A record-breaking Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest has been won by 32-year-old Starbucks barista Damon Graham.
To those late to the party, the Super Contest is the biggest NFL handicapping competition in the world, held annually at the Westgate Las Vegas, which also boasts the world’s biggest race and sports book.
The contest began in the eighties as a means for the best professional sports bettors to compete against one another and has since become something of a Vegas institution.
This year it boasted its largest ever field and numbers have no doubt been swelled by the craze for daily fantasy sports, which has engendered a new legion of number-crunching, stats-studying sports enthusiasts.
These days, both amateur and pro bettors like to do their homework and compete, and the huge field and $1,500 buy-in fee yielded a huge prize pool and almost a $1 million first place prize.
In fact, the explosion in the contest’s popularity is being compared to the growth in fields at the World Series of Poker during the early days of the poker boom.
The event has grown from 345 entries in 2010 to 1,854 this year, as more and more amateurs join the field.
The aim of the game, of course, is to outsmart the bookies, or, in this case, Westgate’s point spread, picking five games each week throughout the 17-week regular season.
Graham bought into the contest for the maximum two entries, to turn a $3,000 investment into $907,699. Entering Week 17, both of his entries were tied for fourth place and so he decided to go opposite sides for the remaining five games with each entry, one of which came in at 5-0 to seal him the title.
“I’ve never been happier to be wrong about anything in my whole life,” he told ESPN.
Smell the Coffee
Asked how he could afford the $3,000 buy-in on his barista salary, he said: “I decided last year, after just having one entry, that I wanted to give two a try.
I just saved my money by cutting expenses and making sacrifices in my social life. I worked and just got ready for the football season.”
Graham spent Sunday morning at Starbucks concocting iced café lattes and double chocolatey-chip frappuccinos as usual, only to discover during his lunch break he had won the whole thing.
“I went to work to take my mind off of it,” Graham told The Associated Press. “I knew I was going to win something, but it was pretty amazing to find out I finished first.”