Kyle King, a 30-year-old math teacher at a suburban Chicago high school, won Hawthorne's live-money tournament on the Aug. 12 Arlington Million card to qualify for the first time to the NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Presented by Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens™ and Treasure Island Las Vegas.
King's wife, Elizabeth, had their first child, Evelyn, on New Year's Eve. On his player bio, King wrote: “‘New dad wins NHC' would make good headlines'” and answering the question of what he'd do with the $800,000 grand prize, “I guess I'll be buying diapers if I win.” The NHC, with a record field of 702 entries, runs Friday through Sunday at Treasure Island Las Vegas. King, a University of Illinois math major who grew up in Lombard, Ill., is sharing his experience at the NHC with veteran turf journalist Jennie Rees.
King finished Day One of the NHC in 255th place with a mythical bankroll of $57.40. Competitors, using a mythical $2 win and $2 place bet on a horse, had to play eight mandatory races and 10 optionals from eight designated racetracks across the country.
So how did your second day go?
“Earlier in the day, I was up to about 100th. Then I stopped hitting any races and it was a plummet after that. So I was feeling good early on, that's for sure. I hit three of my bets today. One was a bomb and two were pretty small. The bomb was the third at Tampa Bay Downs (10-1 Palace Barista), an optional. It paid me about ($30.40) total. I almost doubled my total from Friday in one race. I was feeling all good and I had momentum. And I hit the first mandatory of the day, also after that. Then it faded out.”
No past NHC champion made the cut.
“Is that right?”
A lot of accomplished handicappers were behind you.
“It's a hard game.”
Does it seem harder now, having gone through the experience?
“It does. I was just running some of the numbers and talking to some of the guys at breakfast today. Like Friday I hit four very average horses out of 18 and I was still better than 50 percent of the field. That shows you how hard it is. Plus the break-even for two days is like $164, if you have 36 win and place bets. If you break even (you're 85th this year). That shows you how hard it is to do this.”
Does it make you want to come back, or make you think, ‘This is too hard'?
“I love the challenge of it. It's like a puzzle, trying to figure out who is going to win what and what races to bet, what races not to bet. That was very fun for my brain. It was like a giant game of chess. And that kind of stuff really interests me. It only makes me want to come back more.
“For some reason I stuck to one or two tracks at Hawthorne (in the qualifier), and maybe that helped me. Here I decided to kind of spread out and I was researching five or six tracks. I'll have to go back and think about it. But maybe spreading out my focus hurt me a little bit more. Because at Hawthorne, I was looking at fewer races but perhaps going more in-depth in the races I was looking at.”
So what did you tell (wife) Elizabeth?
“She said she was proud of me and all of that. I think she was trying to make me feel better. I told her that I was going to go and do some coding tonight before I went out and had some dinner. She said, ‘Why are you doing that?' And I explained there's a consolation tournament Sunday. She was like, ‘Oh good. You can still win some money.'
“The pressure is off a little bit. We're still playing for money. But the pressure of making a cut or not, I think everybody will be a little more at ease.”
Part 2 (Kyle King: ‘My brain was in circles a little bit'): https://www.ntra.com/
Part 1 ('Math guy' Kyle King discusses how he got interested in handicapping tournaments): https://www.ntra.com/nhc-
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