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California man finishes 5-0 to win Westgate SuperContest, $1.4M

Updated January 3, 2019 - 8:29 pm

Eric Kahane never will have a more satisfying NFL Sunday than he did in Week 17 of the 2018 season.

Kahane went 5-0 against the spread to win the $1.4 million first-place prize in the Westgate SuperContest with a 59-25-1 record (70.2 percent). And he did so with the help of two wins that sent his beloved Eagles back to the playoffs.

“That was about as good as it can get,” said Kahane, a Queens, New York, native who has lived in Irvine, California, since 2008.

Kahane, who used the alias Personal Gourmet, is director of business development for Personal Gourmet, a luxury food concierge service. It was the first time he had entered the SuperContest, which drew a record field of 3,123 entries.

He notched easy covers on the Eagles and Bears, whose 24-10 win over the Vikings coupled with Philadelphia’s 24-0 romp over the Redskins sent the defending Super Bowl champions back to the postseason.

Kahane, 44, also had an easy winner on the Chiefs, who defeated the Raiders 35-3. But he had to sweat out his other two games before winning on backdoor covers by the Browns and Cowboys.

Backdoor covers

Dallas, a 6½-point underdog to the Giants, trailed 35-28 with 1:12 left before Cole Beasley caught a 32-yard fourth-down touchdown pass from Dak Prescott in the back of the end zone on a play that was reversed by video replay.

“You’ll never see a more valuable, important catch in your life,” Kahane said. “If that guy is 5 feet 9 instead of 5-8, he lands out of bounds.”

After starting the day in a three-way tie for third place, Kahane took a half-point lead over Scott Panza (alias @Pigskin_Junkies) and Edward Caravalho (alias Rush YYZ 2112) into the Colts-Titans game Sunday night.

Panza, 31, of Stamford, Connecticut, and Caravalho, 51, of New York City, were tied with 59 points. But Panza, who entered the day as the contest leader, played the Titans, who were 3-point contest home underdogs to the Colts.

$1 million swing

If the Titans covered, Panza, who works for a hedge fund, would win the contest and $1.4 million. If not, he would have to settle for a tie for second and $409,000. But, at home in Connecticut, he wasn’t in position to hedge on the Colts on the money line. So his hopes rested on the arm of Tennessee quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

“A million dollars on Blaine Gabbert is not the ideal scenario,” Panza said. “I was really banking on Tennessee’s defense.”

Kahane, meanwhile, liked his chances of winning the world’s most prestigious NFL handicapping contest with quarterback Andrew Luck leading Indianapolis, which soared to a 6-point favorite when Titans QB Marcus Mariota was ruled out with an injury.

“I couldn’t believe that the side I needed wound up being Luck, the first overall pick, versus a guy who even the most ardent football fan can’t even tell you if his first name is Blaine, Blake or something else,” Kahane said.

Watching the game at SLS Las Vegas, Kahane placed a hedge bet on the Titans at plus 6, hoping to hit a middle. The middle was the only thing he didn’t hit, as Luck threw for three touchdowns and the Colts never trailed in a 33-17 win.

“I did make a pretty small play on the Titans and will put that losing ticket in the picture frame with me with the oversized check,” Kahane said.

Haunted handicapper

Panza, who along with Caravalho finished 59-26 (69.4 percent), went 2-3 Sunday, also losing on the Broncos and Seahawks.

“I was just back and forth between Seattle and the Rams as my last pick,” he said. “I really don’t regret the Tennessee pick. It’s the Rams-Seattle pick that’s going to haunt me for some time now.”

Panza said the Cowboys’ cover also is going to haunt him, considering they were locked into the No. 4 playoff seed and theoretically had nothing to play for. But Kahane didn’t see it that way.

“I’m not sure I agree with that logic,” he said. “Why did the Giants need the game any more than the Cowboys? The Giants are going on vacation, and the Cowboys are going to the playoffs.

“To me, I had the better team getting a touchdown. Sign me up. The Bears and Cowboys were in the same situation.”

Caravalho, the chief financial officer for a blockchain technology company in Manhattan, had one losing week all season, going 1-4 in Week 16. He went 3-2 in Week 17 with losers on the Vikings and Packers.

“The Vikings didn’t show up, and we made a mistake taking the Packers over the Lions,” he said. “We thought the Lions were mailing it in.”

Kahane said his biggest key to success was trusting his instincts.

“It’s not rocket science to me,” he said. “Believe what you see and not what you hear and not what you read.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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