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Day before the Big Weekend

by Michael Beychok


It’s the day before the Big Day – the first day of the National Horseplayers Championship. What does a contestant do to prepare for the grueling 3 days of intense competition?

I can’t speak for my fellow competitors but this contestant tries to relax and enjoy Vegas a bit. Have a few drinks, eat a good meal, play some table games and keno. I mean c’mon it’s Vegas.


But, there is a fine line between celebrating the reward of qualifying – a free trip to Vegas - and relaxation in preparation for the contest.


As I’ve written and talked about many times before, the key to my success – when I happen to be successful that is – is finding the right psychological and emotional place. This means, for me, to be able to focus completely and without distractions on the task at hand.

I try to eliminate as many stressors as I can before tackling the tournament. I try to get some exercise in during the weeks before the tournament, eat slightly healthier, and get “my mind right” as Strother Martin said in Cool Hand Luke.


I’m not successful at this every year and my past performance results at the NHC are spotty. A win and two cashes over the last 7 years may not be spotty to some but a non-qualifying year was sandwiched in there too. I know that the less stressed I am about work, family, finances etc., the better my chances are at being successful at the NHC. I define success at the NHC as making the best decisions at the moment given the circumstances.


Sometimes, the best decisions do not result in the best outcomes but that is due to luck.


My results are a bit spotty for another reason as well. I go into the tournament with a mindset of trying to win the tournament from the first play I make on Friday morning. I’m not trying to make the Top 60 to get a good chunk of money. I’m trying to win the damn thing again. This means taking a few more risks along the way so I’m in position at some point on Saturday and Sunday to make a run for the lead. I’ll tend to select the longer odds horse of two I’m leaning towards in a mandatory for example because I know the longer odds horse gives me a better shot to move up the leaderboard. That’s just how I approach the selection process and I’m not saying this is right for everyone.


Finally, on the day before the tournament I try not to look at any horse racing information just to give myself one last day off before the work begins on the 3 day grind that is the NHC.


Tomorrow I’ll talk about how workouts are an important part of my handicapping and how one workout in particular propelled me to victory in 2012.

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