Best Of 2020: Hatred. Lies. Federal Crimes. Mortal Locks. The Story Of Barstool’s 7 Year Long Gambling War

It can be hard to keep up with all the storylines at Barstool Sports nowadays. We have almost 100 content employees and countless shows throughout the company. It's understandable if you can't keep up with every little feud like Dana and Willie arguing over who can drink more, or Trysta and Nate bickering over, well, I'm not really sure. But as someone who gets rock hard anytime I can even smell a minor argument brewing, I try to stay on top of things. So today, I'm here to explain the most entertaining, unique, and downright bizarre feud we have at Barstool, and that's the gambling rivalries. Jack Mac posted a blog yesterday explaining the recent Picks Central vs. Hitting The Board drama, but I was instructed to write a full breakdown ranging from 2013 until now, so here we are.

Perhaps you've seen Rico Bosco mumble about "the cowboy" or have seen Paul Lo Duca argue with the Picks Central Twitter account. Maybe you've heard Rico mutter about "the fat boy with the perm" or seen Brandon Walker accuse Blackjack of being a bore who nobody cares about. But if you're not familiar with the full story, here is your chance to get caught up. It's a story you don't want to miss.

There is drama. There are lies. There is betrayal. There is hatred. There's a former MLB All-Star, an extremely angry yet sensitive Staten Island pit bull, a bumbling moron from Long Island who has the worst luck on the planet, a man who dresses as a cowboy every day, a Mississippi man who was hired by mistake but has since taken the company by storm, and a rotund fellow with a unique hairstyle who is straight out of central casting. While these men may have their many differences, they all share one important thing in common. They fucking love gambling. 

For this investigative piece, I reached out to the many different characters to get their sides of the story. I will tell this tale from start to finish with no bias. Just some good old fashioned journalism. First, we will do a character introduction so you can be familiar with the different people in our story. Then I will get into the timeline and history of these intense rivalries. And finally, what does the future hold for this eclectic cast of characters?

Part I: Character Introduction

Name: Rico Bosco

Hometown: Staten Island

Shows: Barstool Pick Em Podcast, Picks Central when he wants to block out his rivals

You can't tell the story of gambling content at Barstool without telling the story of Rico Bosco. He is very much the straw that stirs the drink, as there probably would be no gambling rivalries and controversies if not for this enigma. He started as a caller to the Pick Em Podcast, hosted by Dave and Big Cat, in the fall of 2013. As Mr. Bosco put it, "An ad was put out to call in. Everyone else was very dry. I used it as an audition." His energetic voicemails stood out to Hank, and soon enough Rico became the featured voicemail. "Then I was the only voicemail." After a bad Western Kentucky beat in 2015, Rico was on live and "the rest is history." But what is that history, you may ask?

Well Rico has been in the Barstool Universe ever since. In 2016, he famously had a "50 burger" season where he finished down 50 units. Some claim this caused him to "retire." Rico says this wasn't the case, as he had other things going on in his life. Since 2017, he he has been involved with The Pick Em podcast whenever possible. However, Rico has always gotten angered when we hire other gambling personalities. He didn't like when Glenny Balls came on as intern and started picking overs. He didn't like when Blackjack Fletcher was hired after winning a gambling intern contest. He didn't like when Paul Lo Duca joined and hitched his wagon to Blackjack. He didn't like when the "The fat fuck on campus who never attended a college" started to get involved and take shots at him. Rico has often felt "squeezed out." He claims he doesn't hold grudges, though.

He wants respect for being the first gambling content person at Barstool and carving his own niche. The tricky thing is that he has never accepted a full-time job despite having a standing offer for years. Bosco, however, claims that "Let's just say I've never seen the ink on the paper. Where's the recruiting? Look what Dave did for Deion Sanders. I want to feel like a five-star recruit." I asked Portnoy about this, and he responded, "The difference is these other people actually want to work here. He's had a full-time offer for a decade but he doesn't want his face to be on camera. Let's start with that. He's a walking insane asylum. He thinks he's in on the joke, but he's really not." 

And that is Rico Bosco in a nutshell. We will get deeper into his many controversies in Part II. 

