No stranger to success on the felt, David “ODB” Baker has scored in some of the biggest events in poker. That’s included two World Series of Poker bracelets and $6 million in live tournament winnings.
In 2019, he added a World Poker Tour title after winning the LA Poker Classic for $1 million. Last week, he added another huge gambling bullet point – winning the Westgate SuperContest with fellow poker pro, friend, and betting partner Mark Gregorich.
The pair took home $435,623 for their efforts and also tied for second in the Circa Sports Million for $200,000. Baker recently spoke with USPoker about the big win as well as the current state of poker.
“It’s been a crazy few years,” he says of his recent poker and sports betting success. That’s quite an understatement.
Poker to prognosticating – and finding success
While he’s no stranger to sports betting, playing in the SuperContest is fairly new for Baker. This was only the second year he and Gregorich entered the contest.
“I’ve always bet on sports, but not going to say I’ve done it very successfully in the past,” Baker says. “Most people in sports betting don’t really do it that successfully. But I’ve always kind of felt like I had an eye for it.”
At the table, the two poker players are accustomed to using reasoning and logic to make decisions without emotion involved. Gregorich has a nice poker resumé as well with $2 million in live tournament winnings.
While Baker may not have been a great sports handicapper in the past, he and Gregorich’s approach ultimately proved successful. The team, dubbed “ODBMG” in the contests, went 54-26-5 for almost 68% against the spread.
The SuperContest began at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1986 with competitors ponying up $1,500 each. Players select five games each week and the 2020 edition attracted 1,172 players.
While Baker, 48, describes himself as an “action junkie,” the SuperContest allowed him to focus on some favored matchups. He credits life at the poker table making calculated, unemotional decisions for some of their success.
“Sports betting is a lot about discipline and just playing the games that you like, as opposed to just betting the board,” he says. “These kinds of contests force you into that. You can only pick five games, so it’s kind of in my wheelhouse.”
Seeking an edge on the field
Exactly how did Baker and Gregorich win? They decided to dig deeper than just teams with big offensive numbers. A big part of that was checking out the guys up front.
“Line play was one of the big things that I focused on this year as opposed to other years,” Baker said. “It’s very easy to get into the mindset in this fantasy football world of evaluating teams based on their receivers and running backs. Whereas in reality, most football games are won at the line of scrimmage.”
This allowed ODBMG to find teams that faced a real struggle. The Colts, Steelers, Washington Football Club, and Browns weren’t NFL juggernauts this season. However, the line play could be relied on and helped score Baker and Gregorich some wins.
The quarterback position was also a key consideration and a year of limited fans in the stands added to that.
“Without the crowds, the better quarterbacks were better able to read defenses and audible off of plays and schemes across the line of scrimmage,” he says.
“It seems like a pretty obvious thing right now. I know it’s brought up many times in primetime games how Aaron Rodgers has really done that, but it really wasn’t anything that was talked about earlier in the season.”
Fewer offensive holding calls and increased pass interference calls only helped these quarterbacks. From the outset, the goal was to try and be competitive in the SuperContest and the Circa Million.
Gregorich and Baker chose to overlap an average of three games a week in each competition. That meant going all in on a few picks and then diversifying a few.
“Occasionally, one of us would like a game more than the other did,” Baker says. “Then we just put it on one card. But we can usually find three games that we just absolutely loved, combined together.”
The SuperContest reached its conclusion on Jan. 3. Baker and Gregorich met at the SuperBook with some friends to see how things would turn out.
“We just sat there and sweated it out, and it was great,” says Baker, who lives in Arizona but is a regular in Las Vegas. “We’ve actually watched a lot of football together this year. With COVID, there’s not a whole lot of other stuff to do.”
Biggest football sweat day of our life with @markgregorich (ODBMG)@CircaSports $1 mil/$300k/100k@WestgateVegas $435k/100k
A couple natural hedges betwn 2
All in Balt/Car/Wash
Huge fade Detroit big line move we chose to ignore
Help 1/hurts 1 Pitt/Dal/GB pic.twitter.com/IJ7b4Q9evX
— David Baker (@audavidb) January 3, 2021
After locking in the SuperBook win, the Circa contest also seemed like a possibility. They led the competition late into the season but a bad beat in the last week dropped them a spot.
After picking Seattle at -6 against the 49ers, things looked like they’d really work out. However, a late San Francisco touchdown ended their hopes of completing the double.
The SuperContest win comes with some hardware as well as a big check. Both players win championship rings, which they can add to their poker trophy collections.
The SuperContest is one of the biggest events in sports betting and Gregorich and Baker have taken the spotlight. Baker has appeared on several radio shows and podcasts, and made other media appearances. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but much appreciated.
Ready for live poker’s return
While he may be scoring at football, poker has been pretty dead for Baker. He believes the World Series of Poker may be the next opportunity for him to really get back to the tables.
More of a live player, Baker believes more vaccinations over the next six months should help the return of tournament poker.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to playing some poker,” he says. “Even though 2020’s been very tough financially, without having outlets to make money from poker, it’s actually been kind of a change and allowed me to explore some new things like football betting and home time and things like that. Luckily this contest has come in and saved the day from a financial aspect.”
While a few events are in the works, Baker is taking a break from the game. He’s not afraid of getting COVID, but just waiting for a bit of some normalcy.
“I’m looking to get back to a regular routine of playing some cards and tournaments,” he says. “This was great but I know that sports betting isn’t going to feed my family. Poker will always be that and I’ve invested 20-plus years into poker. I’m not looking to get out of poker anytime soon.”