02/03/2014 11:35AM

Last year's tournament season a big success, now on to 2014

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Okay, now I get it. When I was doing the research for my book, I didn’t quite understand the obsession many contest players have for the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas. I would point out that certain contests have lower takeout or better racing – or both. And they would assure me, “Just wait until you got out there, and you’re in that room. Then you’ll understand.”

Having now been to my first NHC, I can tell you they're right. It’s the only contest of any kind that I can think of where merely competing is a prize in itself. The upside of this is a great atmosphere and a tremendous sense of camaraderie. And if I were eligible to compete (as DRF contest editor I am not), I would vow to try to get back there every year.

Personally, I really enjoyed meeting so many of you. It was gratifying to know that you’re reading and enjoying the new and expanded DRF coverage of tournaments. It was also super fun this year being part of the Daily Racing Form coverage of the NHC across various media. I’ve received lots of feedback about how we can improve – and we’re on it. And yes, we’ll start with getting a microphone that works.

Another fun part of the experience for me was interviewing Jose Arias, Tony Brice, and Nick Alpino – the 1-2-3 finishers in the NHC and three players who are easy to root for and exemplify what the game is all about. These are three guys who deserve their life-changing paydays.

As for the event itself, it seems obvious to me that the Final Table concept is an idea that’s here to stay. There are a few kinks to work out for sure, but kudos to the NTRA and the Player’s Panel for taking a chance and implementing this radical change. It’s my opinion that this will be the leap that allows handicapping contests to be a truly viable television product at some point in the future. That will hopefully lead to more sponsorship dollars and, eventually, the ultimate goal – an NHC Finals where more money goes back out to the players than comes in from the players.

Looking forward to the new season, there should be a lot of good things happening in the contest world. There have never been more opportunities to learn how to play in contests online. There are also a lot of exciting in-person contests to participate in as well. The first one that comes to mind is the Horse Player World Series at the Orleans in Las Vegas at the end of March.

And, for me, I look forward to meeting a whole bunch more of you in person at various signings for my new book, "The Winning Contest Player." We don’t have a schedule yet, but check back in this space for frequent updates.
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COMING UP AT NHCQualify.com

February  8:

ONE-DAY (max 325 entries - max 5 spots awarded, $165/entry)

February 15:

ONE-DAY (max 325 entries - max 5 spots awarded, $165/entry)

February 23 (SUNDAY):

ONE-DAY (max 325 entries - max 5 spots awarded, $165/entry)

 

COMING UP AT BCQualify.com

February 9 (SUNDAY):

(ONE DAY - 280 max entries - max 4 spots awarded), $190/entry

February 22:

(ONE DAY - 280 max entries - max 4 spots awarded), $190/entry

 

