The Paris Las Vegas team of Bert Groner and Michel Hendrie mixed in enough underdog covers in a favorites-dominated year to capture the 20th annual GamingToday Bookies Battle.
Groner, who took over for Hendrie in the final quarter of the 17-week season of selections, finished five games ahead of second place Raphael Esparza of New York-New York. Groner’s 154-102 record worked out to a 60.1 percent winning margin, bettering the overall marks at both the Stardust Invitational and Leroy’s Head to Head Challenge.
Groner, who was not available for comment at press time, eased to an 8-8 effort in the final week, good enough to hold off Esparza’s 9-7 slate of games that at times resembled pre-season affairs.
Third place went to the Gold Coast’s Nikki Commisso at 146-110, followed by Kitt Langvad of Arizona Charlie’s West (145-111). Fifth place was shared by Jack Frost (Harrah’s), Jon Schied and the combo of Rob Terch and Doug Castaneda (Wynn Las Vegas) at 142-114.
The 70-member panel’s consensus picks wound up at 140-116 (54.7 percent). The champs at Paris Las Vegas will receive the $1,000 first place prize, emblematic of the state’s top bookmaker for the 2005 NFL season.
Last year’s champion Johnny Spot of Barbary Coast, hit 61.3 percent (157-99), matching the 2003 winner Casey Maloni (then of the Aladdin). The consensus wins were 57.8 in 2004 and 58.6 in 2003. Spot again finished well above .500 this season at 134-122.
Frost, who narrowly missed winning the Bookies Battle two years ago, said GT’s competition gave the Vegas handicappers a forum in which to get some exposure for their respective sports books.
"What GamingToday has been doing is great," Frost said. "It’s a well respected paper that allows us in the business to have some friendly competition, while allowing the customers an opportunity to gain some insight from the best handicappers around. I know I take pride in everyone doing better than those competing in the Invitational."
The Bookies Battle requires every participating bookmaker to choose the point spread winner of every NFL game against half-point lines (new for this season).
Moreover, the bookies have to make their picks on Monday mornings, often time before lines are set and injuries are announced.
The other contests, which both failed to produce a 50 percent winning margin, allow contestants to pick their best seven picks on the Friday night preceding Sunday’s NFL games.