Tuley's Takes: Football contest season almost underway

June 28, 2022 08:25 PM
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We have been a fan of handicapping contests here in the Tuley’s Takes home office ever since arriving in Las Vegas in 1998.

July 1 was the de facto opening day for NFL handicapping contests before the Westgate SuperBook and Circa Sports started trying to take entries before March Madness. This year, Circa waited until after the NFL schedule was released on May 12 to finalize rules for its NFL contests, Circa Sports Million and Circa Survivor, which both cost $1,000 per entry. They both have $6 million guaranteed prize pools as I wrote about in the May 18 issue of Point Spread Weekly and at VSiN.com (vsin.com/tuleys-takes-on-early-nfl-lines-circas-nfl-contests/).

The race for entries will really commence Friday as the Westgate opens registration for its SuperContest ($1,000 entry fee) and SuperContest Gold ($5,000 entry fee) at 9 a.m. PT and the Golden Nugget opens The Ultimate Football Challenge ($1,000 entry fee, but notable as it includes college football sides in addition to NFL sides).

I’ve covered every major football contest since then (as well as horse racing tournaments and every WSOP Main Event final table from 1999 until the COVID-19 pandemic). I truly believe contests and tournaments are the best way to maximize your profits when you’re having the season of your life. In addition, smaller Vegas contests would have weekly NFL prizes that could make up for a losing season with just one week of great (or lucky) handicapping. Nowadays, the high-end Vegas contests have multi-week contests as you’ll see below.

I’ve written about the history of Las Vegas football contests many times (you can Google that), but the short version is the SuperContest at the Hilton/LVH/Westgate ruled the landscape for 30 years from 1989 through the late 2010s. In the early years, the number of entries for the $1,500 contest was measured in hundreds and mostly played by locals, professional handicappers and a smattering of others around the country that used a local proxy to put in picks. After having 505 entries in 2005, the SuperContest dropped back into the 300s during the recession before bouncing back to 517 in 2010. With the advent of social media (especially with the news that out-of-state players could use a local proxy to put in their weekly picks), word spread and entries exploded past the 1,000 mark for the first time in 2013 and set a new record every year until reaching a peak of 3,328 in 2019. That was also the first year of Circa Sports Million that debuted with 1,875 entries.

In 2020, Circa Sports Million took another leap to 3,148 entries despite the COVID-19 pandemic while the SuperContest dropped to 1,172. Last year, Circa Sports Million had a $4 million guarantee and topped it with 4,087 entries (an all-time Vegas record) while the SuperContest rebounded to 1,972 entries.

As mentioned above, Circa Sports Million has a $6 million guarantee, so they need 6,000 entries to make their nut. The SuperContest estimates 2,500 entries in its projected payoff table in its contest rules.

The big change in the SuperContest this season is the addition of two nine-week, “in-season” contests for Weeks 1-9 and Weeks 10-18 (note: the Westgate also has a separate $500 buy-in Reboot contest on Weeks 10-18 that players can enter now or wait until closer to midseason). See below for the other “in-season” contests and their payouts.

The Ultimate Football Challenge at the Golden Nugget resumed last season after taking 2020 off due to the pandemic. 

As of presstime, no other Vegas casinos had announced football contests for this year, though we’re hopeful that William Hill continues its College Pick’em ($1,000 entry, seven college football picks against the spread for 10 weeks) and we fully expect Station Casinos to continue its Last Man Standing contests for both college and pro for locals.

In addition, DraftKings (VSiN’s parent company) is also planning to run its Pro Football Pick’Em and Pro Football Survivor contests for the third straight year in states where DK is licensed and has sportsbooks and/or mobile apps. John Avello, DraftKings director of race and sportsbook operations, said it would be a few weeks until details are released. Last year’s Pro Football Pick’Em had a $1,500 entry fee with a maximum of three per person and the Pro Football Survivor had a $333 entry fee, also with a max of three per person.

Here are all the details for the high-end Vegas contests:

Circa Sports Million IV and Circa Survivor III

Circa Sports Million IV

— $1,000 entry fee for Circa Sports Million IV (maximum three entries per person)

— Pick five games a week against the Circa contest spread in NFL Weeks 1-18

— $6 million guaranteed prize pool and $1 million guaranteed to champion

— Top 100 paid

— “Booby Prize” of $100,000 for worst record among those who play all 18 weeks, plus $50,000 for second-worst record

— Quarter prizes (Weeks 1-4, 5-9, 10-13, 14-18) are $150,000 for first place, $60,000 for second place, $40,000 for third place, $15,000 for fourth place and $10,000 for fifth place, plus $25,000 for last-place “Booby Prize”

