LAS VEGAS – I’m never going to play poker with my friend, George King.
King, a 60-year lawyer who works for the federal government here in Las Vegas, won the $640,000 first-place prize in SuperContest Gold, the Westgate Las Vegas’ $5,000 buy-in, winner-take-all version of its famed SuperContest using the appropriate alias of There Can Be Only 1. King topped the 128-player field by posting a record of 55-27-3 (67.1%) against the spread, making 5 NFL picks a week over the 17-week regular season that concluded this past Sunday night. He clinched the title on his final play on the Colts -3 when they blew out the Titans 33-17.
But none of that impresses me as much as the poker face he exhibited during the whole season.
I’ve known King for a decade as he’s a longtime poster in my ViewFromVegas.com Forums using the moniker Squarepants. He’s been to my house for Christmas dinner. He took me to four Vegas Golden Knights games last season, including Game 1 of the Stanley Cup.
I saw him nearly every Saturday morning this season at the Westgate as he was putting in his SuperContest plays and I was preparing for my VSiN show with the SuperContest Consensus numbers. Sometimes we’d talk more than others, but I certainly knew he was having a very good season as his Squarepants entry was in the Top 100 of the regular SuperContest most of the season and he was tied for 11th entering Week 17. I had no clue that he even was in the Gold.
His Squareapants entry was 3-1 Sunday, so I wasn’t surprised when he joined me and my friend, Roger Dorn, in the back of the Westgate SuperBook after the first quarter of Sunday night’s game. I congratulated him on his SuperContest finish and we sat there and figured out that if the Colts covered, he would finish tied for 6th and win $147,608.60; if the Colts won by exactly 3, he would win around $100,000; and if the Titans covered, he would have to settle for around $80,000.
Not a word was said about the Gold.
He knew I was texting Jay Kornegay, the Westgate’s VP of race & sports, for contact info for the top SuperContest finishers, including There Can Be Only 1, who by that time was guaranteed at least $320,000 because Hammer3 had gone 5-0 to tie him for the lead.
So, even though King knew he was winning at least $400,000, he just continued to watch the action. No bragging. Very little outward cheering. Buried in my work, I sometimes forgot he was there.
Frank Carulli, the longtime face of Pimlico Racecourse who set the Preakness line for years but who now spends most days betting race & sports in the SuperBook, stopped by our table (we were rather conspicuous at the ESPN radio table on a platform next to the poker room, where we shoot most of VSiN’s live remotes from the Westgate). He asked King for a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. King gave a thumbs-up but I didn’t see anything more in his expression. Just another day at the office.
The game ended and I Tweeted out the result.
There Can Be Only 1 lives up to its name by winning the $640,000 winner-take-all prize in #SuperContestGold, clinching with IND -3 on #SNF to go 4-1 in Week 17 & finish 55-27-3 (67.1%); Hammer3 went 5-0 but fell 1 point short (would have split prize if TEN had covered) @VSiNLive
I still hadn’t heard back from Kornegay, because King hadn’t answered his request for contact info from the man sitting right next to him.
After wrapping up the SuperContest Classic results, I did make a point to publicly congratulate King on his accomplishment.
Special shout-out to ViewFromVegas Forum Hall-of-Famer and longtime friend Squarepants (aka @Auyeur) for his 6th-place finish in the #SuperContest as he collects $147,608.60 after going 4-1 today and finishing 55-27-3 (67.1%) @VSiNLive
He coyly replied in the Twitterverse, but no mention of the Gold.
Auyeur @Auyeur 30 Dec 2018
Thanks, Dave, it was a pleasure catching the second half of #SNF with you and "the third baseman" @SuperBookUSA while I was out hedging, etc. Very enjoyable and fitting way to bring in the final leg on the way to a nice payday. -- Spun-G
Monday passed. Happy New Year! Tuesday passed. Wednesday. Thursday. I had posted my stories on VSiN.com on the winners of SuperContest Classic and the Golden Nugget, but still no word on the SuperContest Gold champion.
And then King called on Friday, leaving a cryptic message and follow-up text: “You’ll want to call me back…LOL.”
