03/30/2014 9:05AM

Horse Player World Series: Hellmers, of 'Horseplayers' fame, prevails


LAS VEGAS – Christian Hellmers, the enigmatic West Coast "guru" on the "Horseplayers" television show, played every bit the part after winning $269,640 for topping a field of 749 at the Horse Player World Series at the Orleans Casino here Saturday afternoon.

Hellmers, who turned 37 on Thursday, said he felt vindicated after winning his first major tournament after several close calls, including back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge in 2011 and 2012. Then he said he felt humbled by what he said is a God-given gift to handicap races. You didn't know whether to love him or hate him – and I heard from plenty of fellow contestants in both camps.

But all agreed that the guy can handicap.

"I felt destined to win this weekend," he said while chewing from his ever-present bag of vegan blue-green algae. "I missed three winners that I didn't put on my ticket – one because I showed up late, one because I got shut out, and one because I didn't notice my horse's odds drift up from 7-1 to 14-1. But instead of letting it eat me alive when I made mistakes, I just found more longshots."

Hellmers finished with a score of 3,559.30 in the three-day tournament that started Thursday and required contestants to make 15 mythical $20 win-place wagers, so he nearly doubled his bankroll, which is about what it takes in this format. The first $2 bet is paid at track odds, and then the remaining is capped at $40 to win and $20 to place.

Ronald Frazier finished with 3,501.40 points to earn $101,115 for second, and Duke Matties, who was the leader when the final update was posted in the Mardi Gras Ballroom around 3 p.m. Pacific on Saturday, held on for third with 3,452.80 points to earn $47,187. The top 60 cashed, and the top 10 scores each day also earned prizes.

The Horse Player World Series is the championship event – previously held in January and February but moved to March for the first time this year – of a yearlong series of qualifying events hosted by the Orleans and its sister casinos in Vegas as well as tournaments at racetracks, OTBs, and websites. But unlike the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, where horseplayers have to earn a seat ahead of time, anyone can enter the HPWS finals for a $1,000 entry fee.

Hellmers bought just one entry. On a recent "Horseplayers" episode, he was seen trying to partner up with other players, but when asked if he had a partner, he said (after laughing because he knew the reason for the question), "My primary partner was the man or woman in the sky."

Unlike most tournament champions who love to talk about their winning picks, Hellmers said he didn't want to give away any of his handicapping secrets. "But I'll say that I don't play any horses under 6-1," he said. Instead, he wanted to thank those at his table who "brought great energy" and cheered him on to victory: Jon Hurd, Eric Pineiro (who finished 12th), John Vogel, and Peter Rotondo Sr. and Lee Davis, who are also on the "Horseplayers" show.

"It was nice to not have the cameras on me for a change," Hellmers said.

Hellmers said he spent about five hours each night handicapping all nine contest tracks and listing the horses he thought he might look to use. He would then look at the races as they came up and monitor the tote board.

Hellmers was consistent throughout the tournament, as he was in the sixth place after Thursday, still in sixth after Friday, and was sitting in seventh at the last public update. However, he knew he was in the lead with about eight contest races to go because players were able to see their standing when swiping their player's card at the betting windows.

"I know it goes against game strategy that a lot of people use, but I didn't play any of the last four races because I didn't like them,” he said. “I chose to go with my stronger plays earlier. Once I had the lead, I knew they had to catch me, and luckily they didn't."

The last few races at Santa Anita, Golden Gate Fields, and Fair Grounds were won by relatively short prices, and no one was able to catch Hellmers, who praised the HPWS format for not having any mandatory races.

"This is the best format on the planet," he said, adding that he had a similar conversation with NTRA tournament director Keith Chamblin the other night. "I love that you're not forced to play any crappy races, and you have the freedom to bet whatever races you desire. The NHC needs to change its format if it seeks to honor real professional handicapping."

He said his immediate plans are to give back to the sport, and especially to the horses.

"I'm definitely going to donate some of my winnings,” he said. "I think it's important since the horses give us so much, and we wouldn't have this sport we love without them. I'm going to do my due diligence and find where there's a need."

Horse Player World Series top 10

Place, Name, Points, Winnings

1. Christian Hellmers, 3,559.30, $269,640
2. Ronald Frazier, 3,501.40,  $101,115.00
3. Duke Matties, 3,452.80, $47,187.00
4. Randy Bauer, 3,381.20, $33,705.00
5. Jay Zimmerman, 3,345.60, $20,223.00
6. Robert Bertolucci, 3,341.00,  $6,741.00
7. Kenneth Jordan, 3,257.20,  $6,741.00
8. Kevin Willett, 3,190.40, $6,741.00
9. Kenneth Jordan, 3,183.40, $6,741.00
10. Richard Eng, 3,150.00, $6,741.00

