2021 Bookies Battle Recap: Max Schmerin Wins GT’s NFL Betting Contest

Another Bookies Battle is officially in the books. Gaming Today’s annual NFL pick ’em betting contest has come to an exciting end with the playoff portion requiring a Super Bowl tiebreaker.

Max Schmerin, Sportsbook Manager at Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, took home the $3,000 grand prize in the 2021 Bookies Battle with a 156-111 record against the spread during the regular season (a win percentage of 58%). Schmerin closed the regular season with back-to-back 12-win weeks.

Duane Colucci, Race and Sports Manager at Rampart Casino in Las Vegas, finished second in the regular season with a 153-114 record (57%) to win $1,000.

Nick Smith, of Snoqualmie Sportsbook, scooped the $1,000 prize for the playoff portion of the contest, picking eight winners in 13 postseason games and nailing the 43 total points scored in the Rams’ 23-20 Super Bowl victory to secure the tiebreaker over Colucci. The top 11 finishers in the regular season advanced to compete during the NFL playoffs.

The Bookies Battle is an annual NFL pick ’em contest hosted right here at Gaming Today. Bookmakers from across the US sports betting community are invited to participate.

Bookies Battle: Regular Season Standings

With 51 handicappers vying for the top regular season prize, Schmerin edged Colucci by three correct picks throughout the course of the 2021-22 NFL campaign.

The top 20 contestants in the regular season portion of Gaming Today's 2021 Bookies Battle.
The top 20 contestants in the regular season portion of Gaming Today’s 2021 Bookies Battle.

Smith Claims Bookies Battle Playoff Prize

Schmerin and Colucci led a group of 11 bookmakers heading into the playoff portion of our Bookies Battle. Colucci had a chance entering Super Bowl week, but Smith’s prediction of 43 points was dead-on, and the Washington state-based bookmaker claimed the $1,000 playoff prize.

Per contest rules, the top 10 regular-season finishers advance to compete in the playoffs. As a result of ties, 11 contestants moved on to the playoff round of the 2021 pick ’em contest.

Nick Smith was victorious in the playoff portion of Gaming Today's 2021 Bookies Battle.
Nick Smith was victorious in the playoff portion of Gaming Today’s 2021 Bookies Battle.

East Coasters Lead the Way in 2021

Bookmakers hailing from sports betting culture-rich neighborhoods of the East Coast took the top two spots in our 2021 Bookies Battle.

Max Schmerin

Max grew up in Pittsburgh — the hometown of legendary bookmakers like Jack Franzi, Jimmy Vaccaro, and Franzi’s nephews Chris Andrews and Art Manteris. He played Division 1 tennis at Youngstown State in Ohio, located in another town known for its sports betting history.

In fact, he worked under Vaccaro when the Las Vegas veteran returned to Pittsburgh for a brief stint in 2019 before heading back to the South Point in Sin City.

“It was pretty cool to have worked with Jimmy Vaccaro,” Schmerin told Gaming Today, “kind of showing me how Vegas works and every morning coming in and saying, ‘Hey kid, let me tell you a story,’ and always having a reference point and helping immerse me in the industry.”

Schmerin got his start in the casino business as an intern in slots operations in 2015. From there, he became a slots supervisor, but the legalization of sports betting was on the horizon, and Andre Barnabei, VP of Gaming at Rivers’ joint in Pittsburgh, tabbed Max for the sportsbook.

“He sat me down and told me how great an opportunity this was. I was just so excited to be part of something new and growing,” Max recalls. “I just thought, imagine how big this could be down the road. … This was just a fantastic opportunity. I just took full advantage and ran with it.”

Duane Colucci

Duane grew up in Queens, New York, around some of the neighborhood bookies who serviced the borough. After graduating from Christ the King High School, he attended Queensborough Community College, “like one exit from Belmont Park,” where he could be found on a daily basis. His dad took him upstate every summer to bet the ponies at Saratoga.

With gambling in his blood, Colucci moved to Vegas when he was 20 years old and enrolled in dealer school on Fremont Street downtown. He then landed a gig dealing craps and blackjack, took a break from the casino business to help out at his father’s cigar shop, and was soon approached by Sid Diamond and Eric St. Clair, who ran the sportsbook at Rampart he frequented.

“(They) said, ‘Duane, why don’t you get into the business?’” Colucci said this week. “I had a knack for it. I grew up all around it in Queens. I was at the track every day.”

In those days, the Rampart posted its own lines (the book is now associated with and offers the same product as the South Point, run by Vaccaro and Andrews), and Colucci moved up in the organization, from ticket writer to supervisor to making parlay cards and adjusting lines.

Running it Back in 2022

We’re excited to bring back Gaming Today’s Bookies Battle for the 2022 NFL season. This year’s contest will feature an increased prize pool and quarterly contests throughout the season.

Stay tuned for more details, and please follow along again as our bookmakers pick winners and compete for thousands of dollars in prize money.

About the Author
Marcus DiNitto

Marcus DiNitto

Managing Editor, News
Marcus DiNitto was news managing editor of Gaming Today. In past roles, he has been managing editor at national sports websites SportsBusiness Daily, Sporting News, and The Linemakers, as well as with licensed sportsbook operator USA Sports Gaming. Marcus graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earned his MBA from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and studied sports and entertainment marketing at New York University.

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