02/10/2016 1:38PM

Fornatale: DRF Bets tourneys play to Skotz's strengths


If you’ve been playing in contests over the last few years you’ve probably seen the name Chris Skotz. A business development manager at Cisco, Skotz, 50, has qualified for the National Handicapping Championship five times and his name is a fixture on various contest leaderboards.

Skotz didn’t wait long to secure his berth to the 2017 NHC – he won the first DRFBets qualifier of the year last weekend. He also won an NHC seat last year via DRF Bets. This is not an accident. The DRFBets tournaments play to his strengths. “I love that format because you can pick your spots and you’re limited to three tracks,” he said, “plus it’s real money so you get back the money you win.”

He played at the inaugural final table at the National Handicapping Championship in 2014 and was a semi-finalist at this year’s NHC as well. Last year he didn’t attend the NHC and his usual seat was taken by Matt Ransdell, who ended up third overall – so the Skotz chair clearly has some NHC magic in it.

“You hear a lot of people talk about the camaraderie at tournaments and it’s true,” said Skotz, who typically sits with Trey Stiles and Greg Knepper among others. “I’ve met so many friends from diverse backgrounds and locations, and tournaments are the place I get to connect with them.”

Success at the NHC is tricky to manage, and many players including Skotz have their “just-missed” stories. “There are so many opportunities through the course of the tournament where if you’d just zigged instead of zagged you’d be there,” he said.

One of his keys to tournament play is to always save a bullet for the last race. “The most fundamental mistake people make is not holding on to a play for the last race of the tournament, even if you hate the track where the last race is,” he said.

“You have to have that play left to understand if you’re in a position to block or play a favorite or play a price. If you’re out of plays and you’re not in first then there’s nothing you can do.”

Skotz finished third on the NHC Tour back in 2011. His current schedule doesn’t allow him to play much in the summer months, putting him at a disadvantage on the Tour. “I have kids who play in competitive sports all over the country,” he said. “One week I was in Salem, Oregon, and three days later I was in Salem, Virginia, with two different kids.”

Still, he is committing to playing more in the spring this year, though the West Coaster is not certain to go east of Las Vegas. “I have a three-month window to try to accumulate as many points as I can to try and get a position in the top 20,” he explained. “I’m not going to kid myself that I can win the whole thing.”

Skotz has been a racing fan since his college days when as a James Madison student he went on a school-sponsored trip to Charles Town. A few weeks later he went back to the track with his parents. “It’s the usual story,” he said. “I hit a double and I was hooked.”