01/19/2017 3:23PM

Last two chances to qualify for NHC

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And then there were two.

A crowd of approximately 650 horseplayers and their guests are about to descend on Treasure Island in Las Vegas for the National Handicapping Championship. The world’s richest horse race betting contest – with its expected purse of $2.5 million – starts next week, from Jan. 27-28.

Players still looking to qualify have two opportunities this weekend, only at DRF Tournaments, which can be found at tournaments.drf.com.

Saturday’s contest is of the all-in variety, meaning that all picks must be in before the scheduled post time of the first race. All-in events are popular with a segment of players for a few different reasons. For one, they allow you to have a life. Rather than spending your Saturday afternoon (into early evening on the East coast) managing your selections, you can put in your picks and be done with it.

All-in contests are also popular because they take the option of blindly playing longshots to catch up late in the contest off the table. If you play a longshot in an all-in, you really have to like that longshot. Saturday’s event has a buy-in of $300 and one in 38 entries will advance to the NHC.

Sunday’s contest follows the more traditional online “live” format where picks can be changed along the way. The live format allows for a lot more strategy and game theory. It’s fun to maneuver and puzzle out the right picks along the way according to where you are in the standings. Sunday’s “last chance” online qualifier costs $400, but the ratio of qualifiers to entries improves to one in 28.

Also this weekend, DRF Tournaments will be hosting the final round one Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier for January. On Saturday, players can put up $200 and if they finish in the top 20 percent of entries, they’ll advance to the round two contest on Sunday. Out of round two, up to eight players will win their full $10,000 entries to the 2017 BCBC. The BCBC is the world’s most prestigious live-bankroll contest. Unlike the NHC, which uses a mythical-money format, the BCBC allows you to bet real money over the two days of the Breeders’ Cup.

Newer tournament players looking to get a feel for what contest play is all about may want to check out some of the lower buy-in options that DRFT provides. In most weeks, there are contests from Wednesday through Sunday. This week’s lowest buy-in was just $11. Players can participate in feeders, credit builders or match up contests (against just one other play) and use their winnings to fund future contest play.

For more information, go to tournaments.drf.com.