Strategy for playing in football contests

Sep 2, 2008 7:03 PM

by Kevin Stott | Football contests conducted by Nevada sports books will be huge this season, so itís only appropriate that last yearís Hilton SuperContest winner offer tips on how to play.

Michael Handzelek sat down with me in the place where it all happened, the Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook, and talked about some strategies the football contest player can employ to make his or her weekly contest card something to enjoy.

Handzelek and his partner last year, Joe Gaffney of New York, took home the Hiltonís $205,200 top prize, beating out 341 other entrants in the Grandaddy of all football contests and just missed out on a special $10,000 aggregate bonus for entrants picking 67% or more, finishing with a 55-30 (65%) record. The two have decided on separate entries this season.

GT: Have you made any contest picks yet for Week 1?

MH: None of my picks is in concrete yet. (At this point in time) theyíre just speculative, tentative picks for the first week that you may be leaning toward.

GT: Whatís your process in making selections for these contests?

MH: I do all the research and break things down Ö winners versus losers, fundamental handicapping, technical handicapping, mixing it all together to come up with five solid picks each and every week whether itís five in the pro contest here (Las Vegas Hilton) or at Leroyís or for the seven for their (Leroyís) college contest. I take about eight teams on the board and then come up with three solid picks Ė thereís usually three solid picks a week Ė and then those other five picks are going to be on the fence. Iím going to mold them, shape them down. Look over the pros and cons and then come up with a solid two out of those five.

GT: Does your weekly strategy change depending on your current record?

MH: No. Youíre always on the attack. You never deviate from the plan that was set forth before the contest starts. You have to follow the game plan all the way through. When you build up a 20-point lead in a football game are you going to get soft or are you going to go for the jugular as until that game is way in-hand?

GT: What are some strategies you can share with our readers?

MH: I have universal strategies and sometimes some of those strategies also apply to life in general. One of them is to trust your instincts. If you see something solid, donít second- or triple-guess yourself. Go with whatís solid, go with your natural instincts and usually those will come out ahead of the second-guessing and changing.

The second thing is attack with an insatiable curiosity. Go after what you want to get. See that goal, obtain that goal. Donít worry that your record is 4-6 after two weeks. That means nothing. Youíve gotta look at the long-term. Youíve gotta look at the prize 17 weeks down the road. You canít get shook. You canít panic. Thatís a defeatist kind of attitude and you canít be a champion when you think mentally like that. You have to be flawless, you canít make mistakes. When you have 85 bullets (17 weeks x 5 weekly picks in the LVHís SuperContest), that will go faster than you think. So you really have to be mentally sharp all 17 weeks. You canít have lapses where you donít put in as much time one week as you put in the next week. Everyone wants a piece of that pie and if youíre not willing to be a gamer, youíre going to go from No. 1 to No. 251 and then youíre going to wonder why."

Another good thing to do is to separate yourself from the mob. Donít get too involved in spending a lot of time at a sports book sifting too much at one time. Donít get overwhelmed because if you do then youíll start listening to too many people and everything will get jumbled up and youíre not going to be able to think clearly. Get those blinders on like and horse and go ĎThereís the track, thereís the finish line.í And then what you want to do is go for that finish line because itís in sight. Donít get caught up with the mob.