SuperContest Contestants Bounce Back After Week 2 Drubbing

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In NFL Week 2, the underdogs bit hard with an 11-5 performance against the spread and seven outright victories. That outcome walloped contestants in the Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest, holding the average entry to just 1.93 correct picks out of 5. NFL Week 3 went much better for the players, who picked up an average 2.70 points (remember a push is 0.5 points), a shade behind Week 1’s 2.77-point performance (figures via FantasySuperContest).

Unlike last week where each of the top five consensus picks failed to cover (and lost outright), the top three consensus picks this week all covered the number.

There was not a single unblemished entry remaining after Week 2 among the 3,000-plus entry field. Today the overall pool co-leaders are a pack of five, each at 13-2. Here’s the weekly snapshot, then we’ll dig into the consensus picks and a bit more below:

  • Favorites vs Underdogs (ATS):  9-7
  • Home vs Away (ATS): 10-6
  • Over/Under record: 8-8
  • Straight up underdog wins: 6

What Sports Bettors Need To Know About Football Handicapping Contests

The post What Sports Bettors Need To Know About Football Handicapping Contests appeared first on SportsHandle.

One of the major drivers of sports betting handle in Nevada has been football handicapping contests. In Part One, we presented a history of this under-appreciated foundation of football wagering.

Such contests helped grow sports wagering’s popularity in the Silver State and will likely be offered to attract bettors in emerging legal sports betting markets nationwide.

But before you enter such a contest, there are some keys worth considering in the pursuit of a big prize — and the pride of winning such a contest.

NFL Lines Pick ‘Em Contests: Finding the Contest That Works For You

nfl lines pick em contests sports betting

When considering entering a football contest, keep in mind that a high entry fee translates to fewer entrants, but a bigger cash payout to those who pick the most winners. These contests usually require entrants to pick against the spread. A win percentage above 60 percent is often enough to win lower-entry affairs. They usually only include NFL games on Sunday and Monday night. If you prefer to bet college games, they are not a part of most contests because of the more volatile point spreads in the college game, compared to the pros.

Part of the appeal of any contest is that it appears easier to pick winners than it really is. Big-money contests are a serious handicapping challenge, even for the best in the business. A casual player in any contest must always consider the competition. If you risk $1,000 or more to enter, you are likely to be facing off against the best-of-the-best.

Can You Really Beat Them?

These professional or semi-professional football bettors do their homework, watch All-22 films, and consider the market and their selections carefully. They often have multiple entries and if their pockets are deep enough, will utilize friends and family members to add even more.

With a lone entry, it’s a major accomplishment to win because players with multiple entries or syndicates can isolate the best plays and then “dutch” — the term for playing both sides of a game — thereby increasing their chances of picking more winners than you can on one or two entries.

[Also See: Breaking Down The Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest Winner’s Picks]

It takes skill and a bit of luck to win a big-money, high-entry fee contest($1,500) such as the Las Vegas Westgate’s SuperContest, which paid $1.3 million to first place winner in 2017, in a field of 2,748. Entrants in the Westgate’s SuperContest Gold ponied up $5,000 apiece in the winner-take all tournament. If you are relying on luck alone, the others may have you a major disadvantage.

Playing a “No-Spread” Contest

The more casual player may want to look for a no-spread football contest with a smaller entry fee, such as one in which buying four entries gets you a fifth one free. In such contests you just need to pick winners, never mind the spread.

Now, you may be able to play both sides of evenly matched teams just like the pros do. However, now your problem becomes the sheer number of entrants you have to beat.  The lower-cost, no-spread contests in a major casino/resort may boast more than 100,000 entries. Many entrants will pick only the favorites. Such contests typically offer weekly prizes that get divided between hundreds of winners, and can result in a pocket change reward.

Being the sole weekly winner in any weekly subset of a no-spread contest is very rare and can only happen when numerous underdogs win outright. If you pick too many underdogs during a week when favorites win, you seriously undermine your chances for a significant year-end prize. The spreads exist for a reason. Then again, if you zig when others zag and the underdogs string together a good week or a season, you stand to climb the standings and fetch a real prize while others blindly back the favorites. 

For all of these reasons, a no-spread contest should be generally regarded as entertainment with the idea of taking any serious cash home only a by-product of the fun. Such contests are enjoyable because they make the games more interesting. You can win. Just don’t count on it.

