A 32-year-old Starbucks barista named Damon Graham has successfully won the record-breaking Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest, which made him $900,000 richer. To those still in the dark, the SuperContest is the largest NFL handicapping competition in the world, held yearly at the Westgate Las Vegas, which also boasts the world's largest race and sportsbook.
The aim of the whole game is to outsmart the bookies, or in this case, Westgate's point spread, picking 5 games each week throughout the 17-week regular season. The contest started in the 1980s as a platform for the best pro sports bettors to compete against one another, and since then it has become something of a Las Vegas tradition.
Sports enthusiasts who checked the statistics said that this year, the contest boasted its biggest ever field and numbers have grown significantly thanks also to the craze brought about by daily fantasy sports. Nowadays, both pro and amateur bettors like to do their homework first and then compete. Therefore, the huge field and the $1,500 buy-in fee resulted to a huge prize pool and almost $1 million is up for grabs as the first place prize.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest actually drew a record attention, similar with the growth of the World Series of Poker during the poker boom. Does this mean that the winner, barista Damon Graham, can be likened to Chris Moneymaker of sports betting?
As more and more amateurs participate, the event has grown from 345 entrants (in 2010) to 1,854 this year.
The emergent winner Graham bought into the contest for the max two entries, to turn his $3,000 investment into a whopping $907,699. As Week 17 started, both his entries were tied for 4th place, and so he decided to go opposite sides for the remaining 5 games with each entry, one of which came in at 5-0 to win him the title.
He told ESPN, "I've never been happier to be wrong about anything in my whole life."
How could a humble barista afford the $3,000 buy-in? He answered, "I decided last year, after just having one entry, that I wanted to give two a try. I just saved my money by cutting expenses and making sacrifices in my social life. I worked and just got ready for the football season."
He spent Sunday morning at Starbucks concocting double chocolatey-chip frappes and iced café lattes as usual, only to discover (via TV at his work) during his lunch break that he had won the event.
He said, "I went to work to take my mind off of it. I knew I was going to win something, but it was pretty amazing to find out I finished first."
Graham told ESPN that he is not really a serious sports bettor, therefore his win can be similar to that of an amateur player winning the WSOP main event.