyze your play a bit. There is a small chance that maybe there’s something you’re doing is too conservative or holding you back – perhaps too many favorites in the mix? If that’s the case, maybe you need to be a little more aggressive. Yes, you may bomb out a bit more, but on your good days maybe you’ll finish higher. In basically all handicapping contests, the money is dramatically slanted towards the first five finishers. The money is at the very top – and you have to pay attention to that.

Of course, it’s also quite likely that you’re doing nothing at all wrong and you just haven’t had that extra bit of luck. Try to take the specific results out of the equation and focus on your decisions. If you’ve been making good decisions, you just need to keep doing what you’ve been doing.

Here’s another idea: if you’ve been handicapping and picking well enough to have those good results, maybe you should be playing cash more. I might suggest taking a day where you’re not playing in a contest and essentially setting up your own “contest.” Select a set of races to look at and prepare the same way you would in a contest. If you make a spreadsheet for your contest play, make a spreadsheet for this. Maybe take money management out of the equation by flat betting the races in the sequence (though you should definitely give yourself an allowance to pass). The idea is to replicate the conditions under which you’ve been succeeding but to apply them to a style of play where you can get a tangible result right away. By expanding your portfolio of play to include contests and cash, you might get more satisfaction. Operators at DRFBets are standing by. . .

The last thing I’ll offer is a plug for this month’s next two BCQualify.com contests, on May 11 and May 18. As I’ve written about before, you advance to the next round simply by finishing in the top 10%. And in Round 2, you advance to the $10,000 buy-in Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge the same way. If you have two good days, you’re going to meet your goal. That’s what I love about this format and it sounds like it will be right up your alley.

Keep on keepin’ on,



Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
Frustrated: Welcome to the club!!! Am sure 99% percent of horseplayers whether in their everyday playing or in contests have had a period where nothing went right and everything went wrong. As Peter has said, "keep on trucking." Finishing in the top ten percent of contest playing is indeed a worthy achievement. It will turn around for you. Good luck.
Gunner More than 1 year ago
So throwing the computer monitor into the swimming pool after a tough beat is NOT recommended?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
LOL! I'm more of a slam-my-fist-on-the-desk type myself but I am trying to show more equanimity these days ;)
Judy Wagner More than 1 year ago
As someone that qualified on points for last year's NHC (with only 5 scores, no top 10% finishes in onsite tournaments) I encourage you to keep on keeping on! You sound like you are on the right track - don't be afraid to be aggressive. Believe you can!! Yes I did get air allowance & room for 4 nights.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Thanks for commenting (and clarifying!). Always great to see a former NHC Champ in the comments thread. . .
Jon More than 1 year ago
How many points will the top 150 players who dont get auto bids need to qualify for next years nhc? Do those players get free rooms and $500 towards airfare? thank you in advance for your help!
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
It's really hard to tell because the system is so new and different this year. You would probably be safe with 5000 points. it may turn out to be a lot lower than that but if you made that your target and hit it, I think you'd be OK. Just to clarify, it's not the top 150 outside of autobids, it's the top 150 overall who get in. If you've already qualified, you can't get a second entry via the Tour. But if you're in the top 150, you'll definitely get an NHC seat, makes sense?
Jon More than 1 year ago
thank you peter! i thought it was the top 150 after the players that auto qualified. i have 2,000+ pts...i will keep playing.
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
A genius once told me " STICK TO THE PLAN "