01/09/2014 4:35PM

Four last-chance NHC seats up for grabs at DRF Bets

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In my last column, I promised to go a bit more in detail about this Sunday’s contest on DRF Bets.com. I asked DRF Bets honcho Josh Tepper about the appeal of this event, and he said: “We hope this last-chance contest on the 12th provides those players who have either not qualified or have one spot and are looking to add that second one to their arsenal with that final possibility to make it to Vegas.”

You must have a DRF Bets account to play, but it’s easy to start one and fund it within minutes . Four National Handicapping Championship seats will be awarded. There is a $50 registration fee, but before you get flustered about that, realize that in addition to the four NHC seats, a total of $5,000 will be paid out to those not getting a seat, with fifth getting $2,000  down to ninth getting $250.
In past versions of this contest, the field has been about 100 deep. If that’s the case here, that would make this a big-time positive expected value on your dollar. The way I look at the world, the total prize pool here is at least $25,000 between the cash and the seats. That means you’d still be getting value for your dollar even if 500 players show up.

Open a DRF Bets account today and get a $125 cash sign-up bonus!

Here’s how it works. You pay your $50 registration fee. Over the course of the day, you must make eight $10 win bets on any race being run at Aqueduct, Gulfstream, or Santa Anita. Sounds simple, right? There’s a leaderboard that updates continuously after each race is official so you can follow along in real time.

The eight $10 bets you make are real money wagers, meaning you get to keep any winnings (that’s why I didn’t account for the $80 when computing the contest’s expected value). The biggest difference between this contest and most online contests is that there are zero mandatory races – typically online contests are all mandatory races, so it’s a totally different type of test. In a bullet contest (one with all mandatory races), you just have to handicap the races on offer and make a selection. The DRF Bets format requires a much different skillset because choosing which races to play amounts to more than half the battle.

What’s the best way to choose which races to play? It depends on what type of player you are. If you’re a grass or maiden race specialist, you can carve out several plays for yourself based on those races. Let’s say you’re a player who is dedicated to the Southern California circuit whose Formulator PPs are loaded with trip notes on the California horses going back five years. Maybe then you want to make all your plays at Santa Anita.

A lot of players look for big fields, knowing that bigger prices are statistically more likely. They are right, but there’s another line of thought. As my friend, the late, great Jeff Sotman used to say, “Short field, long price.” The idea is that you don’t necessarily have to discount races with fewer horses if you can find a price you like. If you hit a longshot in a six-horse field in a contest like this, you might even be the only one who has it and you’ll move up the leaderboard alone.

One other piece of advice I’ll give is that you probably want to save a play or two for the last couple of races. The races get more and more important as the contest goes on. Why is this? Because as you get closer to the end, you have much more information about what score you’ll need to qualify or end up in the money. That said, don’t go crazy chasing the leaderboard in the first two-thirds of any contest. Have a plan and stay the course. As my wise friend David Gutfreund once told me, “The latter part of the contest starts later than most people think.”

It’s also notable in this format that there is no place betting – your starting bank is $80 and you bet it all on the win end across eight races. Between this and all the variety that goes along with an all-optional format, you can expect final scores higher than usual. In typical win-place formats, the winner typically ends up with 2.5 times his/her initial bankroll. For this contest, I’m thinking you’re going to need more like 3.5 times the starting bank or around $280 to get a seat. Plot out your strategy accordingly, knowing you’re likely to have to get somewhere near that number.

Godspeed, handicappers. Now all you need to do is click over to DRF Bets.

CLICK HERE to create your DRF Bets account now.
For contest details, check out the DRF Bets NHC Last Chance Challenge page HERE.