Monday, December 5, 2011

The Art of the Jab?

Entering the eleventh hour for National Handicapping Championship qualifying, the contest slate is getting eerily thin with four weeks to go in 2011, and NJ Horseplayer is not banking on booking reservations to the $2 million tournament in January.  (In all likelihood, it's the promise of a 2013 berth, likely to start at Monmouth Park's Simulcast Series Challenge next month.)

Nonetheless, I have already entered two "free" tournaments slated this weekend - Saturday's TVG Online Challenge and Sunday's NHC Tour Free Online Challenge. Mere puncher's chances.

Three NHC seats will be rewarded in each contest, and the chances of grabbing the brass ring are extremely slim, especially in TVG's tournament, which is open to NTRA Inside Track members and usually draws players with surnames such as YoMamasMustache and Richard Hertz.  Sunday's affair, meanwhile, is for any NHC Tour member who forked over the $45 annual membership fee.  History as a guide, there will be about 2,000 participants in these two contests, making a Top 3 finish quite miraculous.  With a prior family commitment on Saturday, I'll be handicapping and entering selections for the TVG contest on Friday night, but hope to participate live on Sunday and make changes on the fly, as if that will matter based on my 2011 tournament track record.

NHCQualify...working that jab
Anyway, something this afternoon caught my eye and that of pal Red Rock or Bust in the run-up to this weekend's freebie contests - a snarky email from, pitching its own $150 contests scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.  As much as I credit for cutting the entry fees from $400 events to $150 (for up to six NHC seats, instead of the usual 10), at the same time I was taken aback by the tone of the tournament host's message:


Sure, 1 NHC spot for every 50 player as opposed to every 300 or 400 players is far a more attractive mathematical proposition.  However, and perhaps I am being too sensitive or reading too much into a simple marketing message, but I would like to see tournament organizers not take such jabs at other contest venues.  Implying that a "free" tournament as run by TVG or free for NHC Tour members is of a lesser ilk does nothing to promote the thoroughbred handicapping contest circuit, and in my view comes off as somewhat amateurish.  Too, I'm sure there are players who have already qualified for the NHC and may want to accrue NHC Tour points or experiment with new strategies in a "free" tournament...or others who are financially strapped in a lackluster economy but want to participate for the love of the contest action.

There is absolutely nothing wrong, in my view, entering any such contest, no matter the reason.  The contest circuit is niche at best, so the last thing any contest site -- particularly in an industry with such meager brand identity overall -- should do is disparage the other venues and potentially turn off customers to the industry.  The growth of the online contest circuit, to the contrary, can only invite more players into a wonderful sport that is now barely a blip in the sports and wagering industries.

I like and, again, have written favorably about the site before, but would argue -- not to get all Kumbaya on readers -- next time for a message that focuses on the value of its own tournaments without disparaging other contest sites.  I am, admittedly, a newcomer to the circuit, but would rather see tournament organizers work in conjunction with one another to plot out tournament schedules that do not conflict with each other (i.e. avoiding a day with one on-track contest and three concurrent online contests).  Unlike the various state racing commissions that the thoroughbred racing media and horseplayers often pan for their protectionist and self-serving ways, I would like to see tournament organizers take the highest road in their efforts to promote the handicapping contest product on a broad industry scale.

Let's see what happens when the 2012 tournament schedule is announced.  Maybe we'll have fewer scheduling conflicts and increasing opportunities to participate in handicapping tournaments for spots in NHC for years to come.

1 comment:

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