11/19/2014 2:31PM

Public Handicapper Challenge winner looks toward NHC


Public Handicapper Challenge winner Dan Camaro just won entry to the National Handicapping Championship in an online event, but truth be told, he prefers playing in live contests to virtual ones.

“I just like the feel, the energy, the excitement,” he said. “It’s great to see people’s different strategies. I’ve learned so many valuable lessons from other players at live tournaments.”

One strategy Camaro has learned from his peers for live-bankroll events is developing a willingness to go all-in.

“To win at a live-bankroll tournament, you have to do something that no one else is doing,” he said, “I’ve learned to pick my spots and take my swing. That’s how you win in a live-bankroll tournament.”

In a marathon contest like the Public Handicapper Challenge, pressing your strongest opinion isn’t an option, and strategy changes as a result.

“You’re going to need a series of prices,” he said. “But at the same time you also have to stop yourself from going backwards in the Public Handicapper Contest.”

Camaro took a methodical approach to the Public Handicapper Challenge.

“I tried to look at the four races each week and figure out which race there could be a price in and swing away,” he said. “At the same time, in the most predictable races I’d just take the horses that were obvious to me and they would prevent me from going backwards. If the winner’s going to win, at least you’re going to put points on the board.”

Camaro plays frequently in contests at Emerald Downs and his home track, Portland Meadows, but his favorite contest is the NHC – this is the fourth year in a row he’s won in.

“The NHC is the big daddy of them all to me,” he said, “The first time I showed up at I said, ‘Where has this been all my life?’ How many crowns would I have won?’”

Camaro is the COO of an accounting firm and he credits the flexibility of his work schedule with some of his success in contests.

“People who are working real hard and are just handicapping on the weekends are at a disadvantage,” he said. “If you look at the leaderboards throughout tournament play, the people who do it for a living or have the time to put in the hours are the most successful. In my job, I can work when I want to and delegate and devote enough time, and I think that really helps.”

Going into Breeders’ Cup weekend, Camaro had a lot of work to do to get in qualifying position.

“I spent an entire week thinking over how to approach the Breeders’ Cup,” he said. “I just kept retooling my ideas and watching replays. I knew I wasn’t going to get to the top of the contest playing low prices.”

One of the longshots he picked was Texas Red, who he didn’t think should have been a longshot at all. Texas Red was ridden by Kent Desormeaux.

“I watched the replay of Texas Red’s previous race against American Pharaoh and it seemed crystal clear to me that it was not the objective,” Camaro said. “Desormeaux just sat on the horse, and going into the turn, the horse took off on his own. I love to see competitiveness in the horses I bet, and some horses have a lot more of it than others. I really thought Texas Red was a lock.”

Two years ago at the NHC, Camaro finished fifth, and he nearly finished higher than that.

Camaro said he had it narrowed down to Hail Mary or Could Be Trouble in the final race of the tournament. As post time approached, Hail Mary wasn’t quite enough of a price to get Camaro to the top of the standings. The price drifted up two points after the start, but of course it was too late for Camaro to change. Hail Mary went on to win, delivering victory to Jim Benes, and the result has stayed with Camaro.

“It would have been so tremendous to win the NHC on a Hail Mary,” he said. “And I noticed that Could Be Trouble went on to beat Hail Mary down the road a few times.”

Camaro is looking forward to his fourth try at the NHC, and he thinks he’s figured out what it takes to succeed at the contest world’s premier event.

“You have to look at everything, and you have to look at it front to back and back to front,” he said. “I’ve learned to do all the work and then not overthink it. Be confident and go for it.”