LAS VEGAS — Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder must be smiling. His former “NFL Today” buddy is going into full handicapping mode, and I cannot wait.
Windows will be open this weekend for the Westgate SuperBook’s NFL SuperContests, and I am climbing aboard. The rules are simple. Starting Thursday, Sept. 7, with Kansas City at New England and continuing through the end of the regular season on Dec. 31, I am picking five NFL games each week against the spread. There are no over/unders in this competition, and everybody plays with the same point spreads.
For the first time there are two contests this year – the normal $1,500 buy-in with up to two entries per competitor, and the inaugural, winner-take-all SuperContest Gold with a $5,000 buy-in and a limit of one entry per person.
As Westgate sports book director Jay Kornegay told me when he introduced Gold, “That will really settle some of those whispers about multiple entries. That type of format will prove to others that those are your top five picks, and you have to rely on just those picks to decide the championship.”
Now if “The Greek” were still alongside I might step out with the big boys. But because I am a rookie I will stay in my lane and take the maximum two entries at $1,500 a pop.
Yes, I am already practicing. Using the numbers posted by South Point, let me have Atlanta minus-6 (at Chicago), Philadelphia plus-2½ (at Washington), Tennessee pick’em (sorry, Raiders), Pittsburgh minus-9 (at Cleveland) and Indianapolis minus-3 (at L.A. Rams).
Not only am I excited about the contests but also about the new media partnership between the Westgate and my guys at VSiN. We are still putting together the final details, but you can expect to be reading more about these competitions as we get closer to fall and then dive into the deep end of football season.
We should also point out that if you do not live in Nevada but you can get here to sign up for the contest, you may still take part as long as you designate a proxy on your own – someone to show up here in Las Vegas and put your picks in each week at the Westgate.
That is exactly what 61-year-old Mark Jorstad did last year. He is a corn and soybean farmer from Morris, Ill., who finished second in the $1,500 contest and won $358,192.
If you need further proof that you do not have to be a professional gambler to cash in, last year’s winner was a Starbucks barista by the name of Damon Graham. He beat 1,853 other entries to take home the big prize of $895,482 — $905,482 including a bonus prize.
I am just hoping an old broadcaster who is living the dream now here in Vegas can get a piece of this. In short, show me the money!
- - -
It is not King Football, so it is amazing how the NBA has kept itself in the headlines nearly three weeks after the season ended. Just like Major League Baseball has done so well with its hot stove, it is player movement and rumors that have led to a constant buzz about basketball.
I don’t know about you, but I have actually been reading more about hoops lately than the NFL, which I think is all positive for the NBA. It does not hurt that the early movement of veterans like Jimmy Butler and Chris Paul has fueled matching movement of the odds to get to and win the 2018 Finals.
We already know that nearly two-thirds of the money bet in Nevada on sports last year was wagered on football and basketball. For his part, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has admitted that gambling is not a bad thing.
It certainly was not bad if you bet on the NBA in May. When casinos reported they took a record $4.4 million loss on basketball, that meant that bettors were pocketing that money. The bookies’ loss was hopefully your gain. As South Point oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro told me, betting on favorites and overs meant you kept cashing tickets. Thank you very much, Golden State Warriors.
Looking ahead as free agency reaches a climax over the next couple weeks, the L.A. franchises are clearly heading in opposite directions. Even though the Clippers have held the upper hand in terms of performance lately, they have declined dramatically over the past week with Chris Paul jumping to Houston and Blake Griffin making the rounds. About the only positive thing in Clipperland has been the hiring of Jerry West as the latest one to try to put the franchise back together. Again.
Passing the Clippers and going the opposite direction, the Lakers are definitely on the upswing. Whether you want to admit it or not, Pops LaVar has something to do with it. Saying that his son Lonzo Ball would lead them into the playoffs generated an immediate proposition bet over at the Westgate. Yes, the Lakers make the playoffs gets you 5-1. No, they won’t would pays off at minus-700. I am waiting to hear that LaVar shows up to put his money where his mouth is. Actually, you can tsk-tsk Pops all you want, but he is keeping the Lakers in the headlines, and that is positive for that franchise.
In Houston, we have to be curious about how Paul and James Harden will handle the basketball. And in the East we will have to see where Paul George lands, and if Griffin slides in to make an impact. Either way they will still be chasing Cleveland – unless, of course, one or the other decides he can’t beat the Cavs and, instead, joins them.
Despite all the movement and all the gossip, no one is going to displace the Golden State Warriors as the overwhelming favorite to win next year – as long as they do as expected and keep free agents Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. Yes, the possible loss of an André Iguodala would hurt a little because of his defensive prowess, but that would not be a game changer for the Dubs.
In other words, look out Vegas bookmakers. The Warriors will be back for more. And so will their backers.