Rovell: What Does It Take to Win the Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest?

Rovell: What Does It Take to Win the Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest? article feature image
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The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook

  • The 2019 Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest is the biggest and most famous sports betting competition in the world.
  • Darren Rovell details how the SuperContest grew to its current size and what it takes to win the top prize, which projects to be over $1.5 million.

Drive up to the Westgate hotel and it’s a shell of its former self. Once called the International Hotel and later the Las Vegas Hilton, it hosted Elvis in its first two months.

In 1969, the “King Of Rock N’ Roll” lived there for two months and played 58 straight performances, after not having done live performances in eight years.

Today, the Westgate isn’t top-of-mind with most Vegas tourists. It’s off the strip and doesn’t offer anything particularly attractive other than the $40 a night room.

But the Westgate is very relevant to sports bettors. It boasts the SuperBook, the largest sportsbook in the state of Nevada at 30,000 square feet and it is the home to the SuperContest, still considered the premier handicapping contest around.

The rules are simple. A bettor must show up in person with $1,500 before the first regular NFL season is played. Each week, that bettor must submit five picks against the spread to the SuperBook. Each win gets a point. Each tie gets a half of a point.

If bettors don’t live in the state, they have to get a proxy physically in Nevada to submit their picks each week. For the first time in 2019, picks can be made on the app, which is still restricted to Nevada.

Until 2010, the contest was largely local. But social media, the internet and three men helped popularize it.

The first was Steve Fenik. Fenik was a bettor referred to as “Fezzik” who in 2008 and 2009 won the contest. The fact that he did it twice in a row against a combined 676 entries drew some news coverage, including a story in ESPN The Magazine from its editor Chad Millman, now the head of media for us at the Action Network.

Millman’s story drew the interest of Bill Simmons, who was then at ESPN. And in 2010, Millman and Simmons participated in the SuperContest, with Simmons frequently chronicling his season for his readers.

In 2010, the men competed against 345 entries. By 2012, the entries in the contest had more than doubled to 745. Two years later, in 2014, there were 1,403 entries — with bettors allowed to submit a maximum of two entries.

And the prize money? In 2009, Fenic won $196,800. Five years later, in 2014, it was $736,575 to the winner. By 2016, the winner received over $1 million and entries topped 2,000 for the first time in 2017 and 3,000 for the first time last year.

As of August 28, there are 2,310 entries in the SuperContest, which awards prizes to the top 100. With a projected 3,500 entrants and a formula that gives the winner 32% of the net pot, this year’s winner would make $1,545,600.

The top five would gross at least $200,000 with the top nine grossing at least $100,000. Places Nos. 81-100 would get $2,415.

So what does it take to win? Usually a win rate of 70%, which is remarkable considering that professional bettors make their living by hitting roughly 55% of their wagers. SuperContest players will also tell you that there is a lot of game theory involved in the competition. Going against the grain and avoiding picks that will be popular gives you an edge — so long as you pick the right side.

With all this in mind, we went to Vegas to register “Team Action” for the SuperContest. Follow along with us this year as we give you our five picks of the week against the spread in our quest to inform you and take home the winner’s prize.