The Westgate Super Contest: The Winning Percentage ATS You Need To Compete

 

The Westgate Super Contest is the ultimate test of NFL handicapping.  The format is simple.  Each entry costs $1,500.  Each entrant picks 5 NFL games against the spread every week for 17 weeks.  A total of 85 picks.  The first place prize has now eclipsed the $1,000,000 mark.  The average number of winning picks over the last 13 years is 61.  The range of winning picks by the first place winners is 52 to 64 over the last 13 years.

Given the aforementioned numbers, you might expect that the average winner correctly picks NFL games at a rate of 72% against the spread (61/85 = 71.7%), but you would be wrong.  The sample size of 85 is simply too small to be of any statistical significance.  For example, if we flipped a “fair” coin 10 times and had seven heads and three tails, I doubt any of us would be too surprised.  However, if we flipped that same coin 1,000,000 times, and had 700,000 heads, I think all of us would question the “fairness” of the coin.  This is, in rough terms, the Law of Large Numbers.  Unfortunately, it has absolutely no applicability to the Super Contest and its 85 picks.  This contest is, with all due respect to the winners, ruled by randomness.  This is not Poker.

Now if anyone out there had a legitimate 72% winning record ATS in the NFL, then they would dominate this contest year in and year out.  In fact, we would expect that person to be in the winning range of 52 or more correct picks 96% of the time.  Moreover, we would expect that person to hit 61 wins or more 57% of the time.  Nobody comes close, because nobody has a legitimate 72% ATS prediction rate.  The Super Contest has only had one repeat winner, Steve Fezzik.  Based on Fezzik’s results in back to back years, the best we can say is that he was likely a low 60% ATS during his run.

In light of this, what are the chances that you can be in the hunt, the money, and even win the Super Contest?  The following chart demonstrates the probability that a handicapper will finish in the “winning range” of the Super Contest (52-64 correct picks) based on their underlying percentage against the spread.

chart (10)

From this, we can conclude that capper with a 57% record ATS would have 13% chance of correctly picking 52 or more winners, the winning range, in the Super Contest.  A capper with a 60% record ATS would have a 29% chance of finishing in the winning range.  If, miraculously, you have a legitimate 65% record against the spread, then you would be a prohibitive favorite and expected to finish in the winning range 2 out of every 3 years, or 66% of the time.

Given its ridiculously large payout structure, the Super Contest is not simply the most prestigious handicapping contest on the planet, it is a great bet for anyone over 57% ATS.