Race, Bet & Scheme
Sometimes a reputation can hurt your chances in a multiplayer
game event. In the case of Win, Place & Show, however,
several former champions managed to put their reputations to
deceptively good use in the final. In the end, however, with
15 players matching wits in the final game, the winner was the
horseplayer who differentiated himself best from the crowd at
moment. Timing, luck and knowledge were all combined well to
produce a narrow victory, though not without the usual fair share
of "racing incidents" along the way.
The preliminary two heats were set up to allow all first and
second place players to advance to a big-table final. While this
format favored the experienced player with regard to gaining
the final, it then put those experienced players in a huge field
of competitors for a wild final, where knowledge of the real
favorites was of less value . . . or at least that was the theory.
In fact, despite earning over $190,000 in the first heart, four-time
champion Bruce Reiff failed to make the final with that. Fortunately
for him, his schedule allowed entrance in the second heat, where
he earned his invite to the final. Three other former champions
(Ken Gutermuth, Dennis Nicholson and Stuart Tucker) also made
the final, though with fewer bumps along the way. The final included
eleven other significant challengers, most of whom knew the betting
and racing tendencies of the former champions. Yes, the Foul
Claim rules would have their inevitable use once again!
The first race of the final witnessed considerable trouble
for several horses, dampening the chances of the favorite (and
ruining a number of Daily Doubles). However, reigning champion
Gutermuth managed to get it right, backing the 10-1 long shot
and putting himself in the early lead by a $20,000 margin over
the nearest competitor and by $50,000 or more over the vast majority
who lost big money. Dave Steiner, Debbie Garver and Stuart Tucker
were at least in the black at this point, but had considerable
ground to make up. On the chance that the second-race favorite
would cash a huge Daily Double payout, the price for Indian
Giver went through the roof. Here, however, Bruce Reiff (the
horse's owner) decided to use his reputation to foul up people's
bets. Instead of ruining the horse's chances of victory with
some creative jockeying, he bet her across the board, hoping
to be the only one doing so. Unfortunately for him, the race
was inordinately slow and Indian Giver was hung out wide
on the turn, allowing the favorite to win. The resulting Daily
Double pairing was bet by three players, putting Nicholson back
into the hunt, boosting Garver's position, and dropping Gutermuth
to second place by a few thousand. While Tucker was one of the
few to bet the second race correctly, the low odds left him in
a pack of players about $30,000 behind the two leaders.
As players scrambled to find ways to differentiate their bets
from their opponents, the majority of the "also-ran"
players lost big money on the indecipherable third race. The
fourth began Nicholson's three-race losing streak. Most other
players misguessed it as well--nobody bet on the winning horse,
but Reiff managed to play his last money right on the place horse
to stay in the running. Tucker also bet on "the Loser"
to scrape his way back into the top four moneyholders.
As the fifth race's horses were being put up for auction,
Tucker knew that the Roach would need some help, so that
the game leaders could be caught. Second-place Lance Fogel played
it safe, on Dying Ember, while leader Gutermuth covered
the Roach while also backing Ember. Tucker bought
the overwhelming favorite, Lobster Tail, while skilled
tactician Reiff took the Roach (but cunningly bet on Traffic
Cop). When Tucker took the Tail along the rail and
then unnecessarily held her up three spaces on a passing lane,
cries of Foul Claim were heard (though not by many). Tucker had
indeed bet $1000 on the Tail to win, so his move was legitimate,
though intended to cost $2000 out of the hands of more competitors
than it did. The move failed to help the Roach, though,
which innocently got caught in traffic, allowing Ember
to bring home a solid lead for Fogel and Gutermuth (only a few
Thus, the final race would come down to "saving bets"
by the leaders, and daring longshots by the closest contenders
in striking distance of the leaders. Here Tucker's reputation
of expecting Mona Lisa to win the final race served him
well, as the price of the horse shot through the roof to $18000.
But Tucker wisely yielded on the bid, later buying the longshot
Captain Ahab--with the purse and a wise longshot bet being
his only shot of overtaking the leaders and Garver. Reiff jockeyed
Hannibal and bet him strong. Garver and Tucker bet Ahab,
while Gutermuth split his bets on Ahab and Jungle Monarch.
Leading by a couple of thousand, Fogel went the safe route, betting
the usual favorites, Monarch and Mona. If Ahab
won, Garner would take the event, but if Ahab came in
second, Tucker would win by virtue of winning a share of the
purse and by not betting on any horse to win. If Mona Lisa
or Jungle Monarch won, Fogel would win. But if Mona
failed, while Jungle Monarch came in second, Gutermuth
would win. As it turned out, nobody betting the other longshot
(Hannibal) was close
enough to catch the leaders if Hannibal won. Once the
bets were down, four players of the 15 had a shot at the Wood.
Another three potential winners existed (Nicholson, Steiner or
Bruce Monnin) had any one of them switched his final bet to Hannibal.
As expected, the first turn involved rough rides for every
horse that mattered. Only Swami--a hopeless horse--had
a clean ride. Hannibal and Captain Ahab saved ground
on the inside, but Ahab fared poorly in the second turn.
Mona Lisa once again failed to fulfill the hopes of her
owner, forced to run four wide in the first turn, earning the
usual third place that she always gets on a bad day. Reiff managed
to turn his last pennies into a final score of $78000 when his
Hannibal won the race. All the players with bets on Ahab
groaned loudly for having chosen the wrong longshot. When the
dust settled, Fogel's optimism for his Dying Ember cost
him the game, as it came in second instead of first, and he had
bet Mona Lisa to Place. Gutermuth's Place-Show bets on
Ember earned him enough to overcome Fogel's purse, thereby
giving Ken a repeat championship.
With such tight competition, even the chaotic "big final"
format was a test of all the skills of the top horseplayers of
Win, Place & Show. Though former champs do well at
this game, it takes more than a reputation to win--and more than
a fixed race or two. Ken Gutermuth found a lucrative longshot
early in the game and then judiciously built on that foundation
himself to too much risk. By the same token, he didn't become
overly cautious either, as this is a game in which favorites
often find hostile jockeys aboard. How else do you explain the
repeated success of Hannibal in the Win, Place & Show