Interview with SuperContest champion Personal Gourmet (Eric Kahane, 44, of Irvine, Calif.)

Dave Tuley  
VSiN.com senior reporter

LAS VEGAS – Eric Kahane, 44, of Irvine, Calif., won the $1.42 million first-place prize in Westgate Las Vegas’ SuperContest, the famous NFL handicapping contest that ended Sunday with the conclusion of the regular season.

But despite topping a record field of 3,123 entrants who put up the entry fee of $1,500 by going 5-0 in Week 17 to finish an impressive 70% against the spread, an accomplishment that anyone would understand if he went on a bender, Kahane had his priorities in order.

“I had a celebratory dinner with a friend,” said Kahane, who spent Sunday in Vegas in case he needed to make any hedge bets, “and then I was driving home at 3 in the morning. My 4-year-old doesn’t care about any of this, he just wanted his daddy home for breakfast.”

Kahane, who was playing under the contest alias of Personal Gourmet as he’s the director of business development for the fine foods concierge service based in the southwest, also had to get back to work.

“I had to make sure everyone’s food got delivered Monday for their New Year’s Eve parties,” he said. Besides, while he says he’s “thrilled as anything” to win the SuperContest, he said not to call him a millionaire. “Uncle Sam takes $350,000 right off the top and the state of California is taking another $160,000, so it’s more like an eight-hundred-thousandaire.

“When the day comes to put me in the ground – not that I’m hoping it happens anytime soon – you can put it on my tombstone, but it’s not like I can retire as that won’t even buy a house in this part of the country.”

Of course, don’t feel sorry for Kahane as he chose to live in Orange County after this young man moved west in 2008.

“I had three back surgeries and I was also sick of going to doctor’s appointments on crutches in slippery parking lots and sidewalks,” he said. “So, I know what it’s like to overcome the odds. This contest was child’s play compared to that.”

Kahane was tied for third place entering the last day of the season, 2.5 points behind the leader, @Pigskin_Junkies (the alias of Scott Panza, 31, of Stamford, Conn.) but went 5-0 with his plays on the Cowboys, Chiefs, Eagles, Browns and Bears. That moved Kahane to the top of the SuperContest leaderboard with his record of 59-25-1 (70.2%) for 59.5 contest points.

Meanwhile, Panza’s @Pigskin_Junkies entry started the day with an easy win on the Bills but then lost with the Seahawks (who failed to cover as 13.5-point contest favorites in their 27-24 win over the Cardinals) and the Broncos (“I knew I was doomed when the Broncos pulled within 5 but then Case Keenum was picked off on the 2-point conversion and the Chargers ran it back for 2,” Panza said) before being bailed out by the Browns getting a back-door cover as 6-point underdogs in their 26-24 loss to the Ravens. That made Panza 2-2 on the day and in a tie for second place at 59 contest points with Rush YYZ 2112, but he still had one play left on the Titans plus-3 in the Sunday night season-finale against the Colts.

“I was pleasantly surprised to need the Indy side in the Sunday night game,” Kahane said.

Panza, who stayed home Sunday instead of going to Atlantic City, said “it felt awful to basically have a million dollars on Blaine Gabbert, especially as I wasn’t in a position to put any money down on the Colts [money line], but my handicapping of the game was more based on the Titans’ defense no matter who was going to start at quarterback, though I obviously hoped Marcus Mariota would be able to play.”

The Colts jumped out to a 14-0 lead and, even though the Titans were able to pull within a touchdown at 24-17 in the third quarter, mostly coasted to their 27-17 victory, giving Kahane the SuperContest title, which also comes with a championship ring.

Kahane said he ended up hedging very little during the course of the day on Sunday. In his only play of the early games (1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT), the Cowboys jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Kahane felt comfortable until the Giants kicked a field goal with 2:29 to play to go up by more than the 6.5-point spread at 35-28. Kahane was basically down to his final play but was bailed out when Cole Beasley made a spectacular, diving catch in the back of the end zone of a Dak Prescott pass on fourth-and-15 from the Giants’ 32-yard line. The Cowboys made a 2-point conversion to win 36-35 and keep Kahane alive.

“That was being called a meaningless game and it probably meant a lot more to me than 99% of the players on the field,” he said. “For the time and place and what it meant to me, Beasley’s catch was the greatest in NFL history.”

The afternoon games went smoother as the Chiefs routed the Raiders 35-3, the Eagles blanked the Redskins 24-0 and the Bears dominated the Vikings 24-10.

Kahane said he wasn’t as concerned with his final play on the Browns plus-6 at the Ravens as that was a common play that Pigskin_Junkies also had; however, it ended up being important to both when the Browns covered as both needed it to hold off Rush YYZ 2112.

Pigskin_Junkies and Rush YYZ 2112 finished tied for second and split the second- and third-place prizes equally for $409,425.30 apiece. The Top 100 cash in the annual contest that has exploded in growth over the past decade.

The Colts’ cover also gave the SuperContest Gold title to a player using the alias There Can Be Only 1, who capped off a 4-1 week to finish 55-27-3 (67.1%) in the $5,000 buy-in version of the SuperContest and take the winner-take-all prize of $640,000 as that contest drew 128 entrants in its second season. If the Colts hadn’t covered, There Can Be Only 1 would have had to split the prize with Hammer3, who went 5-0 in Week 17.

This was Kahane’s first year playing the SuperContest. He said he’s been coming to Las Vegas every August for years to bet college and pro football futures.

“I thought about entering before, but with the prize pool getting bigger every year, I thought I might as well take a shot at it this year,” he said in an interview after Week 8, adding that he’s played other handicapping contests and follows the NFL closely to do his future-book wagers. “The first couple of weeks it’s fun, now it’s a job.”

Sunday night’s game wasn’t the first time Kahane and Panza had money on the line against each other. The SuperContest has a $15,000 “1st Half Bonus” for the co-leader after Week 8. Kahane was 32-8 (80%) at that point but Panza was 31-8 but had the Patriots -12.5 against the Bills that Monday night. Panza won that battle as they collected $7,500 apiece, making Kahane’s record SuperContest haul actually $1,429,714.20.

Obviously, Kahane never fell too far out of the running since he was third entering the final week, but he was a more modest 22-17-1 for Weeks 9 through 16. And he couldn’t have picked a better week to go 5-0.

“A lot of people like Week 17, but it’s always been good to me so I really wasn’t nervous at all, especially how the games played out,” Kahane said. “The first 16 weeks were way more stressful.”

Kahane said if there were an awards ceremony that he would definitely want to thank the Westgate for putting on the contest and also his proxy, Nathan (proxyvegas.com), who put in his weekly selections as that's how it's possible for entrants from outside Nevada and has helped lead to the growth of the SuperContest.

“It was an exciting run,” Kahane said. “I do feel a sense of accomplishment and pride that I was leading, fell off a little bit and then got the train back on the tracks.”

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