December 2, 2023

Eliminate max entries for NHC

The 18th annual National Handicapping Championship is this weekend in Las Vegas, and many of the best handicappers and contest players will descend on Sin City not only for a chance at millions in prize money but also bragging rights that last a lifetime.

Unfortunately, some of those aforementioned “best handicappers and contest players” aren’t actually in the NHC because they’re nameless silent partners of those who are.

It’s time to alleviate some of this, and one way to do it is to eliminate max entries in all tournaments. Rather than let players gerrymander the system by qualifying spouses, siblings, and friends, just let everyone play as much as they want and qualify as much as they want, and that’s that.

I’m not accusing anyone of doing anything wrong here. If I had the means to focus on the tour and NHC, I absolutely would try to qualify everyone and my mother to get the max opportunity to do well. Sure, it would sting a little bit if it weren’t my name on that big check, but my mom’s not Perry Martin. I’m sure she’d thank me at some point.

But it’s just silly not to let people play their entries in their own names. Not only does it benefit them but also helps the transparency of the contest. Juggling multiple entries is strategy; conspiring with another person is collusion.

I also like that no maximum on entries adds to the ease of keeping track of statistics—both from a personal milestone standpoint as well as an ROI standpoint. It looks real good when someone dual qualifies every year and has a couple cashes until you realize s/he actually has qualified 15 times through various people and has likely lost a lot of money.

Again, that’s not meant as a criticism. People spend thousands trying to improve their golf game and still suck. It’s about enjoying the rush of a winning selection, the camaraderie of horse playing, and going after the big score, and it’s OK if that’s not always a profitable experience, but the players who are profitable and do well deserve that recognition, too, and it’s harder to come by without a clear accounting of actual appearances and cashes.

The National Handicapping Championship is one of racing’s most innovative creations. It was ahead of the poker tournament and daily fantasy booms and ushered in its own era of contest play. The next step is to eliminate max entries and account for everyone’s participation.

4 Comments on Eliminate max entries for NHC

  1. Thanks for speaking up about this, Ed. There’s no doubt that people using ‘beards’ to increase their entries has been an issue for some time – most active players know of at least one of the big offenders. There’s prize money involved, of course, but also reputation – to me it would be sweet irony/payback for one of these guys to have their shill win the Eclipse, and have to watch them accept the prize for their accomplishment. Michael Pirrung

    • I’m sorry but removing the “max” entry rule would completely destroy a tournament like this..It would not be the best handicapper winning. It would be the best “numbers” player..Ya lets give $1,ooo,000 or $2,000,000 to a person who
      “blankets” the field through multiple entres..Have you not visited the “tournament” platform website “123bet” ? It is a bunch of so called handicappers who literally blanket multiple combinations as much as, 100 to 150 combinations regularly making it a complete numbers game. These tournaments should be “one” entry only!!! This is a handicapping contest right ?? You put your best choice foreward. With all considered !!! The players who cheat with multiple entries should be barred all together.. I have been handicapping horses for more than 40 years..Born and raised on the track..owner of 36 race horses ,,,exercise boy, groom love the people, love the sport..lift the “max” rule and ruin the integrity of the game..SORRY

  2. Another factor of the Handicapping Tournament needing adjustment is the actual art of picking winners. The way it is now set is nothing more than picking bombs to accrue points/dollars. Games have been played with owners/trainers before and in the future.
    Why not give every entrant 10 bet slips (or however many). If you win, you get the value points or dollars and get another slip. After you are out of slips, done final.
    If some guy can find 35 even money shots in a row that win, that is as impressive to me if not more than a guy who can find 2 bombs in a day’s card. Let it be about picking winners, not just finding bombs.

  3. Ed, I’m so glad you addressed this issue and I agree with you 100% because this is one of my pet peeves. Making the NHC fully transparent when it comes to who’s actually entered and playing for a seat at the Final Table is paramount because I know of at least one beard that made it to the final table.

    Like Michael Pirrung said “There’s no doubt that people using ‘beards’ to increase their entries has been an issue for some time.” Some of the biggest offenders look like The Oak Ridge Boys or the Robertson family from Duck Dynasty. I remember a qualifier about 6 years ago at Monmouth where one of the biggest barbers bused in numerous beards when one entry was the max. There was a woman in a walker and a woman with 2 kids in strollers. He even assisted them at the wagering machines.

    I know many of the beards and also know their barbers. The ones I know are good people forced to exploit the current rules. Years ago the beards only came into the NHC ballroom to eat but at least many of them are now in the ballroom all day and actually placing the bets chosen for them by their barbers. I would rather get beaten by someone playing 4 allowed entries than someone who didn’t qualify but their wife’s 2 entries finished in front of me. In a perfect world beards would grow (no pun intended) to love the sport, learn to handicap, qualify to the NHC and win for themselves and not someone else.

    Eliminating the max entries would make the NHC more credible and less frustrating when players know the people in front of them actually know the clubhouse isn’t the name of a new night club. I believe it will dramatically reduce the number of beards but some moustaches and goatees will still exist because “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”

    Another change I would support wholeheartedly is making the NHC a live money contest. It may never happen but would better gauge ones handicapping skills because true handicappers don’t go to the track and wager on a 12 horse maiden race with 8 firsters.

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