Dave More than 1 year ago
Huge respect for this guy. Amazing handicapper.
Ericm More than 1 year ago
I used to work for Christian. This guy has had a MAJOR impact on US horseracing most people probably do not realize. He is keeping the sport alive in many ways (in bigger ways outside the show). If you are a fan of the sport you should be a fan of his.
Pom DeTerre More than 1 year ago
Hellmers is so full of himself. Gotta love it when he thinks that the only one who knows anything and everything about the game is himself, and the other bettors are. Unknowledge more ons. If that's the case, why isn't he winning more and whining less. I'll take team rotunda any day over this pompous stuck-up wanna be yoga practicing, handicap er who is just using this sport as a springboard for self promotion. Btw has anyone ever seen him with the same woman more than once? There's a reason for this...ego gratification. I will take the kid from Boston, the dude with the m ag the msagniying glass or Bayacheeck any day of the week over Mr heart shaped red sunglasses and jhis rented Porce any day
Jon More than 1 year ago
a moron who cant spell.....more ons!
Starks43 More than 1 year ago
Saying a horseplayer is conceited is like saying sun will come up to tomorrow. We all have to be conceited to think we can beat each other as well as usurious takeout. Show me a horseplayer without confidence and I'll show you a hopeless loser.
art More than 1 year ago
Hellmers is a conceded smart handicapper who when he's on can win any contest. He looks to me to be slightly above average though. There are better handicappers out there than him.
Paul Groffie More than 1 year ago
While simplistic this year Christian only required an average of $8 win & place in the 45 races to win. Long shots required? Not really. Even if he only won 15 races he would have only required $24 w/p or 7 to 8 - 1 horses. That's what makes these tournaments exciting - you just never know what will work. I look forward to the next one and can only hope for the success Christian and Jose Arias had!
Christopher Falk More than 1 year ago
Playing longshots is a betting stratagy. It is prevalent in online contests. Hit a "bomb" and your way ahead. It might work in contests but not over the longrun betting at the track.Of course he'd like to change the format of the NHC to benefit himself. He could pick and chose which races lend themselves to longshots. I personally think he's a better self-promoter than a allround handicapper. elpasochris
Jason STRICKLAND More than 1 year ago
Obviously you are not a handicapper part of handicapping is picking which races to pass and which to play. How challenging is betting a mandatory 6 horse race with 2 scratches at Aqueduct with a 2/5 favorite you know you can't beat? How is passing a crap race self serving?
Starks43 More than 1 year ago
I was there and he was definitely impressive. Seems like a nice enough guy to me. The one thing in this article that shocked me was this. "I missed three winners that I didn't put on my ticket – one because I showed up late, one because I got shut out, and one because I didn't notice my horse's odds drift up from 7-1 to 14-1". I mean I know he won and has a better resume then most but all three of those are rookie mistakes. Frankly was shocked to see. Guess the other side of this is how good he could be if he takes care of the simpler stuff
gus stewart More than 1 year ago
younger people that are into horse racing usually find other things to do after handicapping for 5 hour maybe a little socialization like with some ladies. Like I did when I was younger and played horses and tours. Never won one, but had some fun after hours and after tour. Yea he missed three bets and I do believe that was no bs that they all won .Seems like he is the horse whisperer for now!!!!!!
Paul Groffie More than 1 year ago
On Saturday I missed a race when the machines went down briefly. So it could happen even if you are doing the right thing. Chris seemed cool enough when we talked and you could tell after the first day he was in some sort of zone. Saturday was an amazing day with the crappy weather and the strange horses winning races. Chris's total was pretty low considering.
Pom DeTerre More than 1 year ago
He didn't notice his horses odds doubled??? I think he's spending too much time hanging around the ladies room.
Wiredfigs More than 1 year ago
Love the Guru! Congrats! Hope to meet & shake your hand sometime this year!
Pom DeTerre More than 1 year ago
I believe that you meant to say "gurilla""
jackdsplns More than 1 year ago
Congrats to Christian. He's a bit eccentric but he seems a nice guy. The whole cast of the Horseplayers show are all likable people except the dude with the cowboy hat who was obnoxious and arrogant. The one beef I have with the show is they don't accurately portray the long losing streaks every horse player goes through. Watching this show you would think Christian, the Rotundos and the rest of the cast win consistently and never go through slumps. I agree with Christian that you should be able to pick any horse from any track in the country for these tournaments. No designated races for all the contestants.
Boyd Cord More than 1 year ago
Cox is scared, exactly as Hellmers indicates. I'll never have the Big Ba??s Hellmers has. I'll just keep chugging along with my small bets, making my 20-40%. .At least Cox came up with the nickname 'Oddball' always makes me thing of Donald Sutherland in the Clint Eastwood move , Hellmers to a Tee. Wonder if Bernier wants to go in on a ticket now?
Boyd Cord More than 1 year ago
Neither do the Poker TV shows do the long losing streaks every poker player goes through and the amount of time they spend at the table.