A look back at the 2018 ProRodeo season serves as a crystal ball, of sorts, for the new year.

The world champions were crowned less than a month ago, with three Texans earning those prestigious Montana Silversmiths gold buckles—all-around titlist Trevor Brazile earned his 24th world title; tie-down roper Caleb Smidt collected his second; and barrel racer Hailey Kinsel grabbed her first.

But better things await the top names in the game, and they happen in Texas—from Odessa to Fort Worth to San Antonio to Pecos, this is already a hotbed for some of the largest events in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

It only gets bigger in 2019 with RodeoHouston and The American now being sanctioned by the PRCA. Both offer the largest payouts in Texas, with The American paying out $100,000 to the winners in each event. While not all the money won in Arlington will count toward the world standings, it will still go a long way in helping determine the top 15 contestants in each event that qualify for the NFR.

Take Harris, a four-time world champion bull rider from Goldthwaite. Had the $27,500 he earned by finishing second in Houston last March counted toward the standings, he would have finished the regular season with more than $120,000; that would have moved him to third in the world standings instead of 16th.

The American offers another great incentive, with $50,000 of the winners’ take counting toward the world standings.

Take steer wrestler Matt Reeves of Cross Plains, who won the title inside AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Had that money counted in 2018 like it will this coming season, Reeves would have finished the regular season with $99,291. He would have been second in the standings instead of 26th.

He missed the NFR after having his gall bladder removed and spent two months on injured reserve. But had that money from The American counted in 2018, he would have been battling for the world title in Las Vegas.

“I sat out for eight weeks of the best rodeoing of the year, so is that fair?” Reeves said. “Did I bulldog good enough to be there? Yes. So, it would have been nice that it counted, but part of it is staying healthy and not having anything go wrong. That’s the way rodeo goes. I didn’t stay healthy, and I had a crippled good horse.”

He is coming off the best financial win of his career. He split the $1 million side pot at The American with two others who battled through the qualifier rounds to compete at the richest one-day rodeo in the world, so he left north Texas with $433,000. He also won more than $100,000 in Calgary, Alberta, in July. But he’s got bigger plans for 2019. None of that counted toward an NFR bid.

“I look forward to the opportunity to go back to the NFR,” Reeves said. “I rodeo because it’s been very good to my family. Besides feeding my family and making a living, the gold buckle is the reason I rodeo.” —Ted Harbin

Ted Harbin is a longtime journalist who spent 22 years in the newspaper industry before focusing on rodeo. He owns Rodeo Media Relations and TwisTed Rodeo and is one of just eight individuals to be honored with media awards by both the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. He lives in Maryville, Mo., with is wife, Lynette, and their two daughters, Laney and Channing.