Aria's Jason Halpin's NFL picks are no joke

Oct 9, 2019 3:02 AM

Like many of us, Jason Halpin has a favorite joke. But unlike most of us, he has told his on stage.

Halpin, who is manager of race and sports at Aria Resort & Casino in his day job, moonlights doing standup at Las Vegas comedy clubs.

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“I love standup. I love comedy,” Halpin said last week. “It wasn’t something I ever thought I could actually do, or would do, because the idea of it — being up on stage, in front of people — terrified me.”

But he started going to open-mic nights and seeing performers who were really funny and others, he says weren’t funny at all. So, he thought, “If they can do it, why can’t I?”

One night, after downing a couple beers for a shot of courage, he went up. Soon after, he was performing five to seven nights a week.

“I was getting up on stage all the time, always writing,” Halpin said.

Halpin’s football handicapping is no joke. He’s tied for first place after five weeks of Gaming Today’s Bookies Battle contest with a 50-28 record. He’s not using any fancy algorithms. He just goes with his gut.

“I’m as surprised as anyone, to be honest,” Halpin said. “I don’t over-think it. I’m sure if I spent 45 minutes breaking down everything and trying to figure out exactly the right picks, I would do terribly.”

The demands of his job at Aria have curtailed his performance schedule some, but he stills takes the stage when he can. Halpin is also part of a local comedy writing group, the League of Extraordinary Nobodies, that advocates for local comedic hopefuls.

Halpin, 34, started in the sportsbook business as a ticket writer at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in 2008 and moved to the Aria when it opened the following year.

“I’ve always been a huge, huge sports fan — not the biggest gambler, necessarily,” he said. “I’m really interested in statistics and all that stuff. That’s my favorite part of sports betting and sports in general.”

Halpin also co-hosts a podcast, House of Run, with high school pal Kevin Sully.

After spending most of his childhood in the San Francisco Bay Area, Halpin transferred to Palo Verde High School when his family moved to Las Vegas.

Halpin says he was mostly a middle-distance runner in high school, competed on the club level in college at UNLV — the Rebels don’t have a men’s track and field program — and maintained his running shape until an injury set him back.

“In my mid- to late-20s, I ran a marathon and tore my meniscus in the middle of it,” Halpin said. “That was my last really serious race.

“Now my knees — they’re OK, but it’s hard to keep that going.”

While the pain keeps from competing, he stays close to the sport with the podcast.

Halpin and Sully, teammates on the Palo Verde track team, started House of Run about nine years ago after Sully called Halpin and floated the idea.

The two chat over Skype — Sully lives in Austin, Texas — and trade files that Halpin stitches together using audio-editing software called Amadeus.

“It was still the earlier days of podcasting (when we started),” Halpin said. “We’re at 507 episodes now. It’s a really cool kind of thing. It’s kind of a niche world. But it’s fun.”

Halpin estimates that House of Run has a couple thousand weekly listeners around the world. And while the podcast doesn’t bring in big dollars, the duo has made enough to make some equipment upgrades over the years.”

“We started with some pretty basic mics,” he said, “and listening to some of the older episodes — we just weren’t very good.”

In its early days, House of Run was a 30-minute show. Halpin and Scully now do about 90 minutes a week. For about a year, Scully has been a content generator for the website FloTrack. He was in Doha, Qatar, the past week, covering the 2019 International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships, which ended Sunday.

“I’m more of the co-host,” Halpin said, “whereas (Sully) kind of steers it. He’s very good at hosting and interviewing.”

While baseball is Halpin’s first love — he keeps tabs on a couple advanced-analytics websites — Halpin describes his taste in humor as “clever” or “silly.” That favorite joke he has told?

“I just found out recently that my pronunciation of the word ‘Caribbean’ is entirely dependent on whether or not pirates are involved. Because I’m watching ‘Pirates of the CaribBÉan,’ but I want to go to the CaRÍBbean, and I didn’t realize that pirates could have an effect on my life at this point.”

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