Anonymous 6 months ago
The only criticism I have for the NTRA/DRF tourney is the allowance for TWO entries instread of one. One person one qualifying entry. Allowaing multiple entries into the Las Vegas finals, opens the door to family members getting the second seat without really doing any of the work. It also violates the concept of the tourney seeking to identify THE "Handicapper of the Year." Even the NTRA/and DRF seem semi sensititve to this issue by not allowaning double entries into the final 50 after allowing them up to that point. Do asway with this practice. I soincerrely doubt the tourney would suffer on any level and it certainly would enchance the integrity of it.
Peter Fornatale 6 months ago
The problem is, I think, that the problem you're worried about -- people getting extra entries in family members names -- was happening anyway. Frankly, it's been part of the NHC since the very first tourney. I don't have a problem with it anyway -- there's no way to legislate effectively against it in a way that doesn't hurt the contest overall. Thanks for taking the time to comment though.
peter k 7 months ago
Welcome coverage of the event . One thing I do not understand is why you - as an employee of drf are not allowed to play ? One supposes there would be the perception of impropriety, but that can hardly be the case as the drf iinformation is available to those who want it . Actually your preclusion heightens skepticism of so called " inside information " As a reporter you elucidated the strategies ,emotions and thought processes of the contestants . Possibly as both a contender and observer more insights would be garnered peter k
Peter Fornatale 7 months ago
As one of the event's title sponsors, DRF doesn't allow its employees to compete in this event. However, I can get plenty of experience playing in other contests. Hopefully, that will be enough to keep the content fresh.
peter k 6 months ago
Thank you for the response . Was not questioning the very good quality of the coverage merely the implausible inference that a sponsor has anything to do with the reults
Peter Fornatale 6 months ago
Yeah, in my personal case the bigger issue might just be that there's no way I could both cover and play in the event -- just logistically impossible with all I was doing out there. However, if the nonstory at the final table proved anything, it's that even the vaguest appearance of impropriety or unusual circumstances gets people a little too excited. So I think the rule makes sense.
Jim Dennis 7 months ago
Peter: You write, "That will hopefully lead to....the ultimate goal – an NHC Finals where more money goes back out to the players than comes in from the players". When has this goal ever been part of the mission statement or the business plan of the NTRA? What previous actions or strategies has the NTRA put into play that could possibly lead you to believe that this goal is what they are seeking? Could you please provide some examples for us players, old and new, that would lend some credibility to your quote?
Peter Fornatale 7 months ago
I was speaking about my personal goal for the NHC as a guy who loves contests. I wasn't saying anything about the NTRA one way or the other. Sorry to have confused you.
Ron Rios 7 months ago
Peter I agree I thought the tournament was great, my first time there, sorry I didn't get a chance to meet you, but you column is now my favorite on drf. I hope the tournament does not increse the nuber of players ( no more than 500) keep it special to qualify and give people a chance to win a once in a lifetime score.
Peter Fornatale 7 months ago
Thanks for commenting, Ron! Hopefully our paths will cross at another event soon.
mikey 7 months ago
The NTRA staff knocked it out of the park this time.They made us all feel very special.The ballroom is getting a little tight.Hope to be back next year.
KeenelandJim 7 months ago
I also would like to invite you to cover our premier live bankroll contest at Keeneland, the 6th annual Grade One Gamble scheduled for Sunday, April 13. We give away 6 NHC spots and over $44,000 in prize money to the field of 75 players. Buy-in is $3,000, and we sell out each year on the first day of registration. Many of our NHC competitors will be there, and they will make a weekend of it, with the previous day's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes the highlight of the spring meet.
Peter Fornatale 7 months ago
That sounds pretty fantastic to me! I'll see what I can do. Great meeting you out there!
KeenelandJim 7 months ago
Agree 100% with your assessment of the NHC. First time there as a player after helping NTRA the last few years and it was amazing.
John Herzberg 7 months ago
Where can we find some of the pick and pray formats that can qualify for the big tournament?
Peter Fornatale 7 months ago
Not exactly sure but for pick and prays you should probably look on Derby Wars, Horse Tourneys or Horseplayersqualify.
Carm 7 months ago
It is exciting to be there and compete, especially early on when you are so hopeful that your handicapping will lead to a top finish, and towards the end, if you are still in a competitive position, and your nerves are on edge. I finished 24th a couple of years ago in a close race; I passed on a SA horse for my last bet - Dani Reese- when the odds came down from 11-1 to 6-1, because it would not put me in first place. The horse won and would have given me a 5th place finish; instead, I bet a horse in the next race the finished fourth. Once again, Jose Arias is this year's champ and lucky stiff by a $1.20. Great handicapping on his part and lady luck smiling on him. Please note that only Judy Wagner, a former champ, was the only former champ to finish in the top 50 places. Again proving how difficult it is to win, and how difficult it is to repeat that performance in subsequent years. Is there anyplace where you can see what the prize money was paid to the top 50 finishers? You would think the NTRA would have readily published this list to accelerate future interest in the NHC,
Peter Fornatale 7 months ago
Thanks for commenting but just as a point of fact, Jamie Michelson, Jr., also a former champ, also had a top 50 finish (he actually got both his entries in the Top 50 but could only play one). Still, that doesn't do anything to diminish your point about how hard it is!
xpert 6 months ago
You are ignoring his point about the perceived lack of transparency about who got paid out what among the rest of the contest players. For example, I have seen nothing about what the "consolation" winners got, or even who they were. Some people seem to ignore the fact that if it were not for all the Minnows donating their entry fees this kind of contest which allows the Whales to feast would not occur in the first place.
Peter Fornatale 6 months ago
The information you're talking about should be available on the NTRA website. If it's not there, I'm sure if you send a nice email, someone over there can pass along the conso tourney standings et al. If you strike out there, let me know and I'll hunt down the information myself..
Edward Wright 6 months ago
Here is a link to the Final 50 and consolation standings. If I find a link to the consolation prizes I'll post it here. http://ntra.com/en/nhc/nhc-news/2014/1/26/national-handicapping-championships-sunday-leaderboard/
Paul Hoffman 7 months ago
http://www.ntra.com/media/8402370/140123%202014%20NHC%20Prize%20Money.pdf prize money for top 50 as requested.