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How to Plan a Successful Opening in Gamblers Part 3

Part 3: Check Your Understanding of Planning a Gamblers Opening. Learn about time gambles and more! By Alicia Nicholas


Let's check your homework from last week! You were supposed to plan an opening for the Janet Gauntt distance gamble course. My plan is for a 22" jumping Border Collie that has an obstacle number of 18.

The black numbers are Alicia's plan. The white numbers are the gambles. 

The plan I came up with is 15 obstacles and is a lot of yardage, so I know I have to push it and if I have a bobble I am going to bail on the tunnel after the weaves. In this plan, I am counting the weaves as four obstacles, since we do them twice, and the A-frame as four obstacles as well. My plan is the following: jump, tire, tunnel, jump, A-frame, weave, weave, tunnel, A-frame, tunnel, jump. 

If your dog has fast weaves or a running A-frame I think you could add in another tunnel after #8. The more you run Gamblers, the better you will know your dog's obstacle number!

Time Gamble

Did you know that there are two different types of Gamblers classes? You may be more familiar with the distance gambles, where, after the opening, you must send your dog to obstacles at a distance in the closing. But there is another type of gamble: the time gamble.

With time gambles, there is no handler restriction line or rule. Instead, the judge gives you a specified amount of time to do certain obstacles after the opening horn. Within this time limit (e.g. 15 seconds), you will do as many obstacles as you can and get your dog over the finish jump without going over time (usually you lose your gamble points if that happens).

Time gambles have a variety of rules and twists. The potential gamble obstacles might be limited to only jumps, or only four specific jumps, or they could be any obstacle. Wacky multipliers and sequences are common additions to the strategy choices.

If you plan to do a time gamble class, you must read the map and attend the judge's briefing. All time gambles are different! The key to success is knowing your dog and devising a strategy that takes best advantage of your dog's skills and the rules of the day.

In a distance-type gamble, it is OK if you go over time in the opening; you can make it up in the closing. But when you are planning your opening for a time gamble, you should underestimate your obstacle number, since going over time negates your closing points! 

Here's an example for a time gamble opening using the Team Gamblers course from the 2014 Cynosport World Games. 

With this course, I am going to try and be close to the lower right corner of the map when the horn sounds to quickly do some jumps and get to the finish jump so I don't lose my closing points. I included the briefing so you can see why I chose to do tunnel weaves (it doubled the point value of the weave to 10 points!).

Team Gamble Briefing

The start jump is bidirectional and is worth 1 point like any other jump and may be taken a maximum of twice for points.

1-2-3-5 system. Weaves are 5.

Back-to-back: OK. Consecutive contacts: NO

Opening period times in seconds are:

Team: Large (26" & 22") = 25, Medium (16" & 18") = 27, Small (12" & 14") = 29
Pairs: Large (20") & (Medium (16") = 25, Small (12") = 27, Micro ( 8") = 29

During the opening, any obstacle may be performed successfully for points twice. If a pipe tunnel or spread jump is taken successfully for points, the next obstacle performed after that is doubled in value. 

Closing period times in seconds are:

Team: Large (26" & 22") = 15, Medium (16" & 18") = 17, Small (12" & 14") = 19 
Pairs: Large (20") & (Medium (16") = 15, Small (12") = 17, Micro ( 8") = 19

In closing, contacts, weaves and the finish jump are worth zero points. Anything else is worth double points. If the dog is currently performing an obstacle when the gamble horn sounds, he can finish that obstacle for closing points. If the obstacle being performed at the sound of the gamble horn is a jump, then the dog is considered to be mid-performance if all four feet have left the ground for the jump until all four feet hit the ground for the landing.


We complete our series on how to plan a Gamblers opening with the following Gamblers opening checklist:
  • Find the closing and plan your opening from there.
  • Plan a reasonable number of obstacles for your dog based on their obstacle number.
  • Plan a fun and flowing course for your dog.
  • Do the high point obstacle twice.
  • Follow the rules given in the briefing.
In upcoming weeks, we will offer articles about training for distance gambles. Happy gambling!

This article is part of USDAA's Training Tuesday series appears on USDAA's facebook page. We encourage you to discuss this exercise on our facebook and to upload videos of your class or training group trying it out. If you have a facebook account, please join in the fun here:

Alicia Nicholas has been doing agility since 2001 and has been teaching the sport since 2004. She started her agility journey with two Corgis, and since then she has run Border Collies, a Swedish Vallhund and a Papillion. Alicia believes that dog training is a very important aspect of dog agility and encourages a strong foundation for dogs that do agility. Alicia teaches all levels of agility handling, from foundation to international level classes. She also teaches competition obedience, focus and relationship, puppy classes, how to coach yourself classes, tricks classes, and more. Alicia says, "Agility is a sport which requires mental toughness and goal setting while keeping in mind that your canine partner is in it for fun! Goals are an important part of the journey; it's how you attain them that matters!" Alicia can be reached via email at or through her website ( and you can read her blog at


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