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Liven Up Your Summer at Arlington in Live Money Handicapping Contests

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/13/2008 #

Every day of wagering is like a handicapping contest. You’re competing against the guy and gal next to you, and with people from all over the country within the pari-mutuel system.

The goal is to visualize how the races will be run, construct tickets that give you the best chance to win within your budget and to outwit the wagering public. Toss in a dash of luck and you have the recipe for a winning day at the races.

In recent years, regulated handicapping contests have become more and more popular. The goal is to not only win the local competitions, but to earn berths to more lucrative Las Vegas contests such as the NTRA/DRF National Handicapping Championship and the Coast Casino's Horseplayer World Series.

This summer, Arlington Park offers the best of all of those worlds in one simple format. Their newly created “live money” tournaments allow players to enjoy a normal day at the races while competing in a handicapping contest at the same time.

In order to participate, members must purchase a $100 contest wagering card at the Twin Spires Club the day of the contest, and wager on a minimum of five Arlington races on that particular card. You can bet as much as you want, on any wager that you want, as long as you bet five races (one entry per person).

“All of your contest plays must be made on the specifically designated contest wagering card,” explained Arlington Park manager of marketing and advertising Wesley Ward. “Those wagers still earn you Twin Spires Club points - they’re just input manually at the end of the day.”

So what it comes down to is this -- if you take two minutes to enter the contest and have a good day at the track, you have a chance to be rewarded twice – monetarily through your winning wagers, and again by performing well in the contest.

“You’re coming to the track anyway, and most people who play the races semi-seriously are going to wager $100 during the course of an afternoon,” Ward said. “Contest players are betting to cash tickets like they normally would, but they also have a chance to win free money, and berths into even more lucrative contests.”

On each of the designated qualifying dates, players compete for a qualifying contest prize pool of $875 and berths to the Championship. Players that qualify for the Championship will compete for bragging rights as "Arlington Park Handicapper of the Year", a prize pool of $13,000, and one NTRA/DRF National Handicapping Contest berth and five berths in Coast Casino's Horseplayer World Series. Each qualifying contest will award three berths in the Arlington Handicapping Championship Contest. Players can only qualify for the Championship once, but they remain eligible for individual contest prize money.

Players are encouraged to play in as many qualifying contests as possible as their bankroll totals at the end of each contest will be combined for a season score. The top 125 players who fail to win automatic berths into the finals will qualify for the Championship contest and compete for its prizes.

When stripped down to the simplest explanation, you’re basically trying to see how high you can run up $100. You can make any bet you want – Win, Pick Fours, Superfectas, Doubles, etc. – and hammer as much into any of the Arlington races as you please, as long as you play five of them.

If you bet $100 in the first race you choose to play and lose it, you’re out. If you bet $50 and make a $200 profit, you now have up to $300 to play at least four more Arlington races.

Just like a regular day at the races, your bankroll will fluctuate during the day, and the goal is to have it at a high point at the end of the Arlington card. If you hit big early, you can be conservative late if you so choose. The kicker is that contest results will not be posted until the end of the day, so you have no idea what “number” you’re shooting for.

“Posting standings throughout the day shifts the focus of the contest,” Ward said. “Too many of these contests are won by people who know what number they have to shoot for at the end, so they simply throw a dart at a longshot to try and jump over leaders.

“This contest focuses on being organic to the player's normal day at the track,” Ward continued. “Standings are not posted, and a player is naturally trying to maximize his/her money through effective handicapping and money management.”

This May 10 contest winner parlayed his $100 into $1,376 by day’s end.

“He hit a $1,200 Trifecta, got another $500 for winning the contest, and a spot in the Finals, which could turn into a berth in one of the big money Vegas tournaments,” Ward explained.

With Arlington’s live money tournaments, you don’t have to give up your favorite seat to play. There are no designated contest areas, and you can bet with any teller, or at any self service terminal.

You also don’t have to be a racing “expert”. Remember, regardless of your skill level, anyone can have a big day at the track.

“Beyond the prize money, the chance to earn your way to Vegas and the bragging rights, these contests are also a great way to learn money management skills,” Ward contends. “You’re weighting your wagers based on your opinions, and even when you’re playing the races day to day, discipline is the key to success.”