For most in the world of poker, sports betting is one of the biggest leaks to plug. It is often said that the late poker legend Stu Ungar’s sports betting absorbed much of what he won on the poker tables because he just wasn’t good at the activity. But, for David ‘ODB’ Baker and Mark Gregorich, their sports betting prowess might have outweighed their poker playing abilities – at least for one season.
Two Major Competitions, Two Major Scores
In Las Vegas, two of the major casinos host a season-long competition that pits sports bettors against each other testing their handicapping skills. The players pony up an entry fee and, for each week of the NFL season, picked five games against the spread. For each correct pick, the team earned a point; for each push, the team would earn a half point.
Baker and Gregorich were entered into these two contests, the Las Vegas SuperContest at Westgate Las Vegas (for a $1500 buy in) and the Circa Sports Million II (for a $1000 buy in). Each of these competitions had well over 1000 competitors, with the Westgate competition having a field of 1172 entries and the Circa event featuring a whopping 3,148 entry field. In the end, the Baker/Gregorich combination was among the leaders, if not outright leading the events, for most of the season.
In the end, Baker and Gregorich were able to secure the season championship in the Westgate series to win $435,623 in prize money. In the Circa competition, they came up just short in second place, but they were still able to score a $200,000 consolation prize. Along with being the leader at certain milestones in the season-long battle, Baker and Gregorich racked up a grand total of $785,623.
Both Players Have Tremendous Poker Skill
It isn’t like Baker and Gregorich are fresh off the bus in Las Vegas. Both men are longtime professional poker players who have been phenomenally successful in that endeavor.
Gregorich’s poker career dates to 1995, with his first cash coming at the California State Poker Championship in Omaha Hi/Lo Split. Four years later, Gregorich made his first score at the World Series of Poker in the $2500 Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo Eight or Better event. Although he lacks a major title on his poker resume, Gregorich has earned nearly $2 million in his tournament poker career and probably has been able to make a decent living off cash game play in his career.
Baker’s resume is much more decorated. Called ‘ODB’ to separate him from another successful poker professional with the same name (he is nicknamed ‘Bakes’), Baker’s first tournament poker score was in Reno at a small tournament at Circus Circus in 1993. Strangely, he would disappear from the scene until 2004, when he reemerged on the tournament scene.
In 2019, Baker was the winner of a WSOP bracelet in the $1500 Limit Hold’em event, his second at the most prestigious poker series in the world. That victory came after his win in the World Poker Tour’s L. A. Poker Classic Main Event, which scored him his largest tournament win ever of $1,015,000. In his tournament poker career, ‘Bakes’ has earned almost $6 million in 191 tournament cashes.
Do Poker and Sports Betting Share a Skill Set?
There could very well be a skill set between sports betting and poker that is shared. For some to be successful at both, it takes a great deal of analysis and mental fortitude to come to certain decisions. It could also be said that, for a short-term situation, that there’s just luck involved. Over the course of an entire season in the National Football League – or in an entire year of intense poker tournament competition – it is more likely that skill takes hold rather than luck, however.
Congratulations to both Baker and Gregorich on their success in these events. It might be worth taking a flyer on their wagers – both on the poker tables and on the sports boards – for the coming year!