In a year that has been different to say the least, there has been one certainty when it comes to handicapping the NFL: Randy Madayag usually has a good opinion on the league’s outcome every week.
The race and sports shift manager at the BetMGM sportsbook at The Mirage has been near or at the top of the standings throughout Gaming Today’s 2020 Bookies Battle contest sponsored by Station Casinos. He has managed to keep his finger on the pulse of the NFL and with one week remaining in the regular season he is in first place with a record of 139-97 after back-to-back weeks with double-digit wins (He was 13-3 last week).
“I like picking home underdogs,” he said. “You get a better effort.”
Madayag has been neck-and-neck with another BetMGM manager — Mandalay Bay’s Mike Piranio. And barring something unforeseen, it appears the title will stay in the family. Last year, Aria’s Jason Halpin won the regular season and the playoff contest.
“I talk to Mike every day,” Madayag said. “He’s been putting the pressure on me. But now, I’m putting the pressure on him. I think it’s great we can keep it in the family, so to speak.”
Madayag, 46, has been at the Mirage for 15 years. He had previously worked at Excalibur as a supervisor. Having worked with Robert Walker, Eric St. Clair and Jay Rood and now, Jeff Stoneback, Madayag has incorporated a lot of their philosophies in his management style while also mastering the art of risk and trade.
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“I took a little from each of them,” he said. “It’s a very different world these days with in-game betting, the (mobile) app and the amount of information everyone has available. My head’s always on a swivel. There’s so much more going on and you have to stay on top of things.”
The Honolulu native found himself in limbo during the spring while the coronavirus shut down the casino industry. The Mirage was one of the last MGM properties to reopen but it gave Madayag and his team time to regroup and get their shop ready to go when the public was welcomed back on Aug. 27, just in time for football season.
“Everything is good,” he said. “The city’s taken a huge hit with tourism because of the pandemic. But we’ve been busy on the weekends.”
However there was more unwelcome news. Last week, MGM announced the Mirage would be closed during the week beginning Jan. 4. That includes the race and sportsbook. But unlike other elements of the property, the sports betting operation will continue during the week for those who have the BetMGM Nevada mobile app.
“Hopefully, we can get through this and 2021 will be better,” he said. “With the vaccine, maybe we will get back to normal.”
He used his time off during the spring to work on his culinary skills. He may get more opportunities to smoke brisket, his favorite cut of meet.
“I like to cook,” he said. “Brisket is my favorite, but anything that takes time, I’m good. I like to smoke meats the old way, 16 hours. It comes out so moist and tender.”
And while the meats are smoking, Madayag enjoys walking and spending time with his family. He has three kids, ages 20, 15 and 10, and getting to be with them more often has been a blessing.
“It’s been great,” he said. “I like to focus on the positive and focusing on my family is important to me.”
He was hoping to visit family and friends in Hawaii, but the coronavirus put the kibosh on that. If he’s fortunate enough to win the Bookies Battle and the $1,000 prize that comes with it, Madayag will take the family on a vacation back to the Islands, once it’s safe to travel of course.
He’ll also be in the playoff contest where the winner gets $500.
But there’s still some work left to do in order to claim the title and Madayag knows all it takes are a couple of small missteps and you can fall from grace.
“It’s a hard contest to win,” said Madayag, who is in his fifth year as a Bookies Battle contestant. “You’re picking games on Tuesday that will be played Sunday and Monday. So many things can happen between the time you submit your picks and the games are played. But that’s what makes it exciting. When you’re able to have success in a contest like that, it’s a great feeling.”