— Registration must take place in person at a Circa sportsbook counter (currently Circa Resort, Golden Gate and the D in downtown Las Vegas, Tuscany on Flamingo Road and The Pass in Henderson) by 2 p.m. PT on Sept. 10; proxies allowed (must be present with contestant at registration)

— Contest lines posted by 10 a.m. PT Thursdays (Wednesday on Thanksgiving week)

— Weekly picks must be made in the state of Nevada at Circa sportsbook counters, on kiosks or on the Circa Sports mobile app by 4 p.m. PT Saturdays (or by scheduled kickoff time of Thursday games or earlier Saturday games if picking any of those)

Circa Survivor

— $1,000 entry fee in Circa Survivor (maximum six entries per person)

— Pick one NFL winner straight-up (ties lose) per week, can’t use same team more than once

— NFL Weeks 1-18, plus added weeks for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day for 20 total “weeks”

— Guaranteed $6 million prize pool (winner-take-all, but split equally if multiple entries go 20-0 or all remaining entries eliminated in same week)

— $1 million bonus split by all that go 20-0 without using either of last year’s Super Bowl teams (Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals) in any week; if single winner before end of contest, that player will still have opportunity to continue playing for bonus if still eligible

— Registration must take place in person at a Circa sportsbook counter (currently Circa Resort, Golden Gate and the D in downtown Las Vegas, Tuscany on Flamingo Road and The Pass in Henderson) by 2 p.m. PT on Sept. 10; proxies allowed (must be present with contestant at registration)

— Weekly picks must be made in the state of Nevada at Circa sportsbook counters, on kiosks or on the Circa Sports mobile app by 4 p.m. PT Saturdays (or by scheduled kickoff time of Thursday games or earlier Saturday games — or Christmas Day if you make it that far — if picking any of those games)

Westgate SuperContest and SuperContest Gold

SuperContest

— $1,000 entry fee for SuperContest (maximum 3 entries per person)

— Pick five games a week against the Westgate contest spread in NFL Weeks 1-18

— Top 30 paid

— There are 11 “in-season” contests this year with two nine-week contests (Weeks 1-9, 10-18) with payouts of $100,000 for first, $50,000 for second, $20,000 for third, $10,000 for fourth and $5,000 for fifth; three six-week contests (Weeks 1-6, 7-12, 13-18) with payouts of $75,000 for first, $25,000 for second, $10,000 for third and $5,000 for fourth; and six three-week contests (Weeks 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-18) with payouts of $50,000 for first, $10,000 for second and $5,000 for third

— Registration must take place at Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas by 9 p.m. PT on Sept. 10; proxies allowed (must be present with contestant at registration)

— Contest lines posted by approximately 5 p.m. PT Wednesdays

— Weekly picks must be made in the state of Nevada at the Westgate kiosks by 11:59 p.m. PT Saturdays; deadline for submissions on the Nevada SuperBook mobile app is 9 p.m. PT Saturdays; if using Thursday or Saturday games, deadline is the scheduled kickoff of the first game used

SuperContestGold

— $5,000 entry fee for SuperContestGold

— Pick five games a week against the Westgate contest spread in NFL Weeks 1-18

— Winner-take-all (or split in case of tie)

— Registration must take place at Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas by 9 p.m. PT on Sept. 10; proxies allowed (must be present with contestant at registration)

— Contest lines posted by approximately 5 p.m. PT Wednesdays

— Weekly picks must be made in the state of Nevada at the Westgate kiosks by 11:59 p.m. PT Saturdays; deadline for submissions on the Nevada SuperBook mobile app is 9 p.m. PT Satrudays; if using Thursday or Saturday games, deadline is the scheduled kickoff of the first game used

Golden Nugget Ultimate Football Challenge

— $1,000 entry fee (maximum three entries per person)

— Pick seven college and/or pro games a week against the Golden Nugget contest spread during the NFL Weeks 1-18 (final week may include bowl games that land outside the normal contest week)

— Top 20 paid

— Places 11th through 20th receive their entry fee back ($1,000), then the remaining prize pool (after a 3% administrative fee is taken out) will be divided up by 40% for first place, 20% for second place, 10% for third place, 7% each for fourth and fifth place, 5% each for sixth and seventh place, then 2% for eighth through 10th place

— Registration must take place at the Golden Nugget sportsbook in downtown Las Vegas by 10 p.m. PT on Sept. 6; proxies allowed (must be present with contestant at registration)

— Contest lines posted by approximately 2 p.m. PT Wednesdays

— Weekly picks must be made in the state of Nevada at the Golden Nugget counter or on the Golden Nugget Las Vegas mobile app by 10 p.m. PT Fridays; if using Thursday game, deadline is the scheduled kickoff of the first game used

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