03/20/2014 8:55AM

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.

Will LaTulippe More than 1 year ago
I'm glad you're stepping up and getting the word out about contests. Non-DRF entities would be wise to follow suit, namely a competing wagering platform/TV network that offered a cheap qualifier to Keeneland's Grade One Gamble today that I didn't know existed until I tuned in. Might have missed out on it entirely, and it was a feeder to a contest that offers six NHC seats.
gottagiveittothem More than 1 year ago
does it work for Canada gals?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I am nearly sure it does, though check in with them to be sure.
Eric Rickard More than 1 year ago
A silly question on the bets. I consider myself a handicapper, but have never played in a tourney. When it states $2 win/place on ten races, does that mean you bet both win and place or you pick which to bet ; win or place. Again a tournament novice question. Thank you.
David Young More than 1 year ago
When will DRF put together a package that includes just the races for a given contest such as this where you get the formulator PPs in one file so to speak? My intent is to get involved with contests but I have a ton of business and investing activity keeping me busy. It would be nice if I could rapidly access all of these races in formulator and print them out. Formulator is a fabulous product but needs to be less clunky and presented differently. We should also be able to purchase per race. If I get time to play I don't want the entire GP or SA card I just want certain races.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
That's a really good idea, not sure the logistics of it. Let me see what information I can find.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
you da man...
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I will pitch the idea to DRF of creating a custom card of contest races for Formulator -- if the idea gets approved, it would be a pay service, not a freebie like the basic PPs. This makes sense as Formulator is a premium product, Anyway, I'll let you know if I have any success -- or, I suppose, it will become self-evident!
Paul More than 1 year ago
If you are worried about cost per race versus the cost of a card, you can't be much of a gambler. Or just cheap I guess.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I would argue the exact opposite -- a professional gambler would be looking for a .01% edge anywhere he or she could get it! Plus, easier to just focus on the races you want rather than having to sort through a bunch of noise.
Steve DeCaspers More than 1 year ago
No mention of XpressBet live, with no fee (except $200 in 10 $20 real money bets) and roughly $39,000 in prize money?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I didn't realize that was happening this weekend. You do realize I work for DRF, right?
Standiforx More than 1 year ago
I don't blame you for not mentioning every contest, but the last time I checked DRF Bets was a re-badged version of Xpressbet. Moreover as someone who has had an Xpressbet account for years, I will never change my account to DRF Bets unless provided an incentive to do so (I can get free past performances at other sites too. . .)
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
The issue was more I already had two things to talk about that I knew more about. Nothing against xpressbet at all. I actually played in the contest myself as I'm not personally eligible to play in the NHC or BCBC. As for switching to DRF Bets, that's up to you -- but you should know that it's easy to migrate back and forth and many of the Xpressbet contests (if not all) you can play in via DRF Bets. . .
Biz P More than 1 year ago
Why does that matter?? You either talk about tournaments or you don't. He wasn't aware that you shill for DRF or NHC only.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I was just clowning around. I thought I put a winky emoticon on there but I didn't. The real issue, as I said elsewhere, was I just had more to say about the other two contests. I have no objection to writing about other stuff tho typically it makes sense for me to lean pretty hard on the DRF contest properties for obvious reasons. . .
mikey More than 1 year ago
This is like spring training.Cost little but get ready for the real season.Great time to get a feel of how to play.Fpr a few bucks you can go head to head with the best handicappers in the game.SIGN UP AND PLAY.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Mikey, I couldn't have said it better myself. . .thanks for driving the message home. I'd be playing in the $50 game for DRF Bets credit (I'm not eligible for the big two) but I have my fantasy baseball auction that day -- a much more socially acceptable form of gambling.