GT ‘underdog’ wins
Stardust Invitational

Dec 23, 2003 8:20 AM

Every dog has his day. Just ask GamingToday editor David Stratton.

Stratton on Sunday completed an unlikely run by winning the Stardust Invitational Handicapping Tournament as the biggest underdog in the field of 16 handicappers.

"I was privileged to participate in the tournament and very fortunate to win," Stratton said.

Fortunate? After compiling a 5-2 mark over the weekend?

"Especially with NFL games, anything can ”” and usually does ”” happen," Stratton explained. "On Sunday, one of my picks, the Lions, was getting destroyed by Carolina, but got a ”˜back door’ cover when they returned a punt and a fumble for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

"Later that day, another pick, Jacksonville, was cruising when they were beaten (on the betting line) by a fluke play at the end," Stratton continued. "In many of these games, it’s a fine line between winning and losing."

Stratton was part of a field of 16 to start the tournament in September. The Invitational features a head-to-head format in which each handicapper picks seven football games against the point spread. The winner moves on, while the loser goes home.

At the beginning of the tourney, an off-shore sports book posted betting lines on who would win. Stratton was the longest shot on the board at 18-1.

Stardust sports book director Bob Scucci said this year’s field was one of the strongest in recent years.

"I really feel this is the best lineup we’ve every had," Scucci said. "There are no lightweights here in the group."

Indeed, the results bear Scucci out. Over the course of the tournament, handicappers combined for a winning percentage at nearly 60 percent.

The mark was considerably better than in recent years, when the Stardust Invitational featured "colorful" characters in its field, such as Mayor Oscar Goodman, comedian Jimmy "JJ" Walker, singer Wayne Newton and "Rudy" of Notre Dame movie fame.

While there weren’t any celebrities this year, the field included some of the sports industry’s best handicappers and most prolific sports bettors.

"Getting (sports bettor) Lem Banker was a real coup," Scucci said.

Banker, along with Steve Fezzik (who was Stratton’s opponent in the finals), are known for making huge sports bets throughout the year.

Among the top sports handicappers and analysts to compete were Dave Malinksy, Ken White, Jimmy Vaccaro, Andy Iskoe, Dave Cokin, Ted Sevransky, Bryan Leonard, Lee Stirling, Bob Donahue and Kevin O’Neill.

Rounding out the competition were radio personalities Ron Frazier and "Papa" Joe Chevalier, and Caesars sports book director Chuck Esposito.

Now that he’s proven himself among the realm of sports handicappers, is there a touting career in the future?

"Not for me ”¦ we already have a superb stable of handicappers at GamingToday," Stratton said. "But if (publisher) Chuck (Di Rocco) ever decided to install a 900 number, I’d be happy to post some selections!"