Name: Brandon Walker

Shows: Picks Central, Walk The Line, like 12 others

Age: Idk old

Hometown: Somewhere in Mississippi

We move on to another protagonist in our story — Brandon Fucking Walker. As of last April, Walker was doing a small gambling stream for MyBookie from his home in Mississippi. Everything changed for him after the Virginia-Texas Tech national championship game on April 8, 2019. Dave was trying to place a massive $250,000 bet on Texas Tech but couldn't find somewhere to place it. The MyBookie Twitter randomly took a shot at Dave and accused him of being "all talk, no show" since he didn't try betting with them. This led to a wrath from Dave. The next day, the MyBookie Twitter account tweeted out a gambling periscope hosted by Mr. Walker. Stoolies flooded the comments and trashed him, citing his striking resemblance to Brienne of Tarth from Game Of Thrones. Walker handled it very well. 

Soon enough, BFW had a job at Barstool Sports. While he may have initially been hired out of spite, it didn't take long for Walker to become a star at the company. He started his own daily gambling show "Walk The Line" with Marty Mush, produced by Dana B and Jack McCarthy. And in the winter, pre-pandemic, he was given the rights to host the Sirius gambling show "Picks Central" from 12-1 every day. He was given full control over the show, and wanted his co-hosts to be Dave, Big Cat, and Marty Mush. This has led to some troubles that we will touch on in Part II. 

Name: Marty Mush

Gambling Shows: Walk The Line, Picks Central

Hometown: Ronkonkoma, New York

IQ: Low

Marty is what many would call a moron. He was hired after finishing second to Young Mantis in the 2018 Barstool Idol content. We were looking for more gambling content, and Mr. Mush is a real deal degenerate. Like Walker, he had a rise to stardom within the company. He went from being a called fraud for lying about his Uncle Herb to being one of the main faces of gambling content at Barstool. Him and Brandon Walker are a tight duo, as they host both Walk The Line and Picks Central together. While Mush had previously not been too directly involved in these feuds himself, his connection to Mr. Walker and role on Picks Central has made him a noteworthy part of our story today. 

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The three men listed above are on one side of this rivalry. The two men below represent the other side. 

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Name: Blackjack Fletcher

Shows: Hitting The Board, Photo Finish

Former occupation: Lawyer (seriously)

In the fall of 2017, Big Cat and The Bubbly gang opened up a contest for a gambling intern, which was won by Mr. Fletcher. He was involved with the Pick Em that fall and remained a part of Barstool (although not full-time) until the spring of 2018. In the summer, he was hired full-time to do gambling at The Action Network. He remained there for just over a year. But as Barstool continued to expand our gambling content, he was re-hired last August. It was announced via a dinner at Peter Luger's steakhouse, Rico's favorite spot. 

Since then, Blackjack has formed a tight kinship with Paul Lo Duca. They have done a ton of horse racing and other gambling content together. During this time, the former Florida lawyer has maintained a rivalry with Rico and more recently, Brandon Walker. After he and Lo Duca were invited then uninvited to be on Picks Central, they launched their own daily gambling show called "Hitting The Board" which drops at 11:45 every day, 15 minutes before the start of Picks Central. More on that to come in our rivalry timeline. 

Name: Paul Lo Duca

Shows: Hitting The Board, Photo Finish

Accomplishments: 4x MLB All-Star (although Rico likes to point out that he only hit .207 in the 2006 NLCS)

Lo Duca had an impressive 11 year MLB career. After that, he joined TVG and then The Action Network. He's always been in the Barstool world. He did some Rundowns back in 2014, is the voice of the Pardon My Take intro, and was an early guest on The Dave Portnoy Show when it was a podcast. He joined Barstool full-time in October of 2019 and quickly formed a relationship with Blackjack as they were both in the office and did a lot of horse racing and gambling stuff. They began going around the country and touring different Penn casinos. This angered Rico Bosco. While Rico did say he enjoyed Paul on the old Rundowns and wanted to like him as a Mets fan, "He hitched his wagon to the wrong person." While Lo Duca claims that he doesn't have a personal problem with Rico or anyone really, he has been sucked into this rivalry. Since starting Hitting The Board with Blackjack, he has claimed that Karim only focuses on tweeting out his losses and that it makes a mockery of him. He especially doesn't like when it comes from the Barstool Bets account. "Don't try burying my career." There were reports that he recently went to management over a tweet. I got his side of the story on that in Part II. Overall, Dave said that "I love Paul. But he's also a walking insane asylum." 

