Investment Challenge Leader Pulls Ahead of the Pack

Also, a Kentucky meteorologist with little time to spare breezes into second place for the week.
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If there's one thing that

TheStreet.com Investment Challenge

leader

Dave Betten

has mastered over the last month, it's how to take advantage of IPOs.

Betten, who after last week leads the challenge with $5 million more than the second-place contender, has accrued this huge lead by daytrading IPOs during their first few hours on the market.

Last week, for instance, Betten made over $1 million on

Net2Phone's

(NTOP)

offering. Betten says he scours financial publications and watches

CNBC

to find hot IPOs, and then spends much of the day trading the newly issued stock.

So far the strategy has worked. Betten was the top weekly gainer for the last two weeks and is the only contestant to have made the top five winners list every week since the challenge began on June 28.

But with only three weeks left in the contest, he's wary that he could blow his considerable lead with just one or two wrong moves. He says he'll take fewer gambles on IPOs and aims to make only conservative gains over the next few weeks.

"If someone gets closer, I'll have to take some more risks," he says.

He finished the week at $12,359,467 with a weekly gain of $3,501,480.

As a meteorologist from Jackson, Ky.,

Chuck Greif

is more accustomed to predicting changes in the weather than fluctuations in the stock market. But last week he proved he knew a thing or two about investing when he gained over $2 million en route to his second-place showing.

Greif, who's making his first appearance in the top five, made a large portion of his earnings after the

collapse of

Sunrise Technologies

(SNRS)

. But even after he bought the stock at a low price, he came close to losing money when the stock fell even lower. But then it rallied to 4 3/4, and he sold for a strong gain.

He also shorted

MP3

(MPPP)

and, like Betten, rode Net2Phone's IPO to a sizable gain.

But Greif remains far behind the overall leaders, probably because of several issues that have dogged him. Working on his fantasy portfolio is frowned upon at the office, his modem is out of date so he has trouble making quick trades, his wife is discouraging him from buying a subscription to

TheStreet.com

and he frequently has to cover the graveyard shift at the weather station.

But Greif, who calls trading stocks "socially acceptable gambling," says he entered the challenge purely for the fun of it and is hoping it will give him some practice in real-life investing.

He finished the week at $3,303,510 with a weekly gain of $2,394,655.

The other top-five finishers for the week included

Zachary Goldfarb

, who ranked third at $2,831,963 with a $1,722,902 weekly gain.

Kent Hurd

ranked fourth at $3,296,455 with a $1,456,796 weekly gain. Hurd placed in the top five during the first three weeks of the competition.

John Smathers

finished fifth at $1,622,055 with a weekly gain of $1,234,454.

For a list of the current overall leaders, click

here. Registration for the challenge continues until 9 a.m. EDT Aug. 9.