Tom Blazek knows a thing or two about winning football handicapping contests.
The sportsbook supervisor at the South Point won Gaming Today’s Bookies Battle in 2017 and he did it in impressive fashion. He finished nine games ahead of the runner-up.
The 46-year-old from Youngstown, OH is in the mix to win the second annual GT Bookies Playoffs. He had a good run in the regular season to crack the top 10 and he said his formula for success hasn’t really changed over the years.
“I pretty much trust my instincts and go with what my gut feels,” Blazek said. “I try not to overthink things.”
His years of acquired football knowledge have served him well. He played a year of college football at Ohio Northern University, then transferred to Ohio State where he didn’t play. Finally, he finished up college at his hometown school — Youngstown State. But he is fiercely loyal to the Buckeyes, and to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That was the toughest part of the NFL season for Blazek as Ben Rothelisberger went down in Week 2 and there was a revolving door of quarterbacks. Yet, Pittsburgh was in it right up to the end.
“I had to look up who Duck Hodges was,” Blazek said. “I had no clue about him. But the defense was really good and if Ben comes back, they’ll be O.K.”
Interestingly, Blazek can thank his parents for making him Steelers fan. His brother was a Browns fan growing up in Youngstown and his wife also pulls for Cleveland.
“There’s pictures of me and my brother in pajamas when we were little,” he said. “He was in Browns PJs and I was in Steelers. I always remind him that I definitely got the best of that deal.”
Blazek has been with Michael Gaughan for 24 years, going back to the Barbary Coast. He wouldn’t want to work for anyone else.
“He’ll come in and sit with us and watch the games together,” Blazek said of the South Point’s main man. “He used to get behind the counter and write tickets. When I started as a ticket writer at the Barbary (Gaughan) would be next to me writing tickets. He kids us now that he thinks we kicked him out from working the window (at South Point).”
Blazek lets Chris Andrews handle the risk management side of things. But Andrews said Blazek is an indispensable member of the South Point’s team.
“If something happened to Tom, we’d close,” Andrews said. “Obviously, I’m exaggerating. But he’s our glue guy.”
Last month, when Gaughan asked the sportsbook staff to come up with a parlay card for the National Finals Rodeo, Blazek was the point man on the project. Not only did they deliver for Gaughan, it proved to be a popular wager during the 10 days of the event.
“It did O.K.,” Blazek said. “It grew as we went along. People who bet it seemed to like it.”
Blazek’s main responsibilities in helping Andrews manage the book is to make sure the staff is on point and that the customers are taken care of. If you’ve ever visited the South Point’s book, you’ll find the writers are friendly, smiling, greet you with a hello and make sure your tickets are written accurately.
“I want everyone to enjoy coming to work and to pass that on to the customers,” he said.
He has enjoyed the Bookies Battle competition and now that it has reached beyond Nevada, it makes it even more special. Blazek is hoping he can add to his legacy with a strong finish in the conference championship and next month’s Super Bowl. Through the first two rounds, he is 5-3, going 2-2 in the Divisional round with wins picking the 49ers and Chiefs.
“I’ve got a couple of people in front of me but you never know,” he said.