Most competition bbq cooks pursing their first category win, top five overall finish, grand championship, or even team of the year award usually reach the conclusion after their first couple of contests that achieving bar-be-que nirvana is harder than it looks.
It seems easy enough as a spectator (and some judges probably fall into the same trap)...
1) send in your contest entry fee
2) buy an inexpensive (substitute "cheap") offset or water smoker at a local hardware store
3) practice cooking on it a few times
4) after two or three attempts, invite the neighbors and relatives over for a "taste test"
5) receive rave reviews and start day dreaming about how you'll spend the prize money
Of course all novices learning the ropes in almost any sport whether it's golf, bowling, baseball, basketball, or whatever else come to the realization that it takes dedication, persistence and lots of practice to achieve any respectable level of proficiency.
Some get lucky and achieve success early on, only to finish in mid-pack or worse in the next few contests. A certain percentage throw in the towel and don't continue the quest, while others see it as a nobel pursuit and welcome the challenge.
There's a growing number of people that have somehow reached the conclusion that the secret to good bbq is having the latest electronic gadget, marinade, spice rub, bbq sauce, bbq classes, newest style of cooker, "secret tips", and an elegant motorhome to transport them with. While some of these things might make contests more enjoyable, throwing lots of money at bbq without first building a base of experience is not adviseable, in my opinion.
Brand new competitors should first take the time to develop an understanding that even the best competitors sometimes go through droughts where they don't win any substantial prize money for months. "Buying your way in" hoping to hit it big doesn't really work any better in the sport of bbq than it does in horse racing, golf, auto racing, boat racing, or even lawn mower racing.
Sometimes you've got to go through alot of disappointments before the thrill of success arrives. And that my friends, is what makes it all worthwhile.