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Other Notable characters

Name: Jeff Nadu

Alias: Big Man On Campus

Hometown: Philadelphia

Jeff Nadu's involvement is a bit complicated, since he is not even a Barstool employee. Nadu described himself to me as "an employee in waiting." He started off giving Big Cat college basketball picks and did well. Dan then mentioned his name to Dave, and "he got in touch and liked me." Mr. Nadu added that "It's been an odyssey sometimes through my own decisions, and with Corona as well, but I'm coming." He has wavered back on forth in this rivalry. He wants to make it clear that he is not in Blackjack and Lo Duca's foxhole. "I stand only on one side. I don't fuck with Rico. It's genuine, I don't like him and he doesn't like me. I have owned him multiple times on radio as he ran out of the studio like the mice that scurry away out of the kitchen at HQ when someone walks in. He's a punk goof that can't gamble. One other thing, the move by Lo Duca to go to management was soft and not something I'm about. If he can't take the heat he should stay the fuck out of the kitchen. Rat move. I also don't think he's a good gambler." So while he is clearly all over the place, he added that he's excited to hopefully get involved with some upcoming Philly content. Rico Bosco has apparently threatened to walk if Nadu is added, but Dave told him that he can't get into a hostage situation over who we hire. Dave added that Nadu is a unique character, and he likes that.

We will see what his future holds. 

Name: Glenneth Balls

Shows: Boozin Burgers

Favorite Deli: My Hero on Merrick, Long Island

Gambling Style: Strictly Overs

When I started my research for this piece, I wasn't sure how involved Mr. Balls would be. But I soon came to the realization that you could not tell this story without mentioning Glenny. Balls was hired as an intern in the fall of 2016 and quickly became involved in gambling content. The man loves betting overs. Rico Bosco was unhappy with Glenny's involvement, and claims that him strictly betting overs makes a mockery of gambling. Balls retorts, "Gambling is fun. I like to bet overs, get drunk, and watch points. If that's making a mockery, then so be it." Ever since then though, Glenny and Rico have never really spoken. Rico has ignored Glenny whenever they're in the office. Bosco also accused Balls of committing mail fraud in 2016. We will get to that later. 

Name: Karim

Role: Picks Central producer

Known For: Masterminding the "GuyGate" syndicate

Karim first came to notoriety for being the shadowy figure who led a covert operation to conceal a "gambling guy" (Bambino) from Dave and Big Cat. Since then, he has regained the trust of everyone and become an important piece of Barstool Bets. He produces Picks Central and runs their Twitter account, in addition to doing other social media stuff. He has formed an intense rivalry with Paul Lo Duca, as the former Met claims that Karim only tweets out Lo Duca's losers and is slandering him. Karim says he's just doing his job and doesn't want to make a competing gambling show look good.

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Dave and Big Cat will also obviously be brought up as they are they are the heads of all this. Smitty also called to yell at me for calling Glenny and distracting him from his Gametime stream. Smitty asked if he'd be getting a call about all this. I said "No you are not involved with this gambling stuff at all." He responded, "Well I was only a full time gambler for three years. Read an old Barstool blog for me one time." So that's the latest on our blockhead friend. 

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Part II: Rivalry History And Timeline

Now that all our characters have been introduced and we have a rough outline for the story, let's get a more concrete timeline and description of events. Some of this has already been touched on in the character introductions above, but I want to get it all in one place and also add some details. 

Fall 2013 

Rico Bosco begins leaving voicemails on the Barstool Pick Em podcast

Fall 2015 

Rico makes first live appearance on show after a bad beat, "officially" becomes a part of the podcast 

Fall 2016

"The 50 Burger" - Rico loses 50 units during the college football season. He also begins to feel squeezed out and flirts with retirement, although Bosco claims any hiatuses have only been because of real life issues. Glenny Balls is hired as an intern and begins gambling content where he only bets overs. Rico doesn't like that and thinks it makes a mockery of gambling. He also has another huge beef with Mr. Balls. 

