Las Vegas handicap contests painful for Review-Journal reporter
Every player dreams of a big score that could change their life.
I chased big sums of money at the World Series of Poker, entering the Main Event twice… and twice running out of money.
I’m also a fixture in the Las Vegas handicap contests, playing everything from Last Man Standing at Station Casinos ($ 100 for five entries) to Westgate SuperContest ($ 1,000 for one entry).
I never won anything in any of them either.
But I’ve passed painfully a few times, and every week this season I’m going to document my experience taking my chance at this fall’s competitions.
First, let’s count the four worst days of my sports betting life:
4. November 10, 2018: There are 12 entries left in the Station LMS College Football Contest (out of 2,776), and I’m one of them. The winner takes home $ 56,550.
Iowa is -10½ at home against Northwestern. That’s way too many points in what should be tough defensive play.
But wait, I think: this is what the bookies want you to believe. That oddly high line is an indicator that Iowa is going to roll. Let’s go, Hawkeyes.
The opposite thought has gone wrong. Northwestern wins outright 14-10.
3. March 30, 2021: News from a few months ago. There are 25 participants left in Station’s LMS March Madness contest out of 2,065 entries, with $ 42,800 going to the winner. Last day of the Elite Eight, three salary choices.
Gonzaga is 29-0 and dominates the opposition. I have a bright idea: Let’s go against the Bulldogs with Southern California + 8½.
Like Iowa in 2018, at least I don’t really have to sweat this one. Gonzaga leads 49-30 at halftime and heads for an 85-66 win and a move to the Final Four.
2. January 3, 2016: Last week from the Westgate SuperContest, and I’m sitting in 34th place with 50 spots to pay.
No betting today, but I have a big sweat. I’m tied for 34th in the Westgate SuperContest, I need a 3-2 week or better to make sure I have the money.
– Jim Barnes (@JimBarnesLV) January 3, 2016
I know a 3-2 record in Week 17 is going to land a place in the money; 2-3 makes it risky. I’ve split my first four games and find myself with the Green Bay Packers -3 at home against the Minnesota Vikings with the division title on the line on “Sunday Night Football”.
Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater throws just 99 yards, but Minnesota returns a 55-yard fumble for a touchdown to take a 20-3 lead in the third quarter. The Packers rush into the 20-13, but Aaron Rodgers’ pass in the end zone is incomplete as time expires.
I am 50-32-3 on the season (60.9%) and I finished tied for 52nd. No money. An extra push along the way would have been worth around $ 3,000, an additional win around $ 6,000.
No regrets except for each of the 32 losses (returning one would have put me in the money), and all the pain and suffering.
– Jim Barnes (@JimBarnesLV) January 4, 2016
1. April 6, 2019: I will never get over it. We have reached the Final Four, two choices of glory. Eight entries out of 2,942 remain, with $ 59,625 going to the winner.
All week long, I’ve been agonizing over taking Virginia -5½ against Auburn or Texas Tech + 2½ against Michigan State. Just before the announcement, I decide on Virginia.
The Cavaliers lead 57-47 with five minutes remaining. I know the lead is far from sure, but an inexplicably overconfident thought comes to my mind: you did it, man. Good work.
I didn’t, man. Auburn is chasing a 14-0 run to take the lead. The Tigers have two leads and Kyle Guy of Virginia is fouled on a 3-point score with 0.6 seconds remaining. I need him to hit two of three to force overtime and extend my hopes.
No shooting. He calmly does all three and Virginia wins 63-62 but certainly doesn’t cover -5½. Texas Tech then goes through Michigan State 61-51 to make sure I feel even worse.
But someday I believe I will win, and that’s why I keep coming back.