With sports betting becoming more accepted and legal in states from coast to coast, it seems fitting that the winners of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest, the biggest and longest-running pro football handicapping contest, would be won by two friends near the geographic center of the U.S.
Eric Jensen, a 38-year-old water well driller from Grand Island, Neb., and Matt Kucera, a 36-year-old territory sales manager for an insurance company in Omaha, Neb., teamed to win the SuperContest’s record $1.469 million first prize. They topped a record field of 3,328 who put up the $1,500 entry fee and made five NFL picks a week against the contest spread with wins worth 1 point and pushes worth half a point.
Playing under the alias “It Aint Breezy,” they were leading by 1.5 points over “Crispr” entering Sunday’s final day of the regular season. They clinched when they won their first play on New Orleans -13 (fittingly, as their alias is partly a tribute to QB Drew Brees in addition to being a tongue-in-cheek nod to the fact it’s always breezy in Nebraska) and the three contestants who entered the day mathematically alive lost with New England -15.5 at Miami.
“I knew we were in good shape when ‘Crispr’ had four plays in common and couldn’t catch us,” Jensen said. “(Longtime leader) ‘Tuco’ was on Carolina, so Drew took care of him for us, but we didn’t know we clinched with New England losing until we saw your tweet (@ViewFromVegas).”
It Aint Breezy went 3-2 Sunday to finish 58-25-2 (69.9%). Crispr held on for second place, 1.5 points behind the champs, to earn $505,190.40. Pro’s and Con’s finished third, worth $275,558.40 in the contest that has seen explosive growth like the poker boom of the last decade.
Interviewed Sunday night, the It Aint Breezy tandem sounded like regular Midwest guys. They played baseball together as kids, were high school friends and went to University of Nebraska-Kearney, where they majored in industrial distribution. They describe themselves as recreational gamblers who first took a shot at the SuperContest last year — finishing a middle-of-the-pack 42-40-3 — and are keeping their day jobs.
What did they do to celebrate their accomplishment? Jensen delayed our phone call to help his family dig out of a blizzard. Kucera built a Lincoln Log house with his daughter. Yep, salt-of-the-earth guys.
But they have their differences.
“Eric loves underdogs, and I love favorites,” Kucera said. “We would spend 1.5 to two hours on the phone every Friday night going over all the games to come up with our five strongest picks.
“Eric was telling everyone about it. I didn’t want to jinx it. I wasn’t sure we had a shot to win it until we went 5-0 in Week 15 and 4-0-1 in Week 16 when we took the lead.”
One person Jensen boasted to in advance of their victory was Kelly Stewart, whose KellyInVegas proxy service put in their plays every week.
“Eric called me about a week ago and said, ‘Can you believe two hicks from the sticks are going to win it all?’ ” Stewart said. Jensen confirmed the conversation, though he hinted the language was even saltier.
Jensen and Kucera weren’t quite as confident when the season started. They went 2-3 in Week 1 and were only 5-5 before going 5-0 in Week 3. After going 3-2 in Week 4, they went 5-0 in Week 5 to improve to 18-7 (72%) and into the top 100 for the first time.
“We felt if we could just pull it together and keep being consistent, we could stay in contention and get’r done,” Jensen said.