LAS VEGAS – Not many people, even professional bettors, can say they’ve won $143,750 in the first four weeks of the NFL season.
But a 30-year-old compliance officer from New Jersey can make that claim – and it’s true.
Playing under the alias of CB Elite in The Circa Sports Million Pro Football Contest, Cory (who requested his last name not be published) went 17-3 against Circa’s contest lines during NFL Weeks 1-4 in September to win the “Quarter/Monthly” prize for the best record out of 1,875 entrants who paid $1,000 per entry in the inaugural contest.
He says he started betting on football in 2011 during his college days at Delaware State while earning his bachelor’s degree in accounting with a minor in finance. He then went on to get a master’s in finance, which will come in handy with his newfound windfall.
“There was a nearby casino at Dover Downs that had football parlay and teaser cards [no straight betting],” CB Elite said. “I love math and I love football, so I put the two together and I realized I was pretty good at betting.”
CB Elite comes from his initials and an alias he used when beating his friends in (much smaller) handicapping contests over the years. Cory said his family and friends knew of his hobby as he would share winning picks with them.
“Two years ago, my manager told me about the football contests in Vegas where you play against a bunch of people and can win big money,” he said. “I looked into it and learned you could play from out of state with a proxy and got in touch with Toni [Law] and Matty [Simo] and played in the SuperContest the last two years.”
Cory said he got off to slow start each year as his handicapping usually does better “after Week 7 or so” when he has more data on the teams to put his math skills to use, plus he said he made a lot of rookie mistakes like playing too many Thursday games instead of waiting for more information and putting in the required 5 picks a week on Friday or Saturday.
This year is the first year of the Circa Sports contest, the brainchild of downtown casino owner Derek Stevens and his staff at the sportsbook he opened on June 1 at the Golden Gate and the D. The “Quarter/Monthly” prizes were originally supposed to be $50,000 apiece out of a guaranteed prize pool of $1.5 million. When the entries flew past the 1,500 needed for Stevens to make his nut, the additional $375,000 in entry fees was split equally among the monthly prizes to make them a whopping $143,750 apiece.
Cory said he chose to play the Circa contest this year specifically because it has those “Quarter” prizes for the top record each month (Weeks 1-4 in September, Weeks 5-8 in October, Weeks 9-12 in November and Weeks 13-17 in December) just in case he got off to another slow start.
Instead, he found himself in contention right from the start as one of 16 contestant to go a perfect 5-0 in Week 1. He followed that up with 4-1 records in both Weeks 2 and 3 to stand in a three-way tie for first place at 13-2 heading into last weekend. Cory said he heard about Stevens’ offer of a free hotel room at his properties for anyone within half a game of the lead, but he chose not to make the trip.
“I would have had to pay for my flight out here,” he said. “It wasn’t that I wasn’t confident I could do it, but it didn’t seem like the best financial decision in case I didn’t.”
As the Week 4 games played out, Cory said he knew HITMAN, who entered the week at 12-2-1, was the only contestant who could pass him. In fact, he admitted that he thought for a time that HITMAN had it clinched because he saw a leaderboard with HITMAN at 13.5 points (note: wins count for 1 point and pushes as half a point) and knew he was 4-0 with one play to go. Cory mistakenly thought HITMAN was up to 17.5 points, but then realized that HITMAN had used the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday Night Football (which was why the updated leaderboard had him at 13.5) and was only at 16.5 points heading into the Sunday Night Football game.
“I thought, ‘I’m still in this,’” Cory said as the $143,750 prize came down to that game as CB Elite had the New Orleans Saints 2.5 and HITMAN had the Dallas Cowboys -2.5.
On VSiN’s “My Guys in the Desert” show on Thursday, Circa VP Mike Palm asked Cory if he hedged at all on the Cowboys’ spread or money line since he was in New Jersey, where sports betting is now legal, or if he let it ride.
“I just let it ride,” Cory said at the D’s Longbar, where he was picking up his money and the ceremonial big check. “My selections got me there, so if it happens it happens . . . and the banks wasn’t open anyway. I’m in Jersey, so I have online accounts, but they would have blocked for a large amount, so I was just gonna let it ride.”
He said he went to a local sports bar and played pool while watching the Saints-Cowboys game while understandly nervous with so much on the line. It was close throughout, but CB Elite clinched the Quarter prize when the Saints held on for a 12-10 victory.
“I’m just so grateful to Circa and my proxies for making this possible,” he said. “It’ll be nice to pay off my student loans and be debt-free.”
While trying to figure out how to get the “big check” on his flight or ship it back home, Cory said he’s looking forward to battling for the next monthly prize that starts with this weekend’s games as well as aiming for the $1 million first-place prize for the best season record.
“Like I said, I usually do better later in the year,” he said, “’so hopefully that doesn’t change now that I’m in the lead.”