12/29/2016 2:25PM

Matties, Kinchen top NHC wager

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Treasure Island, the host hotel for the National Handicapping Championship, has opened up betting on the world’s richest horse racing tournament. On the opening line, last year’s champion, Paul Matties, and last year’s NHC tour champion, Jonathon Kinchen, open the lowest of any individual entrants at 50-1.

All players receiving a berth (or two) to the NHC before Oct. 31 receive individual entries. Players who earned their first seat after that date are listed as part of the field. The field opened as the 4-1 favorite and was quickly backed down to 7-2.

Generally speaking, one-entry players opened at 200-1, and two-entry contestants at 100-1. Certain players were afforded even more respect. This year’s tour heroes Cheryl McIntyre and Joe Pettit are among those listed at 75-1, along with tourney world mainstays like Duke Matties, Bill and Paul Shurman, Dennis Decauwer, and Roger Cettina, who was second twice in this event.

Two names leap off the page in terms of potential value plays. Act quickly because the prices are sure to contract as soon as they see action.

Christian Hellmers, acknowledged as one of the best tournament players around is double-barreled and 100-1. He’s known more for his live-bank prowess, but his win in the Horse Player World Series a few years back and his outright win in one of the NTRA free online contests last year show he’s not a one-trick pony.

Tony Zhou (pronounced JOE) has proved his mettle on the NHC tour throughout 2016. He’s another who is known more for live-bank play, but his quant approach can't be ruled out in a contest that requires so many optional plays. He has two entries and opened 125-1.

The NHC betting is clearly more meant for fun than it is intended as a serious wager. Many players have enjoyed the thrill of going up to a sports book window and betting on themselves. But last year, for Paul Matties, that gesture proved remunerative. He bet $100 on himself at 100-1, netting an additional $10,000.

In the first year of NHC betting back in 2015, the field triumphed. It opened at 7-1 but ended up going off the 5-2 favorite. Five of the players at the final table qualified via the tour and were part of the field. Last year the field only had one spot at the final table.

The published sheet covers approximately 440 of the NHC entries. At least another 200 entries are expected on top of that, some of which will be second entries and others will be players who earned their seats from Nov. 1 on.

The NHC takes place at Treasure Island from Jan. 27-29.

Final qualifier for tour points

The final opportunity for NHC tour players to get points online takes place this Saturday on DRF Tournaments. Buy-in is $300 and up to eight winning packages will be on offer (one for every 38 entries). Winning packages include a berth to the NHC, $1,000 in travel, and a four-night stay at Treasure Island. The top 10 percent of finishers will receive tour points.

For more information, including a full list of tournaments taking place this weekend, check out tournaments.drf.com.