Between the demands of his job as a project service manager in the oil and gas industry and his status as a Houston, Texas, resident, Jorge Cruz-Aedo sometimes finds his horseplaying options a bit limited.
“I don’t really have time to look on weekdays or at smaller tracks…and there are no ADWs in Texas…THIS is where I play,” the 35-year-old said, referring to HorseTourneys.
Last year, Cruz-Aedo certainly made the most of his time spent at the online contest site. After recording a second-place finish in just the second HorseTourneys Tour event of 2021, a $30,000 Guaranteed game on July 24, Cruz-Aedo made the Tour a primary focus, and he went on to capture four events. He also finished second three more times (for a total of four runner-up performances) and he added a pair of third-place finishes in the featured Friday/Saturday/Sunday cash games to earn $10,000 and the title of 2021 HorseTourneys Player of the Year.
Capitalizing on an additional bonus provision whereby players got a $500 bonus for a second victory on the same day of the week—and a $1,000 bonus for all subsequent such triumphs—Cruz-Aedo earned an additional $1,500 since three of his four HT Tour wins came on a Saturday.
“Actually, I almost won a lot more than that,” he chuckled. “Three out of my four seconds were on a Saturday as well.”
In the end, the race for first in the HT Tour was not close. With 96.172 points, Cruz-Aedo finished nearly 12 points ahead of his closest pursuer, Brian Chenvert, who received an entry in the 2022 The BIG One for his runner-up effort. But even early on, when the year-end standings were far from decided, Cruz-Aedo felt good about his chances…and let people know about it in a good-natured way on Twitter.
Possessing an analytical mind, Cruz-Aedo wanted to demystify the Tour by studying its scoring system, which offered players 10 points for a win in a Friday, Saturday or Sunday featured cash game, nine points for second and so on…on down to one point for 10th—plus a fractional bonus based on a tourney’s entry fee and number of participants. Only a player’s 10 best scores would be counted in his or her final tally.
“At first, I thought that 75 points would win it,” he said. “I was wrong because four players broke that. Still, for me to wind up with 96 points was completely unexpected just because there are a lot of good players at HorseTourneys.”
Cruz-Aedo’s approach was straightforward. Though he usually played featured cash tourneys every weekend, he didn’t usually play on both Saturday and Sunday. For the Tour, he played on all three eligible days—Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He bought in directly, choosing to forego early-bird feeders, and eventually success begat success.
“Those early wins helped my bankroll,” he said. “So after a while, I started buying two entries for each one.”
As his top-three finishes piled up and he reached 92 points, Cruz-Aedo figured he would be very tough to beat. Still, his analytical side wouldn’t let him relax completely. Heading into the final day of Tour competition, he did the math and calculated that there would need to be approximately 2,200 entries signed on for someone to get enough points to top him. At that point, since HT Tour events usually attract about 130 or so entries, Cruz-Aedo finally allowed himself to breathe a little.
Beyond the Tour, itself, Cruz-Aedo got on such a roll during that July-December period that he enjoyed an additional success that transcended just the featured cash games.
“I don’t usually focus much on the NHC,” he said. “I typically just start trying late in the year when the qualifiers restricted to people without a seat get offered. But since I was doing so well, I played a bit more and, now, after playing the same picks as in the cash games, I’m double-qualified for 2022.”
How does Cruz-Aedo arrive at those picks? He favors Optic EQ products and Timeform US past performances to look for horses that figure to be on the early lead.
“I figure that if my horse blasts out of there and is out front, that’s one less thing that can go wrong during the race. No traffic! A horse would have to really be a standout on numbers for me to ever consider playing a closer.”
So what lies ahead for Jorge Cruz-Aedo? For one thing, he’ll definitely be playing in the 2022 HorseTourneys Tour, which has seen its prizes increased and is now a full-year competition.
“I’ll be playing the same way all year long,” he said. “If it happens again, it happens again, though I think it’s going to be tougher with it going all year. I think the leaderboard will be a lot more compressed.”
Cruz-Aedo is also giving some thought to pursuing the 2022 NHC Tour, which he has never seriously done before.
“The one thing about the NHC Tour is that there are some crazy outliers like the Last Chance First Chance contest at Bally’s which is an onsite tournament with a big field,” he said. “You can get astronomical points in that one. Win one of those, and you’re good.”
Actually, the lack of “variance,” as he puts it, is one reason Cruz-Aedo liked the structure of the HT Tour right from the outset. With a narrow relative range of bonus/fractional points available from Friday to Saturday to Sunday, or even in, say, the Tourney Triple events like this coming weekend’s Flo-Cal Faceoff, it reduces the impact that a single, well-timed victory has on the overall year-end standings.
If Cruz-Aedo “repeats” as HorseTourneys Tour champ this year, he’ll get $20,000 and a seat to the 2023 The BIG One—all as part of a significantly increased 2022 Tour prize pool that is expected to top $100,000. Still, there will only be one “first-ever” HT Tour champion.
“I just want to give a big shoutout to McKay Smith for putting on the Tour and for funding it,” he said.
Happily for the handicapping Houstonian, the now-reigning HorseTourneys Player of the Year doesn’t need to worry much about funding his 2022 HT Tour entries. He went a long way towards taking care of that in 2021.