What Do HorseTourneys Players Think is the Right Payout Cap?

Back in June, we sent our players some survey questions to get their opinions on various aspects of play on our site. One of them asked at what level payoff caps should be set.  It had been approximately three and a half years since we’d queried players on this topic, so we felt it was time to see if sentiment might have changed.

McKay and I discussed this pretty extensively during our last podcast…but not all of you listen to those…so I thought I’d go over the responses here, and maybe add a thought or two of my own.

Players were asked which of the following three cap levels they would prefer (assuming the cap would remain the same for all tourneys):

20-1 to win; 10-1 to place (same as is currently the case)

15-1 to win; 8-1 to place

12-1 to win; 6-1 to place

The results left little to the imagination.  While we’re not going to list the number of respondents, suffice it to say the the total was statistically significant.

76.8% — 20-1 to win; 10-1 to place

14.6% — 15-1 to win; 8-1 to place

8.4% — 12-1 to win; 6-1 to place

So basically, the vast majority of you like the cap right where it is. And it bears mention that the same answer was given by 74% of you in a similar survey three and a half years ago.  So, despite advancements in social media penetration over the last few years (because those voices represent the majority, right?), your opinion hasn’t changed very much.

Maybe because it’s what you’re used to…maybe it’s because that has always been the cap in place at the NHC. Regardless, for us to change the cap would be a foolish business move on our part based on the survey responses. I had noted on the podcast that the declining level of support as the hypothetical cap level was dropped (just 8.4% for 12-1 versus 14.6% for 15-1) suggested to me that there may be more people who’d prefer that the cap be raised as opposed to lowered. McKay didn’t disagree, mentioning that in the free-field comment question on this latest survey, there were many comments from players suggesting that we shouldn’t have a cap at all. So I guess we may have a good question already in mind for the next time we do a survey!

The longer I’ve been involved in the world of tournaments, the more I’m intrigued — and sometimes, amused — by the debate on caps.  Down deep, I think the issue is whether people think contestants are somewhat blindly shooting for high prices or “truly handicapping”…whatever that means. (It strikes me as not unlike the debate on New York sportstalk radio on whether someone was/is a “True Yankee.” Hideki Matsui was. ARod wasn’t. D.J. LeMahieu is. Giancarlo Stanton isn’t. Or so they say. Whatever. None of it makes very much sense to me.)

The most vocal opponents of contest play in general seem to be of a mind that tournaments are “Nothing but stabfests!”

I respect anyone’s decision to not play in contests. They’re not for everyone. At the same time, I think many in the “stabfest crowd” believe that any winner going off at more than 8-1 is, almost by definition, an illogical, unhave-able horse. These people should definitely not be playing in tournaments…and, in all likelihood, they probably shouldn’t be playing the horses at all.

Payout caps are used, of course, so that the results of a single race don’t always have an undue effect on the results of a multi-race tourney. Obviously, one race sometimes does have a gigantic effect–even with a cap in place. And when you think about it, that’s as much a result of the other prices that come in as it is of the unexpected longshot.

Some argue that the cap should vary depending on the number of races in a contest.  For instance, they argue that the caps are particularly impactful in, say, a 6-race Quick Early Bird contest as opposed to a 12-race Featured event. That may, indeed, be the case, but revising something as fundamental as a payout cap per the number of races involved, is, in our minds, arbitrary and inconsistent, not to mention particularly confounding for newer players.  It’s just not something we would consider.

Unlike most of the caps in my closet, one size does not fit all with payout caps. We’re glad, though, that 20-1 to win and 10-1 to place seem to fit most of you just fine. So that’s where we’ll leave it.

6 thoughts on “What Do HorseTourneys Players Think is the Right Payout Cap?

  1. I participated in the survey and there was at least one other question regarding changing the format to WPS. What were the results of that question? Thank you.


  2. I grown to really like contest play versus betting horses. I feel its by far a much better value for me. I realized a very long time ago betting horses on a regular basis is one of the worst props in any form of wagering. unless of course you might be betting 3 to 5 horses a month.
    Being a long time poker tournament player and comparing your payout structure to tournament poker
    , yours is to top heavy { which nobody minds when they win }, which doesn’t leave much for the players who finish below 1st place.

    For example typically 1st place in a poker tournament is about 55%, 2nd is about 25%, 3rd 10% & 4th 5% & 5th & 6th get at least their buy-in back. ( 60 person tourney )
    It seems in your contests, to big of a % is going to 1st, which leaves much less to be spread amongst the rest of the people who cash.
    In conjunction it sometimes seem the bottom person on the payout list doesn’t even get their buy-in back.( in a poker tourney, bottom of the $$ always at least gets a little more than your $$ back ),

    You have a great following and a large pool of participants…… We need more from not only thoroughbred bettors, what about switching harness players to our side.
    And lets not forget poker players who put a big emphasis on math, plus their biggest tournament of the year at the WSOP has well over 20,000 participants.
    I’m in Chicago and have got 5 or 6 friends who play the horses to try a contest & some have liked it.
    Now after working & playing poker in Chicagoland for over 15 years, I’m spreading the word a bit & some are listening.

    Now if I can win the BCBC……. holy shit how word spreads in the poker community.

    Love what you do
    Good luck & good racing


    John Molaro


    • John, thanks for the comment. The payout structure of our pool style games is such that we pay to approximately 8-10 percent of entries in a particular contest, and never more than 50 percent to the winner if there are more than 20 entries (scaling down per volume). See http://www.horsetourneys.com/payout. We feel this is an appropriate distribution that doesn’t need flattening. It’s actually pretty comparable to a poker distribution at normal participation levels (poker tourney payouts will obviously flatten out much more when there are several hundreds if not thousands of players participating, such as the WSOP). Rarely do tournaments of any kind payout to more than 10 percent of a field. Takeout is as low as it can possibly be given major expenses such as track commissions, deposit fees (which the tracks do not give us credit for) and operating expenses. Harness is something that we’ve looked at but there are obligatory expenses involved that we believe nullifies the ROI proposition. Until those are waived, it’s not something we’ll strongly consider. We do appreciate the feedback. -McKay


      • Hi McKay,

        Thanks for your response.
        8 to 10% of your fields being paid is perfect.
        Your costs for doing business ( or rake ) is a given & should be understood & excepted by all your players.

        My suggestion concerned your pay schedule for the top 10% who cash in some of your smaller contests, where I’ve noticed sometimes the bottom of the money sometime doesn’t get their buy-in back.
        Its not that big of a deal, and sure the reasons are fair. I’m certainly not going anywhere.

        As for Harness….. I’m not interested in harness racing in the least.
        Just a thought about getting more harness players to realize the fun they’re missing on your site.

        Thanks again & see you at Santa Anita

        John ( Mo )


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s