• The 2018 Gambling Olympics has ended with Jonathan Bales winning first place and the $10,000 grand prize.
  • Justin Phan and Pete Manzinelli took second ($6,000) and third ($4,000) and helped Team Levitan seize the group prize ($10,000).
  • Here are the top five moments from the Main Event.

The Main Event is over, but the memories will live forever. Here are the top five moments from the 2018 Gambling Olympics.

 

1. Ingram Beats Bales at Rock-Paper-Scissors

Jonathan Bales prides himself on one thing: his Rock-Paper-Scissors ability. He talked about it at length on The Buffet with Chad & Scooch, and when asked before the Gambling Olympics about which event would be his strongest, he said this: “My strongest event will be Rock-Paper-Scissors. Everyone knows I’m one of the world’s greats.”

Bales might indeed be the best RPS thrower in the multiverse, but on Day 2 he was maybe the worst in the field. In fact, RPS was his worst event of the entire tournament. Before the official Day 2 RPS challenge started, Bales and Brandon Adams played a $1,000 best-of-seven match, which Adams won, bringing the amount Bales owed Adams at that moment up to $3,100.

Evidently the loss to Adams put Bales off his game, because he lost a devastatingly intense 11-10 match to Joey Ingram in Round 1. Ingram used Bales’ tactics against him, slow-playing every throw and taking long breaks so he could pace around the pool and pump himself up. He disrupted the flow of the game and made it almost impossible for Bales to develop a rhythm. On top of that, Ingram’s loud and aggressive style seemed to get under the skin of the typically stoic Bales. He maybe even got into Bales’ head by “practicing” his upcoming throws right in front of him, daring him to call his bluff.

 

Note that after Ingram won a point against Bales, two of his teammates immediately ran to him to celebrate: More on that later.

Regardless of what they were doing, everyone in the Gambling Olympics stopped so they could watch this match: There was that much drama and next-level game theory.

When Joey won on the 21st throw, he started jumping up and down and running around and hooting and hollering and acting the fool, and I can’t believe I just became a grandpa while typing this sentence. As Ingram celebrated, Bales glared at him with a look that was both bemused and murderous. Without talking to anyone, he walked away from the group, went into his room, closed the door and didn’t come out for a solid 15 minutes, maybe longer.

 

Good thing. It took us about 15 minutes to stop laughing.

Without question, this was THE moment of the Gambling Olympics. Bales ended up winning first place and the $10,000 grand prize thanks to his consistent top-tier performance, but years from now, when people talk about the first Gambling Olympics, they aren’t going to talk about how Bales won the Main Event. They’ll talk about how he lost RPS to Ingram in Round 1.

2. Adams Beats Bales to Win the Yahtzee Championship and $2,100

Before Yahtzee (the first event of Day 2), Bales and Adams entered into a $7,000 side bet, of which the $1,000 best-of-seven RPS match was a part. The other $6,000 in action was on the Yahtzee, Daily Fantasy Sports, Sports Betting, Blackjack, Poker and RPS challenges.

Adams risked $1,000 at +110 in each of the six events, and whoever placed higher in an event won the bet. Additionally, if the winner finished first in the event, he got a $1,000 bonus.

With this bet on the books, Bales and Adams threw themselves into Yahtzee — and they both made it the Yahtzee finals. At stake in their championship matchup was $2,100 in head-to-head action.

Sean Koerner set lines for the game.

  • Spread: Adams +7.5
  • Bales chance square over/under: 21.5 o (+100), 21.5 u (-120)
  • Bales final score over/under: 252.5
  • Adams final score over/under: 245.5

Unofficially, Koerner also set a moneyline of Adams +120 or so, but the market moved the line and made Adams an even bigger dog.

Side action poured in, with Peter Jennings backing Adams as much as he could, wagering $2,600 at +150 odds and an additional $100 at even money.

In total, at least $6,000 was riding on the game.

How did the match unfold?

Adams won, 209-152. He took $2,100 off Bales, and Jennings won $4,000.

Oh, here’s something important I forgot to mention: Before the Gambling Olympics, Adams had never played Yahtzee before. The championship matchup was just his third game ever.

3. Scott the Intern Beats BlackJack (Twice) in Chugging Contest and Wins Backers $1,140

After dinner on Day 2, Adams organized an impromptu chugging contest in which he picked the matchup, set the lines and served as the book. For the first matchup, he asked if there were any volunteers. He immediately got one.

Scott the Three Donkeys Intern.

If you listen to The Three Donkeys podcast, you know that Scott is a big guy (6-foot-9). He looks like he was built to throw back a beverage. Scott worked tirelessly to make the Gambling Olympics a great event. Up until the chugging contest, he’d been so focused on managing everything that he hadn’t even had a beer, so when he asked to compete, we all got excited. There was definitely some hooting and hollering.

