How did you get into horse racing? My older brother Mark got me interested in the game. I tagged along on a trip to Turfway Park for the 1997 Kentucky Derby. He ended up hitting the Derby trifecta, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t cash a ticket all day. But, I was hooked from that moment on, and gradually became more and more interested in racing and handicapping. I love the challenge and competition. It’s like trying to solve a puzzle and I think it helps keep my mind sharp.
Why play handicapping contests? I honestly didn’t know contests existed until last spring. I joined Twitter and started following fellow horseplayers, and kept seeing discussions about contests, so I decided to give it a shot. I started with some smaller stakes tournaments as I’m sure most people do, and eventually won a few here and there. Although I do play on other sites today, Derby Wars is still my favorite – I love their interface and variety of games.
Do you play more parimutuel now that you are in contests? I definitely play less in the parimutuel pools these days. Honestly, I’m a much better handicapper than I am bettor. Ticket structure, especially in the horizontals, is not my strong suit. What I enjoy about tournaments is you still have the opportunity of making a large score, but you don’t have to outlay very much capital. You also are able to spread that excitement and competition out over a number of races and hours.
What is your biggest win or most memorable day? My biggest win in contest play to date was $10,000 in a Derby Wars Saturday game last fall. I qualified for the NHC Thanksgiving weekend (the first time I had tried, unbelievably), and then I won the Derby Wars game the following weekend. That was an amazing two weeks, needless to say. Then, I couldn’t pick a winner to save my life from that moment through the NHC. I’m amazed at the people who are at the top of the leaderboards each and every week. I’m definitely streaky. Another memorable day was obviously last Saturday. I qualified again for the NHC, finished in the top 10 in the Derby Wars Saturday game, and cashed a couple of very nice bets, including a $.50 tri for $6 that paid over $500, and a $1 tri for $10 that paid over $2,700. (Kind of kicking myself for not playing bigger on those).
What changes would you like to see in the contest arena? I think the main contest sites are doing a great job listening to and adapting to players wishes. I like that Derby Wars is offering more high stakes games, and I think the new exacta box games at Horse Tourneys are really innovative. I thought it was great that BetAmerica offered a large, no rake tournament recently on their site as well. I have a soft spot for BetAmerica – that’s where I qualified for the NHC last year, and their staff is awesome. I know there is a lot of chatter about the stabbing that goes on at the end of tournaments. I’ve both lost and benefited from said stabs, and unfortunately they are just part of the contest game. I would like to see an occasional lock-down game in a larger Derby Wars game, but I understand that the event becomes a lot less exciting in a lot of ways. I just feel that lockdown games are a truer indicator of handicapping skill. That being said, I stink at them.
Do you feel that an educational site like TheTournamentEdge.net has helped your game? I’m a huge believer in the more information the better. I think sites like TTE definitely give players a leg up on the competition. I’ve been handicapping for over 20 years, and I am still learning new things every day. I also think you can learn a lot from watching how/what the top players pick, especially in end game situations. When I’m in a tournament that’s what I inevitably do – scan the leaderboard to see which horse those top players picked and try to decipher why they made that pick.
What’s ahead for you in the contest world? I would love to gain another entry into next year’s NHC, but I’m not going to stress out about it. If it happens, it happens. I did so poorly in last year’s NHC, my goal is obviously to do better and to make it to the final day. I will also continue to concentrate on the higher stakes games, and hopefully win another one sometime soon.
I’d like to personally thank Steve for taking the time to share some of his experiences in the handicapping tournament world.
All of us at TheTournamentEdge.net wish Steve continued success!