Glenny explained to me that it was one of his first weeks as an intern and Pardon My Take was doing an "unboxing" of sorts. Glenny saw a package addressed to Rico and said "Let's just open it." They were shirts from The Chatham Squire in Massachusetts. To this day, Rico has held a grudge against Balls. Glenny said, "He blocked me immediately. I've tried to say hi to him in the office and he just walks right past me."

Fall 2017

After flirting with retirement, Rico returns for Week 1 of Pick Em. Big Cat wooed him into returning and explained what an integral part of the show he is. 

Rico remains on the show from the start of the season through Week 5, but then things get dicey. 

An anonymous source that is definitely not Big Cat said, "Rico would just fall off the face of the Earth. And Dave was traveling and in a Club Dave phase. So the weight fell on my shoulders to keep the show alive. It was a heroic effort." 

Rico Bosco does not return to the show until Week 12. In the meantime, Big Cat and The Bubbly Gang launch a gambling intern contest. It is eventually won by Blackjack Fletcher, a lawyer from Florida in his thirties. He appears on the Bowl SZN episode released on December 22nd, 2017. Rico Bosco does not. In Rico's mind, another squeeze out had begun. 

Things now get complicated as we get into a real he said, she said situation. Blackjack claims that he always ignored Rico Bosco. But Rico says that Blackjack began taking shots at him immediately. Whatever the case may be, it's clear that bad blood began to form early on.

Summer/Fall 2018

Blackjack heads over full-time to The Action Network. Rico returns for a full season on Pick Em. Marty Mush also is hired full-time and begins doing gambling content. Despite some light jabs initially, no real rivalry forms with Rico and they actually worked together on Pick Em. 

Spring 2019

As explained above, Brandon Walker gets hired out of spite so Dave can stick it to MyBookie. Him and Mush start Walk The Line together. Like Mush, BFW also has no real problems with our junkyard dog. 

August 2019

Blackjack Fletcher is officially brought on full-time after being wined and dined by Dave and Big Cat at Peter Luger's steakhouse (depicted earlier). That place is near and dear to Rico Bosco's heart.

Rico ERUPTS, but agrees to return for another season of Pick Em. 

I asked Mr. Bosco to reflect on this moment in time.

Fall 2019

Rico does in fact return for a full season of Pick Em. Blackjack is already full-time. Paul Lo Duca gets hired a couple months later and starts working a lot with Mr. Fletcher. Jeff Nadu also enters the mix after Big Cat refers him to Dave. Dave likes him and contract talks begin. While he is never officially brought on, he does enter the Barstool Gambling universe. 

Rico had many problems with all this. He never liked "the singing cowboy." Bosco claims that he carved his own niche and shouldn't have any reason to work with Blackjack, citing the shots Blackjack took when he first got hired in late 2017/early 2018. He refuses to speak to him. Blackjack says he ignored Rico's shots at first, but then finally started hitting back. Blackjack comes into the Pick Em studio during Week 9 of recording, starting at 42 seconds. 

Blackjack claims that Rico turned around and wouldn't even look at him. They exchange some verbal jabs as you can see in the video above. 

When Lo Duca was hired, Rico had no problems with him at first. "I was a Mets fan so wanted to like him. He could've had one or two more big hits though." But once Lo Duca and Blackjack started working together, Rico didn't want to associate with him. Paul Lo Duca then joins the Pick Em studio wearing a Toledo jacket as Dave and Dan try to broker peace. You can watch that full interaction here.

To this day, Lo Duca claims that he has no problem with Rico. "I've never even talked with him. He wants to have a problem with me just because I like someone that he doesn't?"

