04/30/2014 11:06AM

Fornatale: Free roll in Public Handicapper Challenge


The Public Handicapper Challenge begins this Friday. It’s easy to sign up to play and – best of all – it’s free. The top two finishers who have signed up for the NHC Tour get trips to the National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas.

To play, simply fill in the sign-up information at https://www.publichandicapper.com/signup.cfm then click over to the “Make Your Picks” tab at https://www.publichandicapper.com/makepicks.cfm. You can already place your pick for the Kentucky Oaks. The other three races for this weekend will be available shortly after they are drawn.

How does the contest work? Each weekend, Public Handicapper selects four contest races, usually the best quality races available. You can play as few of these as zero and as many as all four -- $2 win bets only. When you miss a pick, you lose $2. As you pick winners, your bankroll accumulates and the highest scores at the end of the contest win. Winning scores vary but the average score of the last six winners is right around $203.

Public Handicapper is different from other contests in other ways than just format and lack of entry fees. For one thing, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The Public Handicapper Challenge lasts around six months -- starting this weekend and running all the way through the Breeders’ Cup. As Public Handicapper founder Scott Carson points out, “This is the Belmont Stakes of Handicapping Contests.”

Contestants have the option to pass if they either really don’t like a race or need a weekend off for some reason. The winners typically do play most all races, as you might expect. In last year’s version of this contest, 113 races were offered and the winner played 107 of them. Some years the winners have played fewer races than that, but never less than 85 in the current format.

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The field sizes on Public Handicapper are enormous (3900 players made at least one pick in 2013), but you can still focus on value and be successful. Carson makes an excellent point, “It doesn’t matter how many people you’re playing against because you just have to pick winners.”

Public Handicapper is also an excellent learning tool for new players for a couple of reasons. All picks are public so you can see exactly who is betting what from the moment the picks are made. There are some very sharp players on the site – season and lifetime ROIs are posted right there in black and white so there is no sugarcoating the numbers. Also, players have the option to do little write-ups about their picks, describing the handicapping fundamentals and other angles they use to make their selections.  You can’t help but learn something reading what others have to say – whether you agree or disagree. And doing these write-ups can be an education in itself, forcing a level of detail-oriented work that can translate directly to your ROI.

Whether you are looking for a virtual freeroll for an NHC seat or are a handicapper looking for a way to stay involved with racing without making the total commitment of betting every day, you should sign up for the Public Handicapper Challenge today.