06/07/2017 2:47PM

Almost down to the felt, Shurman breaks through at Monmouth

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At this point, everyone in the contest world knows Paul Shurman. The veteran has accomplished enough during his time in the game to be enshrined in the closest thing horseplayers have to a Hall of Fame, and with good reason.

On Saturday, Shurman won the Monmouth Pick Your Prize contest outright. For his efforts, he receives a prize package worth more than $37,000 and also gets to keep his bankroll of $8,190. He finished best of 172 entries, two of which were his. He had a clear strategy coming into the day.

“I planned to play conservatively on one ticket and play what I normally would on the other,” he said.

The Monmouth tournament has a prize structure that’s very flat, meaning that while there’s a significant difference between finishing first and 17th, the difference isn’t nearly as great as many tournaments which are more top-heavy in purse distribution.

“That means you can double your $1,000 starting bankroll and still finish in the prize pool here,” he continued. “So if you have $750 at the end, you can bet it all on a 3-1 shot and still walk away with something valuable.”

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With that in mind, he kept his conservative entry around $1,000 through eight races. On his second entry, he took unsuccessful shots most of the day and ultimately busted out. In the second to last race, he played $500 of his remaining $750 on the conservative entry. That horse, a 7-2 shot at Belmont, lost, but he still had $250 left for a final play.

“I loved the three horse [Recapitulation, 2-1] in the last at Monmouth and I played him on top in an exacta with three longshots that would have given me enough to win,” he said.

Shurman thought $5,000 would do it, and when his winning exacta 3-6 drifted up late to $163.80 for $2, he hadn’t just won, he’d crushed it. Second-place finisher Thomas O’Connor ended up with $5,645.60.

In theory, Shurman could have spread a little more underneath, or covered his key on the bottom of one of the longshots. “There were really only three horses that would have given it to me and they were the ones I had to play,” he said, “so there was really no difference.”

Shurman almost didn’t get the winning play in, and the story of how he did underlines how important it is to play in contests with friends. Shurman was a little distracted toward the end of the tournament as he was multi-tabling – playing in an online tourney concurrent with Monmouth. He usually sits with his longtime pal Mitch Schuman, an accomplished player in his own right, and he came to Shurman’s rescue. “He asked me ‘Do you have any money left?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, why?’ and he told me, ‘There’s one minute to post.' ”

Shurman rushed off and was able to get his play in.

It’s interesting to examine Shurman’s winning play in the context of where he was in the contest leading into the race. “If I’d still had $1,000 left, I’d have bet it all to win and ended up around $3,000, somewhere between 10th and 15th – not bad at all with this prize structure, but nowhere near as good as this.”

If he’d loved a second horse in the last, perhaps he would have punched a cold number in the exacta with a second short price, depending on the probable pays, but he thought the race was open beyond the live favorite. “Instead of playing one exacta for $250, I gave myself three shots,” he said.

And with one of those shots going through the hoop, one of the best resumes in the history of contest plays just got a little stronger.

For a full look at the Monmouth leaderboard and prizes, go to http://www.monmouthpark.com/News.aspx?id=10935.