SuperContest sign-ups will be kicking off July 1st again at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, and I recently caught up with 2016 SuperContest champion Damon Graham there. Graham’s two aliases in the SuperContest last year were POPS2008 and POPS3284, the latter of which was the entry he intended to go 5-0 and finish first. Instead, it was his other entry that paid off with a perfect mark, helping him win more than $900,000.
The SuperBook has already announced the addition of SuperContest Gold this year, and Graham told me to count him in for the high-stakes, winner-take-all contest with a $5,000 entry fee. He will enter SuperContest Gold and put in two SuperContest entries again too.
Most everyone knows Graham’s story by now, the Starbucks barista who won the biggest pro football handicapping contest in the world as a Vegas local. But like everything else when it comes to picking games, there is obviously some luck involved. So I asked him to share some of his winning tips for contestants hoping to cash in this season (Part 1 of 2)…
First of all, what have you been up to lately?
Damon: Just been working and relaxing. Letting the dopamine come down a little bit until I make any big decisions, make any big purchases. I haven’t really done any big vacations, I’ve just went and seen some family. Just did some simple stuff. Play it smart, play it calm.
Do you plan on quitting your job at Starbucks?
Damon: It’s still a possibility, I think by the end of summer I might move on to something else. I still want to work, I just want to move on to something different.
What made you move out to Vegas in the first place?
Damon: I’m from Maryland originally. First, I saw the World Series of Poker. I saw (Chris) Moneymaker win it when I was in college, it made me want to move out there then. I heard about the SuperContest once I got here, and I wanted to do that too. Also, I wanted to move out to the West Coast, and this is the most affordable city.
When did you enter the SuperContest for the first time?
Damon: I’ve been in it twice before, this was the third time I entered.
What has changed the most since you won the SuperContest?
Damon: Honestly, since you have money in the bank, it’s more comfortable. There’s not pressure, (living) check-to-check or day-to-day. That’s a good thing. I think the only big difference is just that I’ve been more at an equilibrium. My daily life has been more calm, more chill, no stress. The stress has been relieved. Now you have options to do stuff, options to live.
Are there any teams that won a lot for you in terms of picks last year?
Damon: The funny thing is, I’m a Giants fan, and the Cowboys really helped me out a lot. They were undervalued for the first half of the year, and then the pivot happened around Week 10 or so where they got overvalued. Then I got to fade them a little bit on the back end of the season. Reading that week in and week out helped me out.
Have you started handicapping teams for this year yet? If not, when?
Damon: I don’t start until preseason, until I see injuries and the depth charts. You can’t handicap anything until you see injuries or if something (else) happens. Wait a little bit, somebody might beat out somebody for a starting job, a rookie plays better than you think he’s going to play. An injury happens, like with the Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo goes down, Dak (Prescott) comes in. You can’t really handicap that (right away). And even during the season, you have to adjust on the fly to everything, not believe the over-hype.
Can you talk about how you approached last season when you won the SuperContest?
Damon: Everything’s its own animal. Every week is its own animal. Every part of the season is its own animal. You can’t really follow a trend. You have to grind out every week.
Are there any teams you think are undervalued right now?
Damon: I don’t think Arizona is getting the kind of respect they deserve. Arizona’s a little better than people think they’re going to be. I wish Blake Bortles was better, but I like Jacksonville’s roster. I just don’t like their quarterback. Their quarterback stinks, so it’s tough. I think Denver’s going to take a step back up. Having Paxton Lynch get that one season under his belt, learning the offense.
Are there any teams you think are overvalued?
Damon: Even though they lost a lot of close games, I still think San Diego’s going to be down. That roster’s a little off, and moving to LA. Playing in that little soccer stadium, home-field advantage might not be as pronounced as what it was in San Diego.