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.