Jason Halpin can relate to Patrick Mahomes. Or maybe it’s the other way around.
Mahomes is chasing another Super Bowl ring with the Kansas City Chiefs, while Halpin will be pursuing a second straight title in Gaming Today’s 2020 Bookies Battle Contest sponsored by Station Casinos.
Halpin, who manages the Aria’s sportsbook on the Las Vegas Strip, not only won last year’s regular-season championship over 80 other contestants by picking 57% correct winners from every NFL game played (146-110), he also won the Bookies Battle Playoff Contest. In all, Halpin earned $1,500 for his efforts.
“I’m still shocked,” Halpin, 36, said of his triumphs. “I guess some years you just have a feel for things and it all works out. I was fortunate that I never had a bad week.”
The 2020 NFL season has its set of unique challenges, not the least of which is trying to conduct business during a national health crisis. The league opted out of its preseason and when the season kicks off Thursday night, a certain amount of uncertainty will be in play.
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Halpin said last year that he relied mostly on gut instincts rather than use statistical data and analytics to craft his selections. Will he have similar success using that formula this time around?
“There’s so many questions going into the season,” he said. “I think it’s going to be an extremely strange year.
“I’m going to go the first couple of weeks with the teams that have the most continuity and adjust as we go along. The NFL is a league of overraction. You have to be ready to make adjustments. You’re asking yourself, ‘Is the team I’m watching really what it is?’”
The Bookies Battle has been a GT staple since 1979. The rules are simple: Contestants have to pick every game on the NFL schedule every week against a point spread set by the GT staff. All selections must be made by Tuesday afternoon and cannot be changed once they are submitted. Whoever has the most wins at the end of the regular season wins $1,000. That person also gets to participate along with nine others in a special NFL Playoffs contest worth $500.
It’s not easy. Winning a contest like Bookies Battle takes a lot of skill as well as a little luck.
“I think this year, getting off to a good start is going to be huge,” Halpin said. “Nobody knows if they’re going to play the entire season. If you fall behind early, it could be tough to catch up.”
Halpin said there’s no way to handicap the coronavirus. If a team suddenly has an outbreak on Thursday or Friday and it impacts the lineup, the pick the contestants turn in on Tuesday afternoon could be rendered virtually useless.
“I hope we can get through the season without an incident,” he said. “A couple of months ago, we were asking ourselves, ‘Are we going to have sports?’ But I think the NFL helped itself by the fact it starts later than the other sports and they’ve been able to see what basketball, hockey and baseball did right. Hopefully, they learned from it and everyone will act responsibly.”
The coronavirus impacted Halpin’s travel plans. He was supposed to go to Europe in April. But the trip was canceled after the outbreak restricted travel from the U.S. He hopes to make the trip next year.
“A lot of the money I won from the contest went to pay for the trip,” he said. “So right now, it’s sitting in the bank.”
Halpin rode Kansas City to the end and he’s expecting the Chiefs to not have a Super Bowl letdown.
It’s hard to go against Mahomes and the Chiefs,” he said. “As long as he stays healthy, you have to like their chances.
“It’s weird that the Patriots got rid of (Tom) Brady. But it’s the Patriots and it’s (Bill Belichick). He’ll keep them competitive. But I still think Kansas City is the team to beat.”
According to Halpin, the NFC is more problematic in trying to pick the Super Bowl LV participant.
“Did the 49ers catch lightning in a bottle last year? They aren’t a juggernaut,” he said. “I think the NFC is totally wide open. A number of teams could win the conference. Green Bay with (Aaron) Rogers. The Saints with (Drew) Brees. Brady and the Buccaneers. Atlanta. A lot of teams have a shot.”
As for his own chances of repeating in the Bookies Battle, Halpin said he’s ready to go.
“I had so much fun last year,” he said. “It was such a great experience. If I can be competitive and give myself a chance, I’ll be thrilled.”