Just over a week ago, a Starbucks barista on $15,000 a year picked up nearly $1 million after winning the biggest pro football handicapping contest in the world.
Damon Graham correctly predicted all five games on the final day of the NFL season to beat some of the top sports bettors in the world to the $895,482 first prize, the second biggest grand prize in the history of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest.
Jay Kornegay, Sportsbook Director at the Westgate Las Vegas, expressed his surprise over Graham’s win, which was secured by picking ‘opposite sides on both of his cards in hopes one would finish high in the money’, but dismissed criticism of the Barista’s final day strategy.
Graham described it as ‘the best 0-5 in my life’, after he picked the teams he thought would win on the other card, only to go undefeated by going against them on the card that won.
Kornegay commented: “He was just looking to land in the money and thought that was the best strategy. I think he was almost in shock he won the whole thing. Let’s not forget to give him credit for the 16 weeks prior, which put him in a winning position. If he goes 2-3 or 3-2 like most entries, he doesn’t win it.”
Graham had saved up $3,000 to make two $1,500 entries for the 17-week regular season contest, in which contestants picked five games against the spread each week, with one point for a win and half for a tie. His 5-0 final day mark contributed to an overall record of 54-28-3.
The second of the top 50 cash winners was another surprise, as Illinois farmer Mark Jorstad achieved a 53-29-3 record to claim $358,193 despite not watching a single game on TV until after he finished his corn and soybean harvest in late November.
Kornegay reflected on a difficult year for the ‘sharps’, which are defined as true handicappers that use gambling as a primary source of income: “With a Starbucks barista and a farmer going 1-2 in the most prestigious pro football handicapping contest in the world, it proves that with a little strategy and luck anyone has a chance.
“This year was tough on the ‘sharps’. They usually select overlays or ‘value’ and that strategy didn’t work this year. Double digit underdogs and betting against some inflated lines didn’t work this year. Underperforming teams like the 49ers, Browns, Rams and over performing teams like the Cowboys, Patriots and Raiders were consistently paying off for the public.”