Briceton Branch Jr. had always been impressed by his dad's football prognostication skills.
They'd watch the NFL together and note how pops seemingly always picked the winner. So, in August, when his dad picked him up after high school football practice and mentioned that he was entering the nation's most prestigious football handicapping contest, Briceton Jr. smiled and told his dad, "I know you can win it."
He was right.
On Sunday, Briceton Branch Sr. clinched the Westgate SuperContest with the Atlanta Falcons' 22-10 win over the Carolina Panthers. In his first time in the contest, Branch beat more than 2,700 handicappers -- the largest field ever -- and won $1.3 million (about $950,000 after taxes). Each entry costs $1,500, and participants make five NFL picks against the spread each week.
The SuperContest has exploded in popularity over the past decade, producing a variety of winners. Last year, a Starbucks barista won. In 2013, a financial trader with expertise in math and statistics took home the title. This year, it went to Branch, a 39-year-old entrepreneur from Portland, Oregon, who started getting interested in sports betting in 2012.
He did it, he says, with a mix of gut feel and sleep therapy -- or at least that's all he'd reveal.
"I can't give up my recipe because the oddsmakers will read about it, and then that will give them some light to try to counter on me, because it's a silent game of chess," Branch told ESPN in a Tuesday phone interview. "But I can just tell you, when I do run my process and pick my teams, I do feel my gut out and I do sleep on them. I can tell you that much. But as far as what I'm looking for, this and that, I can't speak on that. That's like a million-dollar question."
In the SuperContest, contestants make five picks against the spread in each of the 17 weeks of the NFL season. Branch, who played under the alias "Grannys Boy," entered Week 17 with a 2.5-point lead. He went with the Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars and Falcons in the final week, going 3-2 to prevail.
Overall, Branch went 58-22-5 for 60.5 points in the contest, besting second-place finishers Schematic Advantage and Howdoiplay XX by 1.5 points.
Branch said he had no concrete plans for his winnings, except for "real estate." He's hoping to buy his childhood home, where he lived in Portland with his foster mom, the late Loretta Frison, who was the inspiration for his contest alias, "Grannys Boy."
Branch first learned of the SuperContest last year from a friend. He traveled to Las Vegas in August and signed up for this year's event. It was the start of a stressful four-month grind that he says turned in his favor in Week 5 of the season.
Branch went 1-4 in Week 4, his worst of the season, and found himself four games behind the leader. He rebounded in Week 5 with a 4-1 effort to remain in the hunt. He took over the lead in Week 12 and went 5-0 in Week 16 to secure a cushion heading into the final week.
"I kind of hid in the pack and messed around with teams like Cleveland and San Francisco," Branch said. "Once we started to come down the final stretch, that's when I took off on them."
Branch celebrated with a few friends and family at Las Vegas nightclub Tao, where they took in a Gucci Mane concert on New Year's Eve. Branch said he didn't eat dinner that night and remembered his breakfast as his only meal of the day.
"I wasn't nervous," he said. "I knew I was going to win."
So did his son.