Friends Go In Together On NFL SuperContest: Trust Each Other, Trust The Process
There’s number of different football sports betting/handicapping contests throughout Las Vegas, none more famous than the NFL pick ’em contest operated by the Westgate LV SuperBook. Known simply as the “SuperContest,” it boasts a mixture of professional gamblers and novice bettors who flock to Las Vegas every year to sign up in hopes of winning a top prize that’s surpassed $1 million in the past two years, owing to the influx of entries and exploding popularity over the past decade.
With so much money at stake, a growing trend in the SuperContest is friends getting together to form teams. Instead of one person paying the $1,500 entry fee, a group of people sign up together to split the fee and the profits.
Teams come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from college roommates to groups of 20. And with different types of teams comes different strategies. Some teams use models, some prefer the democratic process of allowing each member a weekly pick, while others may ride the hot hand. There is no right way for entrants to be successful in the SuperContest.
Two teams that have proven different methods can lead to success in the SuperContest are “Stag Capital” and “Pigskin Junkies.” Stag Capital uses a model to make their picks with no emotion involved, while Pigskin Junkies uses a more subjective handicapping approach.
Four college buddies and a model
Stag Capital is a team made up of team of former college football teammates Mike Hall, Andy Traba and Chris Lewert. The trio first entered the SuperContest in 2014 and finished in 12th place to take home $26,306.25.
“The first year we entered winning it was probably aggressive but we thought we could finish in the money,” Traba told RotoGrinders. “After placing that first year, we’ve been hooked ever since.”
Stag Capital didn’t fare nearly as well the two following years. They finished tied for 229th in 2015 and tied for 1,212th place in 2016. In 2017, the team decided to switch things up and enter the inaugural SuperContest Gold. The SuperContest Gold is the same premise as the SuperContest where participants choose five teams against the spread each week, but the buy-in is $5,000 with a winner-take-all first prize.
The strategy worked. Stag Capital finished in first place by a half point to win $470,000 in the Gold contest. Stag Capital ended the season with a record of 51-32-2 record (52) points to beat out 93 other contestants. Playing in the smaller SuperContest Gold field paid off for Stag Capital. They would have finished in 48th place in the original SuperContest with the same record and won only $1,100.
“The Gold contest plays more to our strengths,” said Traba. “Our model is about numbers and variance and playing in the smaller Gold contest gave us a better opportunity to finish in first place.”
Like individual entrants, teams have different methods for making picks. For Stag Capital, the method is simple. They came up with a model back in college and whatever it says, those are the picks each week. No discussion. Nor arguments. It comes down to math.
“The best thing about our team is in college we created the foundation of a model,” said Traba. “We refined it over the years but that’s the same model we use to create our picks. So, there is zero debate and zero emotion in it. We plug the numbers in, the model spits out the five teams we’re taking and that’s it. For us as a group, we’re not emotional about it. It’s just what the numbers say.”
“Having a set process is important but it’s even more important when you’re playing with other people,” Hall added. “If you have a bad week, some people may want to deviate from the process, then if you keep losing, you’ll blame the people who wanted to change. That’s how friendships get ruined. You want to have a process in place and stick to it.”
Sharing entries and breaking down the games
Another team that’s had recent success in the SuperContest is Pigskin Junkies. Made up of Scott Panza and Jared Larson, the duo finished tied for second last year. Pigskin Junkies uses a different strategy than Stag Capital, both in terms of how they enter and handicap.
Scott and Jared each put in their own entry with each player having an equity share in both. They then discuss the game throughout a week-long process instead of using a model.
“On Monday, my process would be to project what I thought spreads should be for that week,” said Panza. “I do my best not to look at any early spread lines that are posted. On Tuesdays, I do my own power rankings of where I thought teams should be then benchmark them where ESPN had them, thinking the general public is going to look at ESPN rankings. Then I could find some teams I thought were undervalued on ESPN.com that could maybe be an indicator of spread value that week.”
“On Wednesday, the spreads come out, so I do a deep dive into injuries, matchups, who is coming off a bye, stuff like that,” he continued. “Thursday I’d write a preview for the weekend for Jared and some other friends summarizing my thoughts on the week. Friday, Jared and I would make our picks and try not to look at each other’s plays, just to avoid groupthink. Then we would see where we came out versus the consensus picks on Saturday. We really tried our best to avoid having action on some of the top selected teams. That’s a big goal in the weekly process. If you can fade those teams, it can help separate yourself from the pack.”