As for Jeff Nadu, Rico Bosco says, "The fat boy with the perm used to love me. He asked me on his podcast. I have screenshots of DMs of him praising me." But bad blood began. During Week 8 of Pick Em, Glenny and Chef Donny are in studio making 50 burgers for Rico. People in the studio are also playing a clip of Jeff Nadu trashing Rico. He threatens that he will leave for good if that clip keeps getting played. Glenny recalls, "Hank sent me the video, and it started playing. Rico was so angry. He started biting his fist and screaming." The fear in Glenny's voice was palpable as he reflected on the moment. (Link to full episode. Starts at around 15:00).

Dave and Dan promise that if Rico takes a bite of a burger, the clip won't be posted. Rico reluctantly takes a bite of Glenny's burger. "It sucked too. Fat slob can't even cook." 

February 2020

This brings us to our most recent drama. Again, you can read Jack's in-depth break down of that here. But I'll go over it as well and include some quotes I got yesterday while conducting my interviews. 

After the Super Bowl, Barstool Radio did a lineup shakeup. One of the new shows was Picks Central, a gambling show hosted by Brandon Walker from 12-1 every day. Walker recalls, "Dave said it was my show and to do whatever I want. At first I had on Dave, Dan, and Marty. But with Dave and Dan traveling so much, we had to look elsewhere sometimes." So since Lo Duca and Blackjack were in the office, he would occasionally ask them on. The Mississippian reflects, "Whenever they were on the show, they brought a very, very boring perspective."

So then the whole world gets shut down with a global pandemic. Sports stop. So Picks Central stops. During this time, Brandon and Mush continued to do Walk The Line and their various other content. Blackjack and Lo Duca were focused on horse racing, but had some occasional, seemingly friendly interactions with Brandon. Rico started to come to the office more for the Yak. 

On July 6th, Barstool Sports HQ reopens at a limited capacity. Brandon, Mush, Big Cat, and Rico are all in often for various responsibilities. Blackjack and Lo Duca do not return yet. The former lawyer says, "People were told to only come back if they absolutely had to. We didn't feel like we needed to at that point."

Blackjack says that a couple weeks later, he gets a called from someone in production saying that Picks Central was returning on Monday 8/3, and that Brandon had asked about them. So Blackjack said he and Paul planned to return for that. However, just before the show starts, Brandon says that Rico will be on the show. 

(screenshot via JackMac)

I asked Brandon about this, and he said, "Mush and Big Cat were here every day so they were on. Rico was here a lot too. I asked him if he wanted to be on Picks Central, and he said yes. He's very funny and entertaining. Blackjack and Lo Duca haven't been in the office for six months." 

Rico being back meant Blackjack and Lo Duca were out, as Rico refuses to work with them. Since Rico is viewed by Brandon and others to be more entertaining, he does hold some leverage in the situation. 

Blackjack maintains though that he would welcome working with Rico and thinks he's entertaining. When I told Bosco that, he had this to say. 

So that leaves us in this current standoff. Since Blackjack and Lo Duca were effectively excommunicated from Picks Central, they decided to launch Hitting The Board on Monday 8/17. It airs every day at 11:45 AM, 15 minutes before the start of Picks Central. BJ said the release time was obviously done intentionally to get attention. "We wanted to do a straight gambling show. Our audience is big enough where Walker can basically do a second hour of the Yak with picks in the last 10 minutes, and we can really break down the games."

Now the latest doot da doo happened earlier this week, mainly between Paul Lo Duca and the Picks Central Twitter account, run by Karim. This graphic was tweeted out Tuesday evening. 

This did not sit well with the former catcher. 

Lo Duca refuted this

And Dave then refuted the refute and claimed Paul was just arguing semantics. 

A lot of back and forth, so I talked to all parties involved to get the full story. 

First up is Lo Duca himself. He admitted that he did reach out to Jen, our Head of Production from Dave's above screenshot. Lo Duca told me that he called Jen and said, "I don't understand the graphic. It's wrong. I went 9-4 over the weekend. You can take a shot, I can handle it. I played pro baseball and was on the New York Post for 7 straight days. But this was just incorrect."

