03/20/2014 7:55AM

Two inexpensive online contests to try this weekend


Whether you’re a new contest player who hasn’t yet been motivated to make the leap, or an experienced player looking for a new opportunity, this Saturday might be a good time for you to play in an online tournament. There are two interesting low-cost contests, one at NHCQualify.com and one through the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (www.ntra.com).

Entries are already open for the special one-day NHCQualify/BCQualify contest to be held Saturday, March 22. Buy-in is only $50, and players may purchase two entries each. Players will be competing for credit that can be used at NHCQualify, BCQualify, or be transferred to a DRFBets account where they can be bet like normal dollars. Obviously, you must live in a state that allows DRFBets accounts for this last bit to be relevant, but it’s a pretty cool upside if you do.

The total credit prize pool will be up to $20,000, with a $10,000 pool guaranteed. Credits will be awarded to the top 15 finishers, according to the following percentage breakdown:

Guaranteed ($10,000)  

Maximum ($20,000 – based on 440 entries)

$3,000 1st place (30%) $6,000
$2,000 2nd place (20%) $4,000
$1,500 3rd place (15%) $3,000
$1,000 4th place (10%) $2,000
$750 5th place (5%) $1,000
$200 6th–15th place (2% each) $400


NHC Tour membership is not required to participate in this event – though if you do well, you’ll probably want to purchase one after the fact. The contest will consist of 12 mandatory races where contestants will play mythical $2 win-place bets on each one. Highest scores win. Past performances for all the races will be available to contest participants through the contest site.

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If you’re an experienced player, this is a great way to bankroll your NHCQualify and BCQualify expenses for a while. If you’re a new player, this is a great way to get your feet wet and try out the NHCQualify site without much of an initial investment. And the takeout is a very reasonable 9 percent. Current plans are to hold several more contests of this type throughout the year – especially after the redesign of NHCQualify is complete over the next few months. You heard it here first.

Meanwhile, also on Saturday, there is an opportunity over at www.ntra.com in the form of a contest that is free for NHC Tour members. Tour membership costs $50 annually and is available via the NTRA site. These free contests are really their own animals in the contest world. They are awfully hard to win – sometimes as many as 1,500 people are vying for four National Handicapping Championship seats. But that said, if you’re an NHC Tour member anyway, they’re a free roll – a chance to win something for nothing. This is the first of five of these free tournaments that will be offered throughout the year.

The contest follows a 10-race, all mandatory, $2 win-place format, and the contest races will be available Thursday night. Free Daily Racing Form past performances will be available to all contest participants.

No doubt these two contests will cover some of the same races. My general advice would be to put more energy into the NHCQualify contest, where you have more of a chance to influence the final result using contest strategy.

Rather than getting too serious about coming up with a plan for the NTRA tournament, it’s better to treat it a bit more like a lottery. Does this mean actual handicapping doesn’t matter? No, not at all. But rather than coming up with a target score and trying to plot a course to meet that score – my advice for most tournaments – here you pretty much have to pick all the winners, or at least a large percentage of them. So don’t get too hung up on strategy. There’s no need to pick a longshot in every race. Just put in your best picks and hope it’s your turn to get struck by lightning. That said, you can certainly change your picks as you go to reach for longer shots if you fall behind early. As a wise man once said, you cannot win if you do not play.