Stag Capital and Pigskin Junkies are proof is there is no one right way for teams to approach the SuperContest. Making picks are done in a variety of ways but no matter which process a team uses, the most important thing is actually getting in the picks every week.
“The biggest challenge is really deciding who is getting the picks in every week,” Hall said. “My advice for teams starting out is to make sure you know who will be entering the picks every week. The worst thing is going winless one week because you forgot to put in picks.”
Proxy services lend a hand
Both Stag Capital and Pigskin Junkies use a proxy service to enter their picks. The SuperContest doesn’t require participants to live in Las Vegas. The only requirement is one person needs to be in Las Vegas to sign up for the contest. Most people who live outside the state of Nevada then hire a proxy to make their picks for them each week. The contestants send their picks to the proxy service, then they officially enter them into the contest for a fee.
Matt Simo (Vegas Matty) and Toni Law formed a proxy service together in 2009, FootballContest.com. They are the proxy for both Stag Capital and Pigskin Junkies. The first year in business the two had 11 clients. The popularity of the SuperContest has helped their company grow as well. Simo predicts 2019 will be the third straight year where they have over 1,000 clients.
Simo said the most difficult part of the team process is deciding how to make the weekly selections. Having been a proxy for over decade, Simo has seen all kinds of methods for making picks.
“It’s obviously more manageable to have four or five guys go in together and split the $1,500 entry fee,” said Simo. “The tricky part is then making the picks. I’ve heard all kinds of different ways people do it. It could be each guy gets a pick or they ride the hot hand and take one player’s picks. I’ve had clients with 20 people on a team and I have no idea how they do it. It’s all over the board how teams make picks. Really, it’s what works for them.”
Simo has a warning for those partnering up for the SuperContest: Make sure you trust the other people on your team. SuperContest rules state only one member can have their name on the registration form. Should the entry place in the money, the name on the form is the person who collects the money.
“If you get involved with a friend and think you’re a 50/50 partner, make sure you trust that person,” said Simo. “The person who signs up is the one getting the check. I have seen instances where one guy has just taken the money or screwed a team member because their name isn’t on the entrée form. Whoever signs up is the point person for the entire contest. They have full control of the entrée.”
Future of the SuperContest
The SuperBook has set a record for the number of contestants eight years in a row. Last year, a record 3,123 entrees participated in the SuperContest with $1.4 million going to the winner. LV SuperBook and Superbook USA Vice President and General Manager Jay Kornegay expects to exceed those numbers in 2019.
Thanks to social media, the popularity of the SuperContest is at an all-time high and more people are forking over the $1,500 entry fee for a shot at the title. Kornegay believes this year’s winner could take home $2 million, drawing even more casual sports bettors to the SuperContest.
“I think back in the day it was dominated by the educated player,” Kornegay told RotoGrinders. “We still have those type of players in the SuperContest even though they will complain that there are too many average Joes in it now and it’s a crapshoot. I hear that but I have to laugh it off because back in the day the winner used to get $200,000. Now we’re going to approach $2 million this year.”
With the SuperContest growing more popular every year and sports betting now being legal in seven states outside of Nevada, the future could see the SuperBook expanding outside of Las Vegas. The SuperBook is now its own brand, separate from the Westgate, and it plans on opening more properties in states with legal sports betting. If the laws continue to change, a nationwide SuperContest may become a reality in the future.
“We are currently discussing with potential partners to operate in other jurisdictions,” said Kornegay. “We do plan on operating the SuperContest in other states as regulations permits. That won’t be a nationwide contest at this time, as we are restricted by the regulations currently. Now, if they change, certainly we’ll change the way we offer the SuperContest. If they ever relax the federal regulations, we’ll take advantage of that and offer it like a Mega Millions Power Ball contest.”
Trust the process
This year more contestants than ever will sign up for the SuperContest. Many of the entrees will be a group of friends trying to turn $1,500 into close to $2 million. What advice do previous winners have for first time participants in the contest? Trust the process.
“What I would suggest to people is at the start of the year, solidify how you are going to handicap and play the tournament then don’t deviate from that,” said Traba. “Get a strategy up front of how you want to play and stick with it for 17 weeks. Don’t change from week to week. You really don’t have a strategy then and that’s when people get into trouble.”