Winner’s Never Quit

We’re all glued to the screen when “Horseplayers” comes on the Esquire Network. It’s a solid show that gives you a glimpse behind the world of contest play, and follows some of the best handicappers in the world. Now, if you noticed I said SOME of the best players. Not to take a cheap shot at any of the on-screen talent, but there are a bevy of players who can win any contest. They were playing long before the show was on-air, and will be bringing the heat each and every time. The Horse Player World Series is held at the Orleans Casino in Las Vegas, and by now you have read the “Guru” Christian Hellmers has won the contest. He took down $269,640 for his winning efforts, and this guy can handicap. There are some that just have the knack, and others that are not afraid to swing for the fences. I think he fits both categories, and his latest victory was enough to keep him in eucalyptus and magic magnets for a hundred-years.

This year there were 749 handicappers playing in the HPWS. They do their homework, and bring the methods to their madness. I wanted to follow a long time contest player. One who is versed and ready to take his shot at any opportunity. His name is Les Instone, and he has played in the HPWS eight times. He won his entry on Horse Tourneys, and the package included a $500 travel voucher, and a four-night stay at the Orleans. Here is a glimpse at his bio:

Les Instone is in VIP Services with, and has been with Bloodstock Research and since 1996. He hosted handicapping seminars at Keeneland for 13 years, and was tournament director forĀ the first seven years of Keeneland’s handicapping contests.

The contest offers cash prizes for the final top 60 players, and cash prizes for the top ten each day. You could say there’s quite a bit of money on the line, and every player who is sitting in the ballrooms know what’s at stake. Les came in to day #1 with a plan of making $1,800 as a first day goal, as each player has to make $600 in mythical wagers each of the three days. That’s a total of $1,800 for the contest, and each handicapper will make a $20 win and place bet on 15 player selected contest wagers daily. Day #1 allows you to get on your feet, and adjust as needed. It’s always good to have a plan, and it’s even better to follow your plan. Les did just that, and the leader after day #1 had $1,800. His score was not his best effort yielding only $40 for the day. But his optimism and focus had him ready to begin day #2. If you can take anything from day one, it’s that his projections were correct, and the adjusting part was going to be employed.

Les was up and ready at 5:30 am Pacific Time, and this was after a long night of making adjustments and doing homework. He gets to the ballroom at 8:45 am, and if you have ever played in a three-day contest, it can take a toll. Real players eat and breathe the competition, and you won’t catch many on the strip doing up the town. – His day was focusing on false favorites, and beating the chalk can get you caught up in a hurry. He found a 3-5 shot in the 4th race at Laurel, and looked to beat the vulnerable chalk. He was right, but selected the wrong big price runner to win. “You can’t panic or become desperate. Keep your cool and your selections will start to fall into place.” With a slow start to day #1, he adjusted his daily win projection to be $2,500 to get back in the game. There weren’t many price plays for day#2, but he found a solid (9-2) and (8-1) shots to give him a total of $445 for the two days. The wagering was effected by bad weather, and Fair Grounds cancelled the day before the Louisiana Derby card. This can make it tough to handicap as you may have had your big money plays on the FG card.

Day #3 ushered in a early start to watch the Dubai World Cup races. This was a time to make some cash wagers on his Twin Spires account, and get his day started with positive mojo. The third day of the contest was a much improved effort, but far from the needed $3,559.20 that catapulted Christian Hellmers to win. This was much lower than Les’ projected amount of $1,800 per day, and now comes the time where you question your methods and figure out what went wrong. Handicappers are a breed unto themselves, and are never satisfied without makingĀ  adjustments for future contests. Les said, “The three-day format can be exhausting and overwhelming to some.” But the true handicapper congratulates the winner, and began making plans for the next contest. That’s what it takes. Playing in a contest format and playing for money are like apples and bowling balls. Les Instone is a true handicapper, and he’ll come prepared every time. No excuses, and no second guesses. He knows the rules all too well, and he’ll be back. That’s one sure thing you can bet on.