07/20/2016 8:36AM

Del Mar, Saratoga on $12 a day


A great question came up the other day on Twitter: What’s the best way to play the big summer meets on a limited budget? With Del Mar already under way and Saratoga about to begin, I thought this was a good chance to tackle this one in writing.

For me, the answer was clear, and it’s not going to surprise you. Tournaments offer the lower-bankroll player a plethora of positives. First and foremost, DRF Tournaments gives a horseplayer a chance for significant action for as little as $12 a day.

The specifics of the races throughout the summer will vary depending on the day, but you typically might find three or four races from Saratoga and Del Mar in a given sequence. You’ll have a chance to stay on top of what’s going on. You’ll also have action for 2 1/2 hours a day for a limited investment.

For a lot of weekend warriors who want to step up their horseplaying at this time of year, the summer meets can be a bit overwhelming in terms of the sheer workload. Tournament play can help chop that down to a manageable amount.

Just because the buy-in is low doesn’t mean that your upside is limited. Take Friday’s slate of contests as an example. For $12, you can play in a feeder for the Battle of Saratoga (Aug. 10-11), or for $21 you can compete to win a seat at Santa Anita’s Autumn Championship (Oct. 8-9). If you finish in the top 10 percent, you get an entry into the weekend qualifier, where you can win your full tournament buy-in plus travel money ($2,500 for Saratoga, $5,000 for Santa Anita).

If you do well in those events, you can win seats to the National Handicapping Championship or Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, where you can have a six-figure score if the stars align. Playing a $12 feeder isn’t just a way to tread water and stay out of trouble this summer, it can set you on a path to win big money.

For some players, it’s as important to limit downside as it is to capitalize on upside. With their action-per-dollar ratio, contests assist with this as well. Vic Stauffer, the winner of the Santa Anita Preakness contest, is eligible for a $1 million bonus should he go on to win the BCBC this year. The bonus also is available to the winner of the Autumn Championship. Stauffer said, “Here is the singular reason I am a tournament player: [Tournaments] are tilt-proof,” he said. “You can’t chase, and I was never all that disciplined of a player, so if I started a day and I had a $1,000 budget and I went through it, I would inevitably end up losing a lot more.”

One of the hidden benefits of playing tournaments is the education they provide. A few years back, I interviewed a professional poker player who told me she paid the equivalent of four years of college tuition to learn to master the game. That math doesn’t seem out of line for a horseplayer.

If you’re messing around betting small money on the tote, it can be fun, but it’s hard to generate the excitement and intensity that’s going to drive you to become a better player. As we’ve established, tournaments cost even less, and yet the action is outsized. They give you a chance to compete at a high level against the best players. That long-term upside – the chance to win seats to bigger events – makes the stakes feel higher than they are. I can’t think of a better way to improve your game.

Friday on DRF Tournaments

In addition to the feeders for Saratoga and Santa Anita, DRF Tournaments is running feeders to this Saturday’s BCBC qualifier for $21 and Sunday’s NHC qualifier for $18. Once again, those who finish in the top 10 percent will advance.

There also will be several credit-builder contests, a great way to fund your summer contest play. For $15, you can play in a $150 winner-take-all contest against 10 other entries or a $500 contest that’s limited to 35 entries. Lastly, there is a feeder to the $2,500 credit builder taking place Saturday.

For more information, including a list of the races for Friday’s contests, check out DRF Tournaments at tournaments.drf.com.

Spa-tacular deal

PublicHandicapper.com players are getting a special deal for the summer: a chance to access an unlimited DRF Formulator plan on a Saturday for only $5 (normally $20). PH players will receive a special code to access the discount. DRF classic past performances are already free to players competing in DRF Tournaments events, but the added edge from using Formulator could mean the difference between winning and losing. Now that edge can be obtained for one low price.

What if you’re not a PH member? Here’s the good news: Membership is free. Sign up now to access the bonus at PublicHandicapper.com/signup.cfm. You also can compete for weekly and monthly prizes as part of the ongoing PH Challenge.