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 reading my prior articles first 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

By now, you should have a basic understanding of horseplayer tournaments, you know which type is better based on your style and how you define success, and you developed a strategy for trying a live bankroll contest. It is almost time for your first try, so how should you prepare for it?

Live bankroll contests, especially the on-track events, can be overwhelming, but the sharp players are ready for whatever situations present throughout the day.

As I mentioned in a previous article (Live Bankroll Strategy), each contest has a different set of rules and mandatory wagers that must be made to avoid being disqualified. However, that does not mean that you have to bet just to win – you can play with relatively low risk, too.

Though it will not help you retire, betting a consistently strong runner (like Midnight Bisou) to show can be a tactical advantage in contest plays where you do not have enough strong opinions (Credit: Coady Photography)

When I played in last year’s “LRF Cares” contest at Del Mar, I had to place five separate $50 wagers throughout the card. I only had two strong opinions that I wanted to hammer, so I needed to find three more plays. Instead of taking risky shots where I did not have strong opinions, my remaining three bets were all $50 to show on heavy favorites that I just could not see missing the board.

Heading into the last two races of the card, I was ready to press my two strong opinions and I had increased my bankroll to $300 (only $50 more than I started, but better than being bankrupt). I knew I would get to the top of the leaderboard if my opinions proved true.

First, I went all-in on a Ryan Hanson debut runner (he won), and then I really liked two longshots in the finale. They happened to run 1-2 and I hit both the win-bet and the exacta. That sequence turned $300 into over $3,600 and propelled me into a second-place finish. All because I maximized my strongest opinions and did NOT get unnecessarily risky.

Tying this back into the point of the article, once I create my strategy for the contest, I try to make the day as comfortable as possible. On-track contests are often held in remote places away from where you normally watch and wager.

Several things can go wrong within a contest room. Do you need power for a laptop? How many seats do you need? Has seating been assigned, or do you get to choose? I like getting to the track with plenty of time to not only find a comfortable seat, but to also understand the layout of where I will be spending most of my day.

Grabbing a drink, using the restroom, or heading down to the paddock can be a simple task on most days, but the 30 minutes between races goes a lot faster during a contest – especially toward the end.

With the proper prep work, not only do you have a better chance of doing well in the contest, but you can also enjoy the day more. Without fail, I see people still handicapping furiously with less than an hour until first post. Winning a contest this way is not impossible, but remember that you have to both handicap each race and figure out how to apply it to managing your bankroll.

Playing in an on-track contest is a fun experience, and the more prepared you are for it, then the more you will enjoy it. A great day of betting can be much more memorable if you have a good time along the way.

Sean (center) enjoying a day at the track with friends

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.