03/25/2016 1:11PM

Fornatale: McGuire always swings for the fences


There isn’t a joke about his name that Mark McGuire hasn’t heard, and he takes them all in stride. He has bigger things on his mind, like grinding out a living playing horses and qualifying for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

McGuire, of Newbury Park, Calif., (and not the St. Louis Cardinals) has already earned two entries for the 2016 BCBC, both courtesy of BCQualify.com. For McGuire, the appeal of the BCQ tournaments is simple: “You start with a $100 buy-in and you can make a big score,” he said, “and if you hit something big at the Breeders’ Cup, you could change your life.”

He competes in both the one-day and two-day BCQ contests, but like many players, he prefers the two-stage format.

“I like the two steps because I’m a lower-dollar player,” he said. “For a few hundred dollars I can have two or three entries going into the final against 90 players where I only need to get one in the top eight.”

The idea of multiple entries in tournaments is a controversial topic to some, but McGuire – known as Magoo to his friends – sees the upside. “More entries means more power,” he said. “I love to try to get myself on the lead and play from there. Unless I absolutely love something, I’m spreading quite a bit when I have multiple entries.”

There are many players who use the extra leverage of multiple entries more explicitly than McGuire does, but he doesn’t let that bother him. “I don’t know that there are too many areas in life where having more money isn’t an advantage,” he said, “but in contests it’s only an unfair advantage if it’s a tournament with say 20 entries in it. If you’re talking about a DRF contest with several hundred entries, it’s not a big deal.”

He also believes that any advantage gained is essentially bought and paid for. “I don’t mind it all because those players are feeding the pot,” he said, referring to the growth of the overall prize pool in a tournament like the National Handicapping Championship – which can be directly attributed to the NTRA allowing multiple entries.

This is the first year where the BCBC has followed suit. They are allowing players to actively play a second entry during the Breeders’ Cup tournament. A player earning more than two entries is required to sell, i.e., transfer, those additional buy-ins.

“I love that for $100 I can win a $10,000 entry,” McGuire said. “For me that’s like $10,000 cash. Worst case, I can spend the $7,500 bankroll and I can probably sell any additional entries for $9,000.”

McGuire believes that tournaments can be a valuable part of a professional player’s arsenal. “In order for it to work, you have to hit something big,” he explained. “That’s why something like the Breeders’ Cup contest is in place. If you can pick up five Breeders’ Cup seats in a year, that’s $50,000.”

For many players, there is a mental transition going from cash play to tournaments, but not so McGuire. “I’ve always been a longshot player,” said the man who is loath to ever bet under 5-1. “They suit my style of handicapping. The horses that win you tournaments are the same ones I’ve always played, and tournaments require less bankroll.”

McGuire nearly nabbed his third BCBC seat last weekend at the Ultimate Betting Challenge. Throughout the tournament, he followed his usual model for live-bankroll play, which is to focus primarily on win bets and play the same type of horses he plays in mythical contests. Throughout the tourney, he built his bank through four main wagers: $100 to win on 25-1 and 17-1 shots, $50 to win on a 15-1, and $200 to win on an 11-1.

But heading into the last race, rather then make a big bet on the eventual winner, who was his top choice, he got cute and opted for exotics. “I should have just played the horse to win for the amount I needed for my goal but I went for the tri and wasn’t even close,” he lamented.

While McGuire was the first player to two BCBC entries, his friend Cheryl McIntyre beat him to three. “I have my eyes pinned on Cheryl,” he said. “I didn’t even really care about winning the UBC, I just wanted to finish in the top three so I could get on even terms with one of the best players around.”