A big weekend of NFL betting was had for sports bettors across the country. After studying the lines or making a quick selection before game time, football fans hoped their teams come through for a win.
But professional poker players David “ODB” Baker and Mark Gregorich didn’t necessarily need hope, as they have experienced plenty of winning this season. The two teamed up as NFL handicapping partners and finished by winning the famed Westgate SuperContest at Westgate Las Vegas.
The pair scored $435,623 for first place in the NFL handicapping contest. They also tied for second in the Circa Sports Million for another $200,000.
“As you can imagine we are stoked!” Baker wrote on Twitter immediately after the win in response to a note of congratulations from the Westgate Superbook. “We spent the day at the sportsbook in your huge booths and had a fantastic time. Thank you for putting on the contest!
The two prognosticators proved they have skills beyond the poker table. Baker spoke with PlayUSA about the win and living a dream any sports bettor would envy.
Handicapping the action
While they may not be professional handicappers, Baker and Gregorich looked at some key parameters. Those changed at times during the season but offered some insight on games to watch each week.
The big part of finding an edge was offensive and defensive line play. Baker and Gregorich looked for matchups that favored one team in this regard.
“It got us early on teams that weren’t forecast to be as good, teams like the Colts, Steelers, Washington Football Club, the Browns,” he says. “You may not necessarily think of those teams as juggernauts because you’re not drafting those players in the first round of your fantasy football league. But the line play on those teams is superior and there are some teams that were just overmatched.”
The play at quarterback also offered an edge. They found that a limited number of fans made it easier for QBs to audible and read defenses. That helped lead to bigger offensive numbers.
“Mark and I identified either going into week one or quickly in week one, going into the rest of the year,” Baker says, “just how these good quarterbacks really had an added advantage in 2020 that they never had in the past.”
An offense in sync was easier with quarterbacks more easily communicating with coaches, running backs and wide receivers. Baker says officials also didn’t call holding this season as much as in the past. That also greatly favored good quarterbacks and their blockers.
“When you’re not calling holding, there are fewer sacks and quarterbacks are going to have an extra second in the pocket,” he says, “thus giving the better quarterbacks the opportunity to read the defense, get separation, and lead their receivers.”
More deep pass interference calls also helped play callers in this scenario. Players launching passes downfield were paid off with big pass interference calls.
A sports betting dream team
Over the entire season, Baker and Gregorich went 54-26-5 for almost 68% against the spread. They felt some of the lines began to catch up with some of the angles they tracked. That meant reassessing teams and matchups throughout the year.
Each week, both men would assess and pick games. They used these considerations to narrow down games they liked. Their goal was to be competitive in both the Circa and SuperBook contest.
That meant overlapping some picks but also including a few extras. If one player felt stronger about a team than the other, that pick might be an additional pick in either contest. Baker believes their team approach paid off in the long run.
“If we both saw the game the same way, we felt pretty confident that we wanted it,” Baker says. “When you enter these contests, whether you want to think you have a skill advantage, at the end of the day these lines are there for a reason: to even out the playing field. Even if you have a strong take on a game or something, you’re never more than like 55 or 60 percent confident.
“It’s a lot of luck, us landing on the right games. I’m sure there were weeks where if I had filled out the card by myself, we would have had a significantly worse record. Or if he had filled out the card by himself we could have had a significantly worse record. We just happen to usually find the right mixture of games.”
On Jan. 3, the pair spent the day in the SuperBook to sweat their final day of action. While they just missed winning both contests, it was nice to bring home such huge scores.
So close to the double win. Ugh Seattle gave us the miracle then took it away….we won @WestgateVegas SuperContest for $435k which is so cool and a dream! We managed to tie for 2nd in @CircaSports for $200k consolation prize! What a fun ride @markgregorich
— David Baker (@audavidb) January 4, 2021
A big few years for Baker
The SuperBook and Circa scores highlight a huge couple of years for Baker. In 2019, he won the World Poker Tour’s LA Poker Classic for $1 million. He also added his second World Series of Poker bracelet that year and has $6 million in live tournament winnings.
The sports betting contests helped fill a void that’s been missing since COVID-19 shut down major live tournament poker.
“When it comes down to it, I love the competition,” he says. “that’s kind of what this contest gave me – an opportunity to compete at something I enjoy.”
Specifically, Baker enjoys the analysis that comes with sports betting. It’s a thrill to see a matchup come with a result that he and Gregorich predicted.
“In the sports world, everybody has their opinion,” he says. “[The SuperContest] is kind of just a chance to validate your opinions. This contest is basically like my opinions are better than your opinions over the course of the season. I’m under no delusion that we’re ever going to be in this spot again or outclassed the field or anything like that, we just happened to run good.
“It’s still kind of cool to say that for one year I put my opinions up against your opinions on the NFL, and my opinions were better than yours.”