This weekend will be the 11th National Handicapping Championship at Red Rocks Casino in Las Vegas. A gentleman who has been a fixture at the NHC for the last eight years is Trey Stiles. This mark is tied for the most consecutive appearances and most overall as well. Trey Stiles is also a member of the NHC Players Committee. They Are Off asked five questions of Trey Stiles to try and get a look at what goes into a successful handicapping tournament player:
Question #1: How many handicapping tournaments would you estimate you play in a given year?
Trey Stiles: The number of contests I participate in depends entirely on how long it takes me to qualify for the NHC. I do not participate in many non-NHC qualifiers. The range in my eight years has been from one to eight contests I travel to. I play as many online contests as possible as well.
Question #2: Having qualified for the NHC Finals on numerous occasions, what are your thoughts entering another tournament?
Trey Stiles: The first time I qualified I was a bit intimidated and wondered if I really belonged or just got lucky to get there. I've learned that it is very helpful to get here early and get settled in. I started coming out on Tuesday the past few years. I am much less jittery about things each year. I try to stay focused and do a lot of homework in advance. There is too much info to process during the contest. You have to be prepared in advance.
Question #3: What is the best piece of advice you can give for someone who might be interested in trying to qualify for the 2011 NHC?
Trey Stiles: Don't be afraid to shoot for long shots. You have to do it. The result may be a poor finish if they don't come in, but play to win. My best finish was 33rd my first year, but I believe looking back that I did not give myself a chance to win. In the mandatory races, play low odds horses only if you really like them. You can make up a 2-1 that you miss, but 20-1 horses in mandatory races are difficult to overcome.
Question #4: Do you have any personal handicapping thoughts or tips that you care to share with They Are Off's readers?
Trey Stiles: I would encourage everyone to try an NHC qualifier. They are fun. I find it more fun than an equally profitable day at the races. I've met some nice people and made good friends on the NHC tour. I've never met anyone who made it to the NHC finals who didn't try even harder to get back.
Question #5: $500,000 is a big chunk of cash, but for you now, is it more about winning the money or winning the title (almost like a Green Jacket is to a golfer)?
Trey Stiles: True, I would love the money. However, I would love to stand up at the awards banquet Saturday night, receive my trophy and give an acceptance speech in front of handicappers that I greatly respect. I would also like being honored at the Eclipse Awards as Handicapper of the Year. I can't really describe how honored and happy I would be to be Handicapper of the Year.
Trey and the NHC Players Committee wants everyone to know that they can sign up for the NHC Tour through the NTRA website and here is the link to that web page to get started on your own personal journey to the 2011 NHC Championships in Las Vegas: http://www.ntra.com/content.aspx?type=other&id=30638§ion=races
Many thanks to Trey Stiles for taking time out of his preparation for NHC XI and, of course, we wish Trey all the best in his effort to win the contest this year and receive that Handicapper of the Year honor he richly deserves. We also send a shout-out to They Are Off follower, Chris Meeks, for his assistance in putting this interview together.
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!