Monday, September 12, 2011

Considering a "Place" Contest Strategy

A recent hiatus in live-money handicapping contest play, a few very near misses in this weekend's Public Handicapper online contest, and some dabbling with Equibase's free handicapping tournament has heightened my consideration of a strategy based on place wagers in this Sunday's (September 18) $200 Monmouth-Woodbine Handicapping Challenge at Monmouth Park.

NJ Horseplayer considers bucking
the "no guts, no glory" lure of
handicapping contests
(The $100 bankroll and $100 buy-in tournament mandates that players make at least 5 wagers on each track in order to qualify for the 2 NHC berths up for grabs). 

In my small sample of live-money contest participation (maybe 8-10, all at Monmouth, in the last 2-3 years), impatience and greed have at times gotten the best of me - i.e., playing too many races on a multi-track card, solely making win wagers on long-shots rather than building a bankroll throughout the day merely to survive and make one well-place wager toward the end.  To be sure, I observed two top finishers from Monmouth's simulcast contests last winter about double their $100 starting bankroll and hit nicely with a $200 bet in the final contest race.

Now, granted, any contest success comes down to excellent handicapping, but bankroll management and timing of making a "big" bet are equally important.

Results from my Equibase contest picks (under tfbill, if the link does not work) two days ago got me to analyzing a "what if" scenario.  Assuming a $100 contest bankroll and $20 place wagers down the line on each of the eight contest races (four each from Kentucky Downs and Belmont Park), I would have netted $177, with four second-place finishers paying $8.40, $6.70, $3.80 and $2.80.  As only two of those four horses won their races, a combination of $10 win-place wagers would have netted less.

Granted, hypothetically speaking, five straight losses would make for a short contest day, but a 77% return without a win bet is a tempting proposition, considering the minimization of risk and my endorsement of long-shots.

I tinkered in one contest with win-show strategies to no avail; typically, the show payouts, even on some longer-priced horses, were not enough to justify embracing such a strategy, in my view.  The show bet would serve well in terms of capital preservation (i.e. holding onto a top-3 spot toward the end of a contest card) but not accrual.  Place wagering, based on my simple Equibase analysis, might prove more beneficial to contest players like me, who can always find value but are inexperienced in bankroll management and do not necessarily like to stick to the sidelines in races with deep fields.

Please share your thoughts on this notion, and whether anyone has had success or failure with place-focused wagering or contest strategy.


  1. I don't recall ever reading a contest recap where the winner gave credit to a place strategy.
    I suspect such a strategy would increase your chances of being alive late in the day, but alive more as in able to vault into the top 10 with a big late-day win, rather than top 3 or so. Unless you have a great day with multiple decent priced placers,I just don't think your ammo going into the last race would compare favorably with the ammo of players who had some win winners over the course of the day -- and there will always be people in that situation.
    That said, it's worth a try. it would also be interesting to do some additional back-testing on previous contests you've played, if you still have that info.

  2. I know Christos apostolos,he is the best handicapper I ever met.He was the one who took down the Monmouth park SSC with a $1000.00 place bethe's headed to Vegas in january.He is a tight mouthed loner.Tough to get info from him

  3. Anonymous, I recall his name and contest victory, but I'm figuring he used the place bet as a means of cash preservation in the contest. Was that the case?

    Terry, I'm thinking that being alive late in the day is not bad strategy as you can attest. A well-placed $100W/$100P wager, for instance, can yield a nice payout on horse 5-1 or above - those in my wheelhouse.

  4. Christos is a real expert on short price horse's.I've never seen anyone like him,as i recall he calculated the last race of that tournament to one of his racetrack friends,telling him the favorite having a 75% chance of finishing first or second,Thus building for the $1000.00 place wager.I've never seen anyone so brillant on short price horses,it's beyond me.So real money tournaments are to his advantage.All i can say is your going to have your hands full with Christos if he keeps going to the monmouth park Contest next winter.I know there is also a need for luck in these tournaments too.Good luck on your Quest to the finals