“Money won is twice as sweet as money earned” – Fast Eddie Felson. These words echo in every pool hall, race track, OTB, and anywhere a bet is made. It is the credo of gamblers since dice were thrown by Roman soldiers. – This weekend in Las Vegas, the 16th annual National Handicapping Championship. The Treasure Isle plays host to 601 of the best handicappers in the world, and with $2.3 million in purse monies and $800,000 going to the winner. You can imagine this is a life changing event.
I’ve been lucky enough to qualify for the NHC. It seems like five minutes ago, but I ventured out in 2005 to do battle. The first day was an average posting for me, and the second day had me watching from the cheap seats. If it were easy, everybody would do it. It was a time I wouldn’t trade for anything. Walking down the corridor to signup, talking to other players, the cocktail party. You could say I was pretty excited to be a part of the action. I was lucky enough to win my very first contest I ever played, and maybe I should’ve stopped after that. How many people do you know would have hung up their contest belt? Me neither, and I still play in some small satellite tournaments. I’ll get back into it in a big way in a few years. Right about the time my son graduates, and I’ll have more time on my hands than I know what to do. But for right now, just talking about the National Handicapping Championship is enough to get my blood pumping.
It has changed so much over the years, and the format is as follows: On each of the first two days of the tournament, players must make 15 $2 win-place bets. Eight of those races each day will be chosen by a selection committee and designated as mandatory. The mandatory races were scheduled to be announced Wednesday night. The other seven bets each day will be optional and can be placed on any race held at one of seven tracks: Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Oaklawn Park, Santa Anita, and Tampa Bay Downs.
After two days, the field will be down to a final 50. Unlike last year, this year players may advance two entries to the final 50. At the start of the day Sunday, the top 50 entries, whose scores will carry over, will play 10 optional races, concluding at approximately 3:30 p.m. Pacific. At that point, the top 10 players will advance to the final table, with scores once again carrying over. Players are allowed only one entry at the final table. In the unlikely event that a player gets two entries to the final table, the second entry will receive 11th-place money. Last year’s NHC saw the debut of the final-table format. There will be two tweaks at this year’s final table. Instead of five mandatory races, the final table will consist of seven mandatory races, allowing for more movement and drama. Also, the picks of the final-table contestants will not be revealed this year until after the gates have opened, according to the Daily Racing Form.
There will be a new wager on offer at the 16th Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, the richest horse-racing tournament of the year. For the first time, horseplayers will be able to bet on who will be the 2015 NHC champion thanks to a new bet offered at the Treasure Island Race & Sports Book, which is hosting the NHC for the fourth consecutive year. As of now, 365 players are listed, with most NHC participants available at odds of 100-1. The market is open now, and players are encouraged to bet on themselves. Bets must be made in person at Treasure Island in Las Vegas. The maximum payout on the wager is $5,000. – If the purse money wasn’t enough, you could make a wager on your favorite betting interest to take down the whole enchilada. It wouldn’t be me, if I didn’t swing for the fences and toss out my mind bet. I’ve looked over the field, and with great respect to all participants. Here are my four shots at handicapping the winner:
1. – Rich Nilsen = He is a 12 time qualifier to the contest and one helluva’ handicapper. His skill to break down the race for value is unmatched. His odds read +10,000, and if you get those, bet early and often! – Good luck, Richard!
2. Eric Moomey = He is double qualified, and that means he is eligible for the $2 million dollar bonus. I love to bet “fresh runners,” and he has come out of nowhere to be at the big dance. – If you need more convincing, you can listen, or go back to the Winning Ponies Internet Show podcast and hear how he plans to take it down! – Best of luck, Eric!
3. - Sally Goodall = She and her husband Rich know how to get to the winner’s circle. It’s time for a lady to wear the crown again, and who better than a seasoned player who won’t go away easily. – Good luck, Sally!
4. – Brian Troop = Winner of the 11th edition of the NHC/DRF Championship, this Canadian handicapper can put out your lights early if you don’t come prepared! – Good luck, Brian!
The contest world is one-of-a-kind. You’ll meet friends for life, and have a shot at a life changing score. You can follow DRF Live as they will be broadcasting each day, or catch updates on HRTV. For the players who like to put their money where their mouth is, you can join in and play on NHCQualify.com. You can download the Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms and kick off the handicapping year in fine fashion. Either way, this is a big weekend for racing and the eyes of handicappers far and wide will be locked on Las Vegas this weekend.