Tourney Talk- The BIG Decision

The BIG One is probably the largest tournament that has never really been on my radar.  In the two years I’ve been participating in tournaments, I think have only played in one online qualifier for it.  I was always aware of The BIG One, but just never gave it much thought. Don’t really have a good reason why.  Just didn’t.

But then yesterday I read Eric Wing’s blog, and saw that there were five seats being offered at a reduced price of $5,750.  This is down from the published buy-in price of $9,000.  The reason for the discount is that the advertised expected cash pool of approximately $175,000 has been reduced to approximately $12,500 (as of this writing) because throughout the year, many online qualifiers had empty seats.  So the meat of the prize pool are the BCBC and NHC seats going to the Top 10, with HPWS seats going to finishers in positions 11-20.  Anyway, I decided to buy one of the five available seats.

So here is how I look at this.  $1,000 of the $5,750 becomes my live bankroll.  So we are really talking about an entry fee of $4,750.  And with the cash pool essentially a non-factor, 1st through 10th are basically playing for the same thing: a $10,000 seat to the BCBC, and an NHC package which effectively “costs” $10,750 based on the NHC qualifier entry fees and number of seats awarded on I am aware that a number of blogs posts have been written and Racing Twitter arguments have been made regarding the true cost and value of an NHC seat.  I’m not going to get into that now because it’s a can of worms I don’t want to open.  So for the purposes of my decision, I used the $10,750 amount when deciding on the value of an NHC package (including $500 for travel and four nights in a Vegas hotel).

So anyway, back to my decision to enter.  Let’s round up and say 1st through 10th win $21,000 in prizes.  Subtract the $4,750 effective entry fee from the $21,000, and we have a return of about 3.4 to 1 on the investment if you finish in the Top 10.  Based on what I see on the BIG One’s page on, it appears there are 57 entrants (50 qualified, 2 from Laurel, plus the 5 that were available yesterday which I am told have all been sold).  If the Top 10 get the big prizes, and if we assume that all 57 entrants have essentially the same chance at a big prize (which isn’t actually the case and we all know it because I don’t think I’m even money to beat some of these contenders), then the odds of finishing in the Top 10 are 4.7 to 1 (47 non-winners, and 10 winners).  If my best-case return on the entry fee is 3.4 to 1, then we are somewhere around a 28% negative expectation in my crude “risk vs. reward” formula.  Adding to the formula and mitigating the risk is the $1,500 HPWS (or just straight cash) to finishers 11-20.

So, my decision to enter the BIG One can be looked at one of two ways.  If I believe (and I do) that I am handicapping very well right now, it’s a fantastic opportunity to win my way into the two biggest contests of the year.  And why enter a contest if you don’t think you can out-handicap 82% of the competition?  On the other hand, if you think the true value of an NHC package is way lower than $10,750 and that I’d be better served trying to win my way in at a traditional on-track event where the effective cost of the seat is lower, then my decision to enter the BIG One was a bad one.  I’m choosing to look at my decision to enter as an aggressive yet reasonable investment, with the added factor that I have been seeing the horses pretty clearly the last few weeks and have every right to continue doing well.

Now, for some additional variables.  For starters, Rich Nilsen isn’t competing.  So that’s a plus for me.  I know Rich personally. We are friends.  But I have no interest in going up against him right now because he is absolutely shredding everything in his path in the tournament world these days.  There are also a number of other big names that I don’t see on the list of entrants.  So that’s all positive.

Anthony Trezza is competing.  His name is at or near the top of seemingly every Horseplayers leaderboard we’ve seen for the last few months.  That’s not an ass-kiss.  That’s just a fact.  Personally, I’d rather he not be in the field.  I also see Nick Fazzolari has won his way in.  When I managed a 7th place finish at the Wynn event in August 2017, my thoughts that I could have managed a win with a certain photo going my way were squashed when I saw his score exceeded mine by over $120 tournament dollars.  And there are many other notable names on the list of entrants.  Some of them seem to beat me more often than I beat them, and some I feel like I do OK against from time to time.  I noticed all of these names before I decided to enter.  And I still entered.

So, I’ll be landing at Dulles on Friday afternoon thanks to some extra United miles I wanted to use.  And I’ll probably stay with friends in the DC area since I lived there for 35 years.  It’s all about reducing expenses, right?


  1. AGOS on September 18, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    The Nilsen factor is obviously a big one for you (no pun intended). I put you at 8/5 to cash big. Where can I get down?!

    • Justin Dew on September 18, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      You can buy in for a cut of my action.

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