Friday, July 28, 2006 | 7:48 a.m.
"Fairway" Jay Ginsbach is online at sportsmemo.com. He also appears on the Sports Memo radio show, which airs 7 to 9 a.m. weekdays on Fox Radio 1460-AM and Sirius satellite radio channel 122.
As a handicapper, "Fairway" Jay Ginsbach has developed a national following for his expertise in pro football prognostication.
This weekend, Ginsbach will try to beat the odds in another gambling venture.
After falling just short of qualifying last year, Ginsbach will be playing in the World Series of Poker championship event for the first time. He'll face an estimated 8,000 opponents in the $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas hold 'em main event, known in poker as the "Big One."
"Yes, I'll be competing in the World Series," Ginsbach said in an exaggerated basso profundo before cracking up and returning to his normal conversational tone.
Ginsbach's easygoing manner belies an intense work ethic - as well as a strong track record in smaller Las Vegas poker tournaments.
Between his sports handicapping and what gamblers call a "square job" working in sales for a homebuilder, Ginsbach has not had much time to craft a strategy for the biggest poker tournament of his life. He'll rely on experience and instinct.
"In no-limit, any mistake can be costly," said Ginsbach, who moved from Minneapolis to Summerlin seven years ago. "The idea is to minimize your mistakes and take advantage of any mistakes your opponent might make - while waiting for the right opportunity to really whack 'em."
The main event begins today at the Rio, with the opening round staggered across four days to accommodate the large field. Ginsbach is scheduled to begin playing Saturday. First prize, which was $7.5 million last year, is estimated at $10 million.
There's plenty of overlap in the skills required for poker and sports handicapping, Ginsbach said.
"Patience is very important in poker, and I think in sports, too," Ginsbach said. "When I'm analyzing a point spread, I always want to make sure I take my time, so I'm not missing anything that's going to cause me to jump to the wrong conclusion."
Though he handicaps basketball, college football and - as his nickname attests - pro golf for the Sports Memo advisory service, Ginsbach has delivered his best results in the NFL.
Tim Trushel, proprietor of Sports Memo, said Ginsbach has a winning percentage against the point spread of about 58 percent, encompassing more than 250 documented NFL picks since Ginsbach joined the organization three years ago. Trushel calls that record "second to none" in the nation.
Hundreds of people have lobbied for a spot on the Sports Memo handicapping roster, which currently numbers nine including Trushel.
"I always tell guys the same thing," Trushel said. "Post your plays and analysis in the Sportsmemo.com posting forum. Do it for a full year. Keep an accurate record, provide analysis and interact with the other posters. Produce winning results while illustrating a fundamental knowledge with good analysis and an understanding of sports betting theories and axioms, and you can have a job."
Ginsbach is the only candidate who followed through to earn a position, Trushel said.
A former college hockey player at the University of Minnesota, Ginsbach, 41, credits his father, a math teacher, with fostering his analytical approach to gambling.
He has been in the real estate business for most of his adult life, but Ginsbach moved to Las Vegas in part for the gambling opportunities. He and his wife, Jennifer, a designer of children's furniture, have three daughters.
Last year, he was knocked out toward the end of a "satellite," or qualifying tournament, for a seat in the World Series main event at the Rio. (Anyone can buy in for $10,000, but many players try to win their way in.)
"I still remember that empty feeling driving home," Ginsbach said. "I told myself, next year I am not going to miss that tournament."
When he told Trushel this year that he had qualified for the Big One by winning a satellite, his boss gave Ginsbach the ultimate vote of confidence. He bought a piece of Ginsbach's action - "a nice chunk," Ginsbach said - thereby becoming a minority partner in his star handicapper's latest gambling enterprise.