With football season fast approaching and 2019 being the first full year of nationwide sports betting legalization, one question I often get asked is about the season-long Las Vegas football contests. I wanted to highlight the top 4 in this article, along with which ones I've played in the past and can speak about from first-hand experience.
1. NFL SuperContest at the Westgate
The SuperContest is universally regarded as the World Series of NFL Handicapping. It is the largest NFL Handicapping Contest in the United States and attracts the most press coverage throughout the year. The concept is simple. It is $1,500 to enter. The Westgate puts out lines for every NFL game that week on Wednesday. The lines are set and do not move. Each contestant must pick 5 games each week against the spread from the lines that come out on Wednesday. Totals are not part of the contest. You get 1 point for each winner and .5 points for a push. You get 0 for a loss.
The SuperContest has gained such high notoriety over the last 5-10 years, that in 2018 1st place paid $1.4M. The winning entry was "Personal Gourmet" and they finished with a record of 59-25-1 (70% ATS). There were 3,123 total entries last year and the SuperContest is hoping to exceed that number this year. The final payout figures are based on the total number of entries, but last year they paid out the Top 100.
On top of the traditional SuperContest, there is also a SuperContest Gold. This is a winner take-all format where it is $5,000 to enter. 2nd place receives $0. Due to the much higher entry fee, there are of course less entries, so some prefer this contest. However, finishing 2nd and receiving $0 just doesn't appeal to a lot of people. There was chatter that they were going to payout the Top 5 this year, but they decided against it. Last year's winner took home $640,000 and finished with a record of 55-27-3 (67% ATS). The last time I competed in the SuperContest was 2017 where I finished tied for 13th place. I have soured on the SuperContest over the last few years as other contests have popped up around Vegas that offer better value in my opinion. More on those below....
2. Circa Sports Million
This is the inaugural year for the Circa Sports Million. Derek Stevens, owner of the D, is building the largest sportsbook in the United States that will be located at the Circa Hotel when it is completed next year. For now, the contest is housed at Circa's sister book, the Golden Gate in downtown Las Vegas. This contest is $1,000 to enter and is similar to the SuperContest in many ways. Contestants must select 5 NFL games each week ATS, and totals are not available. One added bonus that this contest has that the SuperContest does not are the quarterly prizes. Circa is giving away $50,000 every four weeks in four independent individual contests. In other words, regardless of your overall record the first 4 weeks, if you have the best record during weeks 5-8, you win $50,000. Additionally, they are guaranteeing 1st place $1,000,000 regardless of the amount of entries, which is rare. They need 1,500 entries to break even on this, and since this contest is only in its 1st year, most do not think they will get there. Therefore, a huge overlay is possible here, providing contestants with positive expected value on their investment compared to the number of entries one would have to compete against. I will be entering this contest.
3. Golden Nugget Ultimate Football Challenge
In my view, this is the most underrated contest in all of Las Vegas. I competed in it last year and finished tied for 10th. It's run by Tony Miller of the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas. The entry fee is $1,000, and you must select 7 games each week. The difference here is, they list every college football game along with every NFL game. This contest provides for greater variance, as some stick mainly to NFL, some to college, and some to a mix of both. The contest runs 17 weeks total. Once the college football season is over, the last few weeks of the contest are NFL only.
What's also great about this contest is 100% of entry fees get paid back in winnings, and the Top 20 contestants get paid, so no house rake, unlike the SuperContest. Lines are all released on Wednesday, and selections are due Friday evening. Between the combination of NFL and College to choose from, the prize structure, and the lower amount of those in the field, this is the best contest in Vegas in my opinion.
4. William Hill College Pick'em Contest
This is a contest that has gained momentum over the years. I entered it for the 1st time last year and finished tied for 6th place. The contest runs for 10 weeks during the college football season, and you have to select 7 games ATS each week. The catch is William Hill only allows for certain games to be selected. On Wednesday, they list the 25 games that will be used. Usually they are the games that Top 25 teams are playing in that week, but often they will throw in an obscure game, or an "Added Game" to keep things interesting. I think William Hill did a great job finding their niche with this one and creating a contest that was unique, which is always a good thing.
The biggest question I always get asked is about Proxies and what to do if you aren't physically in Nevada. Yes, for all of these contests you can have a Proxy who will enter your weekly picks for you. You don't need to be in Nevada. The one I use when I am not physically in Nevada that week has been and continues to be Las Vegas Contest Proxy. He was actually the Proxy for the SuperContest winners in 2014 and has a great reputation. You can contact him directly from his website lasvegascontestproxy.com or Twitter @LVContestProxy. Just tell him ACL sent you and he'll take care of you. Note, that for most of the Contests, you do need to be in Vegas to sign up initially, but after that you do not need to be there at all during the year (except of course to come collect your winnings at the end :)
With so many options popping up seemingly every year, hopefully this provided some more guidance and detail. Good Luck to anyone who plans on signing up this year.