One mortal's quixotic quest to qualify for the 2013 National Handicapping Championship
Sunday, June 5, 2011
A Swing, and a Miss
We'll pick up the action from today's Monmouth/Woodbine Handicapping Contest at about 5:45 p.m.: after a 'meh' handicapping day in which I had only one 3-1 winner at Monmouth from eight bets, my initial bankroll of $100 was down to $30 and I was ready to go home, so I put down a win-or-go-home bet: $30W on Heavenly Pride in the Woodbine 10th. She wins by a neck at 4.60-1, putting me back in the ball game with a $168 bankroll. I followed that with a $40W$20P bet on Mint Maker in the 11th at Monmouth; he finishes 2nd to the chalk at 22-1, pushing my bankroll up to $236 and about 20th in the contest.
But the fat lady could have started warming up right then. I couldn't pull the trigger on anything in 11WO, which was just as well because I never would have had the 31-1 bomber Paidrag. (Apparently at least one of my rivals did, as the leading bankroll went from ~$1K to ~$4K after that race.) This left only the Monmouth finale, a grim bottom-of-the-barrel heat, to make or break my day.
I went all-in (that's right, $236W) on Mo's Mini Skirt, a first-time starter that took a little early money before drifting up to 5-1. She showed some early speed but weakened to finish 4th, so I was out the door with $0.
Putting aside the merits of Mo's Mini Skirt specifically (of which there were precious few), that last-race situation I found myself in re-raised a question I continue to struggle with as a handicapping contest player: is there ever a time when you should fold 'em and go home with a couple hundred bucks? Or do you keep swinging until the bell rings, whether or not you like a horse, on the premise that late-contest swings don't grow on trees and must be seized?
I lean towards the latter, and my track record supports this -- I can't remember the last contest I went home with unused bullets. But is this the right strategy? Something about putting down $236, or more than 10x my average bet earlier in the contest, while holding my nose in that finale today struck me as absurd -- it just flies in the face of ROI principles that would dictate picking your spots. Would it have been wiser to tuck the $236 in my wallet to deploy for another day?
I don't think there's an easy answer in this debate -- if I walk away and my erstwhile selection loses, I made a great call, but if he wins, I'm a dunce. And vice versa if I go for it. Vexing, but also part of the beauty of handicapping contests, in my view.
This blog is about my quest to qualify for the (insert year here) National Handicapping Championship at Treasure Island in Las Vegas. (The NHC was formerly held at Red Rock, hence the blog name.) I have yet to qualify for the NHC, but I have racked up four top-10 placings in NJ contests and have had some success in online events.