10/16/2014 11:31AM

Fornatale: NHCQualify offers 'All-In' format tourney


Saturday marks the official debut of NHCQualify’s new All-In format. As usual, the contest consists of 12 races where players must bet $2 win and place on one horse in every race. The twist here is that all your picks must be in before the first race closes.

The All-In format is the simplest, and probably the most pure contest format – nobody can pick a horse because of what price he is because, except in the first race, nobody knows the prices. If you’re just interested in pure paper handicapping and picking winners, these are the contests for you.

The single most common complaint about the usual $2 win-place format is that someone can catch you late in the contest simply by “stabbing” at a price horse. This goes out the window in the All-In contest. “There’s no throwing darts and using strategy depending on what’s come in so far or any of that,” says 2013 NHC Tour champ Brent Sumja.

There is no just playing to catch the leader in an all-in contest – once your picks are in, that’s it.

Like many players, two-time Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge winner Patrick McGoey can’t always devote the time on a Saturday to manage a traditional contest format. But the All-In format gives a lot more leeway. “I can put in my picks in the morning and still go to my kid’s soccer game,” he said.

This idea also accounts for part of this format’s appeal. Of course, in the typical format you could always take an all-in approach, but you’ll be a big disadvantage against players who are making adjustments in real time and changing on the fly. The All-In format definitely levels the playing field for those unlucky souls who can’t devote three hours on a Saturday to playing in a handicapping contest. They can do the work the night before, get picks in, and have every chance even if they don’t see a single stretch run throughout the 12-race card.

For Saturday’s All-In event, the buy-in is $165 and between three and five spots for the National Handicapping Championship will be on the line, depending on participation. A travel allowance to Las Vegas will also be included for the seat winners.

Here are the races that will be part of the contest:

3:35     Belmont 7 (1 1/16 miles, dirt, statebred stakes)

3:40     Keeneland 6 (6 furlongs, dirt, allowance)

4:08     Belmont 8 (1 1/8 miles, dirt, statebred stakes)

4:11     Keeneland 7 (5.5 furlongs, turf, allowance)

4:41     Belmont 9 (1 1/16 miles, turf, statebred stakes)

4:42     Keeneland 8 (1 1/16 miles, dirt, optional claimer)

5:00     Santa Anita 3 (6.5 furlongs, turf, statebred stakes)

5:13     Keeneland 9 (7 furlongs, dirt, G2 Raven Run)

5:14     Belmont 10 (6.5 furlongs, dirt, statebred stakes)

5:30     Santa Anita 4 (1 mile, dirt, maiden claimer)

6:00     Santa Anita 5 (5.5 furlongs, dirt, restricted claimer)

6:30        Santa Anita 6 (1 mile, turf, maiden special weight)