To compete against him, Adams picked BlackJack Fletcher, a near-legendary consumer of alcohol, and he made former MLB All-Star Paul Lo Duca the referee.

After sizing up the contestants, Adams made Scott a +120 underdog … and then there was pandemonium. Bales immediately put $500 on Scott. Pete Manzinelli was second with $100. And then Scott was third with $100: He was betting on himself. Adams moved the line on Scott to -140, but Jennings still put $280 on him, and I followed with $140.

In total, $1,120 was placed on Scott, who dominated his matchup — twice! — because Lo Duca invalidated his first chug.

Even though he had to pound two brewskies, Scott the Intern showed up for his backers, winning them $1,140.

And then he went straight back to work. What a guy.

4. Z Destroys the Outside Table at Blackjack on Day 1

If you read my Gambling Olympics journals covering the preliminaries, then you know who Z is. He’s the sharp sports bettor who went to the awesome WNBA game with us and who turned Adam Levitan on to a soft 20-1 Washington Mystics futures bet available at a local sportsbook. (That line is no longer available: Z and Levitan saw to that.)

Z was a nighttime fixture at the Gambling Olympics, swinging by the house to talk sports betting and help with the scorekeeping and calculating of points and standings. (He also graciously gave Jennings and me a ride to the airport at 5:30 a.m. after a long night of post-Main Event revelry. To quote Jennings, “Z is a legend.”)

Since dealers were needed for Blackjack, Z and I agreed to function in that capacity. Z took the table outside while I took the one inside.

Since I didn’t witness what happened, I can only convey what I heard and what the data indicates, but Z slayed. The Gambling Olympics participants at his table had no chance. Imagine Rain Man — but as the dealer: That was Z. He was getting 20s and 21s left and right. He wasn’t cheating at all, and he wasn’t counting cards or doing anything unconventional for a dealer. He was just putting down cards and raking in chips.

Some people are born to run hot.

Z’s virtuoso Day 1 performance radically impacted the overall standings for that two-day challenge, and since the overall standings were so tight at the end, he had a real impact on the outcome of the entire tournament.

To put this in perspective: On Day 1, the worst player at my table did better than the best player at Z’s. In the final overall standings, that difference mattered. In fact, of all the individual Gambling Olympics performances, Z’s might’ve mattered the most — and he wasn’t even a participant.

5. Team Levitan Wins Group Title and $20,000 in Total

Team Levitan was the biggest underdog of the Main Event with +200 odds. The unit Levitan assembled got no respect. While he had the fifth-highest individual odds to win at +550, his three original draft picks — Ingram, Manz and Michael Mooney (a writer covering the event for The New York Times) — all opened as +900 dogs. No participants had longer odds than they did.

On top of that, nothing seemed to be going well for the team heading into the event. There were questions as to whether Ingram would even show up. Manz moved from +900 to a horrible +1400 when zero people bet on him to win. And Mooney had to withdraw so there would be no potential conflict of interest as a reporter and participant. Justin Phan of The Action Network happened to be in town for UFC 226, so he was added to the team, but he had less than a day of preparation time.

It would’ve been easy and understandable for Team Levitan to fail.

Instead, the members of the team pulled together as a unit. Teams Bales and Jennings had more star power, but Team Levitan unquestionably had the best teamwork. Levitan, Ingram, Phan and Manz all supported each other. They cheered each other on and celebrated together when one of them won and commiserated when one of them lost. They strategized more as a squad.

While all of the other participants had separate rooms in the house or other places to stay in the city (such as Ingram, who lives in Las Vegas), Levitan, Phan and Manz all bunked together in the isolated guest house by the pool, and during the day, Team Levitan used it as a headquarters, sometimes retreating there to regroup and plan for the next couple of events.

From the very beginning, Team Levitan was tight and focused on winning the group prize, and that teamwork translated into individual success, as Phan, Manz and Ingram finished second, third and fourth in the final standings, propelling Team Levitan to first overall in the process.

With $6,000 for second, $4,000 for third and $10,000 for the group prize, Team Levitan was the big winner of the Main Event, collectively pocketing $20,000.

  • Phan: 2nd, $8,500
  • Manz: 3rd, $6,500
  • Ingram: 4th, $2,500
  • Levitan: 8th, $2,500

Although he didn’t have much individual success in the Main Event, Levitan was exceptional as a drafter and manager. Out of the field of nine non-captains (aka the non-Three Donkeys), Levitan managed to have the guys with the three best finishes on his team. That doesn’t seem coincidental. Whether Levitan has a contrarian eye for talent or the organizational acumen to create a player-friendly environment that enables his team to thrive and encourages it to play hard for him, his performance as a general manager was as perfect as it could be.

Even though Bales won the top individual prize, the sharpest of the Three Donkeys in the Main Event might have been Levitan.


For more information on the Main Event and preliminary events, see the Gambling Olympics section of the site.

Follow Matthew Freedman on Twitter
@MattFtheOracle