By Noel Michaels

The 2018 NHC Tour is in full swing with major on-site and online qualifying contests already happening each weekend offering multiple berths into the next National Horseplayers Championship (NHC). In addition to NHC qualifying spots, the opportunities players have to start racking up Tour points at this early date on the calendar should not be overlooked. Even when you play in tournaments and don’t win, the NHC Tour points you earn along the way can often prove to be extraordinarily valuable.

The recently concluded 2018 NHC finals, in particular, proved how important, valuable, and eventually lucrative amassing Tour points throughout the year can be. It also showed that NHC “rookies,” despite a lack of experience, can go on to make some of the biggest impacts at the NHC.

NHC Tour memberships are available for as little as $50 and there’s no better time than now to get signed-up for the 2018 season. The longer you wait to register for the NHC Tour, the more point-earning opportunities you let slip by each and every weekend. For example, one NHC Tour free contest is already in the rear-view mirror, and another is coming up just around the corner on Friday, March 23. If you haven’t signed up yet, you definitely want to take note of those kinds of point-earning chances on the schedule because other players just like you are already taking advantage of these early contests to get a head start on boosting their NHC Tour point totals.

On the NHC Tour, it’s not always about winning tournaments. Sure, everyone enters every contest they play in order to win and qualify for the NHC, but sometimes falling short but earning a lot of points is valuable too. One of the benefits of earning NHC Tour points is that at the end of the year, the top 50 Tour point scorers who are not already NHC-qualified each will earn berths into the NHC based on their point totals. How important is this? Just ask 2018 NHC main event champion Chris Littlemore of Ontario, Canada. Littlemore earned his NHC finals spot based on 2017 Tour points. He then turned his Tour points into a neat little payday of $800,000 at the NHC in Las Vegas.

It wasn’t just Littlemore, either. A bunch of players who qualified to the 2018 NHC based on Tour points ended up turning those Tour points into actual dollar signs at the main event. Players who qualified to the NHC based on Tour points did especially well this year, and several of the 51 players who qualified for the 2018 NHC based on their 2017 Tour points ended-up cashing-out thanks to Top 70 finishes at the NHC main event. A leaderboard of the Top 50-scoring players who as-yet are not qualified to the NHC will be updated each week and available all year in the Leaders section of the NHC page at

Another group of players who did exceptionally well at the 2018 NHC finals were NHC “rookies,” including some first-year sign-ups who qualified to the NHC based on Tour points.

If you are a person reading this who is considering making your first-ever entry onto the NHC Tour in 2018, you should know that your chances of eventually cashing-out are relatively good, based on the results from 2017.

For starters, NHC Tour rookies get to compete on their own Leaderboard for a dedicated prize structure of $15,000 strictly for rookies, with $5,000 going to the first-year Tour player that earns the most Tour points, with $4,000 for second, $3,000 for third, $2,000 for fourth, and $1,000 for fifth. That’s a great perk, but the chances for rookies do not end there. In 2017, rookies proved they can and will be forces to be reckoned with along with the more experienced players at the next NHC main event.

Many first-time NHC qualifiers made their mark at the 2018 NHC and did very well for themselves in Las Vegas. As a matter of fact, of the 10 players who made it to the Final Table, four players were NHC rookies! That is a truly amazing feat and it definitely gives Tour members who have never before qualified for the NHC, or are thinking about joining the NHC Tour for the first time in 2018, something realistic to shoot for.

NHC first-time qualifiers that made it to the 2018 NHC Final Table were Stephanie Schmidt, who qualified at Del Mar, David Watts of Vancouver, Wash. (double-qualified at Santa Anita and, John Roe of Brookfield, Ill., who qualified at Hawthorne, and Daniel Hart of Batesville, Ark., who qualified on

Schmidt not only was an NHC rookie, she was also an NHC Tour rookie in 2017. She went from new NHC Tour sign-up in 2017 to a fifth-place at the NHC finals within the span of a year, and by the way, fifth place was worth a cool $75,000 in prize money.  As for the others, Watts ended up eighth, taking home a $55,500 purse, while Roe finished ninth to earn $52,000 and Hart rounded out the Final Table in tenth to win a not-too-shabby $50,000 prize.

The messages here are that when it comes to the NHC and the NHC Tour, first-timers can compete with the veterans, and that anyone who seriously pursues the NHC Tour can achieve a nice payoff, even if you aren’t winning tournaments along the way. The NHC Tour is a marathon, and a lucrative one at that, and it has already started.  So don’t wait. Sign up and start earning your Tour points today. And remember, the next NHC Tour free online contest is upcoming on Friday, March 23, and a ton of tour points will be up for grabs to potentially get you started on your own journey to the next NHC main event in Las Vegas.