Lo Duca thinks that tweeting something like that out is slanderous and tells people they shouldn't watch his show. He said tweeting it from Picks Central is one thing, but he didn't like Barstool Bets being used in the graphic. Lo Duca is not involved with Picks Central but he is involved with Barstool Bets as a whole. "You can't slander me and only tweet out my losers. That's trying to bury my career and take money out of my pocket." He also wanted to clarify that he did NOT threaten to go to HR but…

Paul also said that he's tried to reach out to Karim, but Karim won't return his calls. So like any good reporter would, I spoke to Karim as well. "He keeps blowing up my phone. I'm not gonna talk to you dude, leave me alone. I don't have anything to say to him." 

Karim says that Paul and Fletch started a competing show where they said they'd provide winners. "They said they were going to be superior. As the producer of a competing show, it's my job to expose their records. He was 13-31 from Monday-Friday last week and then bounced back over the weekend."

Karim is also bothered that Paul continues to go after his record when, "I say like 10 words a week on the show. When we went head-to-head though one night he went 0-2 and I went 4-1." Karim closed with, "We clearly know what the better show is. We have 50,000 followers on Twitter versus their 1,000 combined on 17 different accounts. I guess we're doing pretty damn well for a 'fake gambling show.' As Rico would say, check the scoreboard."

Mush usually stays out of drama, but when I spoke to him about all this, his main beef seemed to be with Paul Lo Duca. "Paul Lo Duca doesn't want to get involved? He couldn't be more involved. He tweeted that we don’t actually bet! He can’t stop getting involved. But if I was 13-31, I'd probably go to HR too. He's the softest person at this company." (He also wanted me to add that he's in the positive and hitting over 50% of his picks). 

Also one last thing before we wrap up, Jeff Nadu somehow got involved. He tweeted "give it a rest" at Paul last night in the midst of all this. Lo Duca said, "Me and Blackjack met him once, bought him dinner and drinks, stuck up for him, and now last night he randomly tweets that? Don't insert yourself."

Being confused by Jeff seems to be a common theme. Brandon Walker told me, "He seems like a nice guy, but I'm more confused about Jeff Nadu than anyone else in my life. Does he work for Barstool? Does he not? I have no idea what he's doing."

And that concludes our lengthy seven year long saga from 2013 until today. 

Part 3: The Future

So where does this leave us going forward? Barstool will continue to churn out gambling content. Some people will be moving to Philly, and the Barstool Sportsbooks will eventually be opening up. Can this motley crew of degenerates co-exist? It seems like Walker, Mush, and Rico will continue to do their thing, while Blackjack and Lo Duca do their own thing. 

Both Blackjack and Paul have admitted that Picks Central can be a funnier and more entertaining show, but that's not what Hitting the Board is about. 

Blackjack: "I'll grant that Brandon is funnier. But I'm not trying to be a stand up comic. I'm trying to handicap games. I want to be informative and entertaining. I don't think we're dry. They'll put on a funnier show every day. But I'm a better gambler than any of them." He says that it's just different strokes for different folks. 

Blackjack had two last messages. To Rico, "Call me." And to Brandon, "Suck it."

On the other side, Brandon, Mush, and Rico are set on continuing to deliver a funny and entertaining show each day. Brandon scoffed at Blackjack's quip above when I read it to him. "I find it very interesting that a guy who’s gimmick is cowboy hats and weird jackets wants to make a joke about my shirts and socks." 

I asked about his future plans for the Picks Central lineup. 

So where do Dave and Big Cat stand in all of this? Do they have a side? 

Big Cat: “Marty, Brandon, and Rico are far more entertaining than the others. That’s just a fact. But winning picks is the great equalizer. If Blackjack and Lo Duca get hot, I'll follow them to the end of Earth. If someone’s hot, I don’t care how entertaining they are. They can win the audience if they get crazy hot. This is old school gambling. Everyone claiming slander. It's the Wild Wild West. Everyone is both hilarious and a little bitch. This is what I want Barstool gambling to be. It's the happiest I've ever been."

Dave: "I don't have a side. I haven't paid super close attention, but I like that it's devolved into this. When you have multiple walking insane asylums walking around, things will get crazy." He did catch one episode of Hitting The Board though. 

The bottomline is that this has all been incredible content. There's nobody happier than Big Cat and Dave.