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Horseplayer FAQs: On-Track Contest Experience
Credit: Mike Somich

Horseplayer FAQs: On-Track Contest Experience

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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If you are new to this series, welcome! I recommend first reading my prior articles because they build upon each other:

  1. Horseplayer FAQs: What are They?
  2. Horseplayer FAQs: Contest Strategies and Where to Begin
  3. Horseplayer FAQs: What is the NHC Tour?
  4. Horseplayer FAQs: Developing Tournament Strategies
  5. Horseplayer FAQs: Which Contest Should I Choose?
  6. Horseplayer FAQs: Live Bankroll Strategy
  7. Horseplayer FAQs: Profiling Alan and Tyler Hoffman
  8. Horseplayer FAQs: Preparing for a Contest

For this week’s article, I wanted to reflect on my recent on-track live bankroll contest experience. Thanks to a 15/1 upset winner in the final race on Belmont Stakes (G1) day, I earned an entry into the Lone Star Park Spring Betting Challenge a week later. Time for my first trip to Grand Prairie, Texas!

As I described in my last article, preparation is absolutely key for live bankroll contests, especially ones held at locations that I have never visited (like Lone Star Park) I finished most of my handicapping before boarding my plane Friday night, and by the time that we touched down, I was comfortable with my contest selections. Saturday’s first post of 3:00 PM meant that I had plenty of time to map out my day.

I enjoy handicapping from my laptop, so I chose the first empty table I found, but my views of the track and television monitors were far from optimal. I moved to an open spot close to the window – then realized why no one else was sitting here. The heat was bad, but the humidity was flat-out disrespectful; even the hard-working air conditioner was no match for the Texas sun.

I finally landed at another empty table, not far from my original choice, but with a different view. To most, this ordeal might not sound like a big deal, but my anxiety multiplies in public settings, so choosing a comfortable spot is critical.

Credit: Sean Alvarez

This contest required betting the entire $1,000 bankroll over the course of the day’s first six races, then bet 50% of whatever was left across the final three. I structured my gameplan and bets accordingly, but since I did not hold a strong opinion in the first contest race, I watched Los Alamitos instead. I had a small stake in one of the runners, Awesome Drive, who won (if only THAT had been a contest race).

My thoughts were to play smaller exactas ($50 base) and only with my stronger opinions. I passed on some early races because my opinions were on short-priced favorites (all of them won), and though I felt good about my decisions, I kept running second and third in my exactas all day.

I hit enough small bets that I still had a fighting chance going into the final three races. I skipped the first two because my strongest opinion of the day was in the finale on a stretch-out sprinter with a 10/1 morning line.

Because I skipped some races, I took time to enjoy the Lone Star Park grounds, which I found to be well-cared and even more gorgeous in person than on television. I watched some races from the balcony and enjoyed the energy of other contestants rooting home their selections.

Credit: Sean Alvarez

As the horses loaded into the gate for the nightcap, I saw the price for my top choice (the 9) cut in half to 5/1, but I played a few prices underneath that would still be enough to get me the contest win. My best shot was the 3 finishing second at 8/1.

The 9 broke straight to the lead by a length, and the 3 soon sat a great tracking trip. Knowing that the turf course favored speed, I felt like I was in a perfect position. Turning for home, the 9 looked unbeatable, but the stretch out ultimately got to her and the 3 had enough left in the tank to stride by for the victory.

The result ended 3-9 when a reverse order might have won me the contest. If I was in a better position bankroll-wise, I could have hedged, but I played my strongest opinion, and no matter if I was right or wrong, it was the correct decision.

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As the day at the track came to a close, I took in the rest of Lone Star Park’s surroundings before heading back to my hotel. Even though I did not win or even get the chance to go out and explore the area, my overall experience was great.

Flying back home on Sunday, I reflected on my strategy and looked for where I could have done better. I talked with Frank Grybowski, Jr., who raised a good point about using Show bets to stay alive until the final three races, a very similar strategy that I used during the “LRF Cares” contest (read more about that here).

While I may have had some flaws in my strategy, it still came down to not having the winner in the final race. I really liked the 3 for second, perhaps so much so that I overlooked her for the win, but I would still make the same decision. I had a strong opinion and I played it.

Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose; the key is to learn from both. I got to experience a new track while meeting other dedicated and passionate horseplayers. I have no regrets.

The final results (I’ll get ’em next time)

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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