04/06/2017 11:46AM

Malone parlays $12 on DRFT into $5k at HPWS

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Last weekend at the Horse Player World Series, John Malone demonstrated how it’s supposed to work. A few weeks ago, he played in a $12 feeder on DRF Tournaments and he ended up leaving the Orleans with more than $5,000.

“I’d been playing credit builders and saw that one contest up for the Horse Player World Series and thought give it a shot,” said the 64-year-old project manager for Panel Truss of Texas who lives in Henderson.

He headed out to Vegas feeling like he was already a big winner. “I was on y’all’s dime so I felt like I was $2,500 to the good before I walked into the tournament,” he explained.

The town where Malone went to school is small – 989 people – and he lived on the outskirts of that town, “So you can tell how country I am,” he said.

Malone had played in a few live tournaments before but always in small fields where he knew at least a few people. The contest room at the Orleans was another world. “I was a little intimidated,” he admitted. “It seemed like everybody else knew each other. I was like the kid at the birthday party who only got invited because he was in third grade too.”

Malone studied hard for day one and went in brimming with confidence. “I felt like I was South Carolina at the Final Four,” he said. “I wasn’t supposed to be there but now that I was, why not have some fun?”

He sat at a table and people were immediately friendly and Malone made fast friends. By the tournament’s end, Malone had made a bunch of new friends at his table and beyond. “They were all horseplayers just like I was,” he said. “We stayed up at night talking horses and keeping it loose.”

Day one didn’t go as planned, so he took a more relaxed approach to his study on day two -- less handicapping, more nickel keno -- and lo and behold it worked. He shot up the leaderboard and ended up cashing for $3,100 in day money.

He kept that pattern going for Friday, going to see Ron White instead of studying, and he had a good Saturday as well. In the end, he finished 29th overall for another $1,700. Of course, he wouldn’t be a horseplayer without a “what-if” element to his tale. He had a tip on a horse at Oaklawn which he bet with real money, but in the contest he mistakenly punched his ticket for Fair Grounds instead. “That’s the only time in my life I ever cashed for $1,800 and still felt sick to my stomach,” he said.

He estimates that had he bet the horse in the contest like he’d meant to, he’d have ended up fourth for considerably more money, but that didn’t diminish the experience one bit.

“I’ve played horses for 30 years and this was a highlight,” he said, “whether or not I qualify I’m going back next year without a doubt.”