The NHC Tour is a churn-based business, and most of us recognize and accept that, as it caters -- whether fairly or not as an assessment of the best handicappers -- to the volume player.
Folks like me who play for entertainment purposes and aren't double- and triple-entered in handicapping tournaments each weekend can't compete for year-end cash prizes for landing in the Top 20 of the Tour leaderboard, let alone make the Top 150. Those inside that latter benchmark make the $2.9 million NHC championship each February in Las Vegas, regardless of whether they've won a tournament outright or not. The reward is consistency over a full season, and it's enough of a carrot for some players to play in more tournaments.
Plus, as the NHC Tour still hasn't broken the $3 million purse value despite having 100 more qualifiers to Las Vegas than just three years ago, I've got my doubts about a presumably high takeout that more than a few followers have addressed online. To me, it begs the question of whether the Tour is truly growing (i.e. more players qualifying for Vegas but a relatively static total purse and top prize) and has a true value proposition that's largely being return to the players. Or are members funding NTRA salaries and industry lobbying?
It also raises some questions about three notable changes in the Tour's leaderboard-points system:
- Points accrual will expand to each player's 7 top tournament scores instead of 6.
- "Free" NHC qualifiers that host more than 1,000 players will cap the Tour-point payout to the 100 top finishers, rather than to the top 10% for such tournaments.
- Creation of a "separate" Top 50 leaderboard for those who've yet to directly qualify for Vegas by winning a qualifying tournament.
Top 7 vs. Top 6 Scores
Adding yet another tournament score will widen the chasm between full- and part-time players.
In 2017, it took 18,825 Tour points, and who knows how much money, to win the regular-season scoring title, worth a $100,000 prize and potential $2 million bonus for winning the NHC in Vegas (an annuity at that, not an outright lump-sum payout). Surely it takes a lot of great handicapping to accrue that many points, but probably also a good chunk of change to accomplish. If we average that total out across 7 events, it'll take about 22,000 points to win it in 2018.
Is it worth the expense to get there? Maybe for some. Definitely not for me and almost certainly not for all but a few hardcore NHC Tour members.
Less Points for Freebies
I'll use yesterday's first NHC Tour Free Contest as an example of the effect of a rule change to reward only the top 100 finishers -- no longer the top 10% -- with points in tournaments with 1,000+ players.
In 2017, I'd have gotten 2,255 Tour points -- about 700 more.
So, sorry Mark Richards. The Tour's giving you zero points on the 2018 calculator for your 101st-place finish vs. 1,594 in 2017.
Based on this, it's clear that Tour rule makers want to reward -- or bleed dry -- the players willing to spend $1,000 or more a weekend in travel and tournament entry fees at tracks across the U.S., or who wouldn't blush at spending $500 or more to enter a "more-exclusive" online contest. Or who participate in both at the same time.
Separate Top 50 Leaderboard
To me, this is sort of a wash, since about 50 Tour players always end up ranking in the Top 150 of the year-end points leaderboard and, by that virtue, qualify for Vegas regardless.
|Admittedly, I don't know the first|
thing about Vonnegut either
Maybe that 500-point finish gets you that coveted 7th score that was erased in 2017 but is counted and vaults you to Las Vegas in 2018. If so, congrats!
Otherwise, it's hard to see the value of the 2018 changes to grow the sport, which should be the overarching theme of the rules committee.
Let us know what you think.