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Horseplayer Contests FAQs: Live Bankroll Strategy
Credit: Mike Somich

Horseplayer Contests FAQs: Live Bankroll Strategy

With horse racing taking center stage in the gambling industry, many new players are seeing online contests but have no idea what they are or even how to begin playing. Even longtime bettors may have never tried contests, perhaps from a lack of information or popular myths surrounding them.

Each week, I will answer frequently asked questions about horseplayer contests and provide quality information so that you can feel confident about entering them.

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My first article explained where to find horse racing contests and the difference between the two formats most often used. My second article discussed the handicapping techniques that tend to produce contest victories and the importance of sticking to your own opinions. My third article took a look at the NHC Tour, its benefits, and how tournament players qualify for the NHC finals. My fourth article dove into the ways in which handicapping for contests differs from a normal betting day. My fifth article helped you decide which contest you should choose based on what you want to accomplish (other than win, of course).

I previously mentioned how I believe that feeding into “Live Bankroll” contests offer the best value in the tournament world, and while feeding into these contests and earning a free entry is great, it is important to understand the strategy required to win.

First and foremost, you need to understand the contest rules because most require that you bet a certain number of races at a specific dollar amount. If you miss one of the requirements, then you will be disqualified from the contest prizes, regardless of where you finish. Smart tournament players use these to their advantage in cards where they only have a few strong opinions.

In July of 2019, I entered a Little Red Feather Cares contest at Del Mar that gave each entry a $250 bankroll. We were required to make five bets of at least $50 throughout the entire race card, essentially forcing us to bet our entire bankrolls within those five races. The best chance of winning these types of contests is to only bet your strongest opinions.


On this particular day, I only had two strong opinions, but I needed to place at least three more bets – at $50 each – just to remain qualified. My first three $50 bets were American Anthem to show (which paid $2.10), Catalina Cruiser to place ($2.10), and S Y Sky to show ($2.60). I was not trying to make money, just satisfy a requirement while keeping my head above water.

Sitting on $270 with my two strongest opinions coming in the last two races of the card, this is when things got interesting. I put my entire bankroll on a first-time 2-year-old starter out of the Brian Koriner barn, who won at 2.2/1. After she won, I found myself in second place with one race to go, and not many of the other entries had a chance to catch me because they did not do well earlier in the card.

At this point, it was important that I kept a level head and stuck to the gameplan that I mapped out in when handicapping the card. I really liked two horses that each had an 8/1 morning line, so I played them both on top and added two underneath in exactas and trifectas. Ronald R wound up winning at 13.8/1 and Battle of Memphis finished second at 5.9/1, an exacta that paid $95.90 for $1. Once the dust settled, my final bankroll of $3,640.40 was good enough for second in the final standings, which gave me my berth in the NHC.

Whether you buy into a contest or feed into it with a free entry, it is important to go into the race card with the idea that going home empty is okay. While that is never the right goal, that mindset will free your mind so that you can bet your own opinions, giving you the best chance to win. I was able to turn $250 into $3,640.40 within two bets on a 10-race card.

Imagine what you could do with your opinions? 

Paul Matties after winning the 2016 NHC (Credit:

Feel free to let me know what questions you want answered in future articles over the coming weeks, and remember: There is only one way to ensure you will not do well in contests, and that is to not try.

Sean Alvarez is a regular on the horseplayer tournament circuit. Follow him on Twitter @smoothturn2.

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