I called to find that he was There Can Only Be 1 and he was collecting more than $790,000 from the Westgate. Oh, by the way, I learned he also had a second SuperContest Classic alias of Nico Itchi (translated as “two swords for one” to represent his two SC Classic entries) that finished tied for 56th place for another $3,800.40.
He apologized for the secrecy, but said it was necessary – especially knowing my place in the media.
“It was an unusual situation,” King said. “I had to run it by my bosses. Working with the federal government, as far as I know they hadn’t run into this situation with one of their employees winning a major gambling prize and I had to run it by my bosses. As late as Thursday night, I thought I was going to have to accept it anonymously, but thankfully they ended up deciding that I had worked really hard at this and deserved to enjoy it.”
King received his undergrad and graduate degrees from LSU. While living and working in Louisiana, he became interested in sports betting in the mid-1990s and flew to Vegas (so he could make sure he was only doing it legally) several times a year before making the move here in August 2003. He said he unfortunately didn’t hear about the SuperContest until after the season started while visiting the old Gamblers Book Store on 11th Street and Charleston.
He entered the next year and finished tied for fourth, half a game back and would have won if not for a missed field goal by the Jets in their 32-29 overtime loss to the Rams in Week 17.
“Like Dan Marino, who got in the Big Game in his rookie year, you think you’ll be back plenty of times, but here it is 14 years later,” said King, though he’s being modest (or is it more bluffing?). He tied for first in the Leroy’s NFL Challenge one year for $11,000 while also placing in The Challenge at Station Casinos and a short-lived contest called the Glory of the Gridiron at Caesars Palace, plus a 39th-place finish in the SuperContest in 2015.
During this time, he was also helping me with my coverage of the SuperContest over the years in the VFV Forums, including long-running discussions on whether it is possible to win the SuperContest just by playing the most stale lines every week.
King said that without giving away too many of his specific strategies (hey, why should the secrets end now!), “I had a really good month of research coming into the season and integrated a lot of things that I’ve learned over the years.”
There Can Only Be 1 entered Week 17 with a 1-point lead over Danny Polo 1, 1.5 over Lightning 2 and 2.5 over the trio of @PreGame, PrePay and Hammer3.
King went with Panthers plus-8.5, Texans -6.5, Falcons plus-1, Broncos plus-6.5 and Colts -3.
“I knew that PreGame [with two-time SuperContest champion Fezzik] would be doing the Hail Mary and going full contrarian against the biggest line moves to try to catch me,” King said. “I didn’t want that the happen, so I went with the strongest plays that I really believe in and let them go against the ones where I was less confident.
“I also had to protect my lead against the other contenders and I wasn’t sure how they would play it. I know the math guys would say I should have used all the advantage plays as that would give me the best chance to win. And I would have done that if I had 1,000 chances where playing stale lines would win the vast majority of the time. But I had this one shot in December 2018 and thought this was the best way to play it.”
In Sunday’s early games, the Panthers routed the Saints 33-14, the Texans coasted past the Jaguars 20-3 and the Falcons beat the Buccaneers 34-32. If the Broncos had covered vs. the Chargers in the 1:25 p.m. PT kickoffs, he would have clinched the SuperContest Gold title, but the Chargers pulled away for a 23-9 victory. That allowed Hammer3 to catch There Can Be Only 1 with 55.5 points and forced King into needing the Colts -3 on Sunday night.
King said he didn’t end up hedging too much cash on Sunday.
“My Squarepants and Nito Ichi entries were both tied for 11th place entering Week 17, so I went with the same plays on my Squarepants and There Can Be Only 1 entries and opposite on Nito Ichi to guarantee a high finish. If I had gone with the same picks on Nito Ichi, I would have had both entries tying for 6th, so I felt I had already hedged about $120,000 [with Nito Ichi going 1-4 and dropping to 56th place].”
King said he would retire the aliases he used this year.
“I’m a competitive s.o.b.,” he said. “I don’t want to give anyone an edge by having them figure out how I’m playing, especially at the end of the contest.”
Spoken like a poker player – and a football handicapping champion.