Bar Cards at your Neighborhood Tavern


A third kind of contest exists at some local bars or restaurants and is usually completely free. These established may offer a big prize, perhaps as much as $10,000, for perfect card. That might mean getting 16-of-16 games against the spread, perhaps more using totals. The Monday night game total is often used on a “bar contest card” as a tie-breaker, but usually totals are not part of the higher-end or mass-market competitions.

Your local bar may offer smaller prizes and swag to the customer who picks the most winners each week, but usually these are weekly contests, with no year-end prize for the most winners. Again, these kinds of contests are used to get customers to come back and reward those that do. If you can determine how many entrants a contest has, you can better determine if it’s worth your time to enter.

These contests generally have fewer entrants and although the grand prize for a perfect card is almost never awarded, they can still make watching the games more enjoyable. Many regard sports betting as a social activity and contests can make a few hours watching the games with friends at a local pub more fun than ever.

Final Thoughts

nfl lines pick em contests sports betting parlay cards

Many of the contests that will spring up near you will be played using a kiosk. For better or worse, the mass appeal, low-entry fee or free competitions are now largely marketing tools to get you to come back to the casino again and again. That sportsbook near you wants your physical address and e-mail address so they can advertise to you. They may even sell that information to a third party. These kinds of contest almost always require a visit to the book and are not available online.

An internet-only contest, and there are many out there, will have so many entrants your chances of winning are greatly diminished. Again, your e-mail address is required, so get ready to get bombarded by offers for all manner of products and services.

Many contests use the Monday night total as a tie-breaker, so it’s important to spend a few moments making this selection. It can be the difference between a little cash and a lot.

Be sure and read the rules and all the fine print. You might be required to do some publicity and have your picture taken if you win and, be advised, your winnings are taxable income. That can influence your relationship with Uncle Sam in many ways including your Medicare payments and other government programs.

Stay away from the big-money events unless you are a serious bettor. Enjoy the mass-market contests for the pleasure. Don’t expect to get rich.

However, someone always wins and it could be you.

Robert H. Mann, a 31-year resident of Las Vegas, is the industry writer and columnist for Gaming Today newspaper and His opinions are his own and may not reflect those of Sports Handle.

The post What Sports Bettors Need To Know About Football Handicapping Contests appeared first on SportsHandle.

Football Contests of Old Helped Create Today’s Massive Sports Betting Popularity

The post Football Contests of Old Helped Create Today’s Massive Sports Betting Popularity appeared first on SportsHandle.

As US gambling legislation produces new sports betting states and markets for legal sports wagering, more and more prospective bettors will have the long-awaited opportunity to join one or more now-legal “cash entry” football betting contests.

Such contests have a rich and vibrant history in the world of sports wagering and continue to occupy a somewhat understated historical position in the massive explosion of sports betting interest and wagering that followed.

Credit for the first high-stakes, football betting contest in Nevada is generally given to the late Julius “Sonny” Reizner, as described by Arne K. Lang in his book “Sports Betting and Bookmaking –An American History, “an affable and impish man in his mid-fifties (in 1978) who appeared in TV ads that captured his personality, bringing the vibe of a good neighbor to an industry in need of facelift.”

NFL Betting Contest Origins and Impact: ‘Friendly Frank’ Popularizes the ‘No Spreads’ Contest

sports betting stories nfl betting contest royal inn history
Courtesy Gaming Today

Also emerging in that year in Las Vegas was a mass-appeal, no-spread football contest called “Friendly Frank’s Pick the Pros” at the Royal Inn and the Barbary Coast, operated at the time by current South Point owners Michael Gaughan and partner Frank Toti. The entry fee ran $100 with a cash prize of $25,000 for the entrant picking the most winners over the course of the NFL season. The entrant who picked the fewest number of winners received $5,000.

Forty years later, many elements of Reizner’s contest are an integral part of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest, and the Gaughan/Toti concepts are still in play at most of the Boyd Gaming casino/resorts in Las Vegas.

Reizner, almost always nattily attired in a sport coat and tie, ran the hole-in-the-wall book at The Castaways, one of the early hotels in Las Vegas. The Castaways, along with the Stardust and the Union Plaza, casinos marked the beginning of the migration of the standalone sports and racebook into mainstream Las Vegas, with designated spaces inside prominent hotel/casinos on the Strip and Downtown.

Strictly confined to NFL games, Reizner’s brainchild wasn’t inexpensive to enter: $1,000 when it began in 1978, with a prize fund growing each year. The first year of Castaways’ event, the winner was Gary Austin who defeated 55 others and who took home $42,000 and the title “Castaways World Champion of Pro Football Handicapper.” (I invite you to read up about the controversial Austin at your leisure.)

Eight years later, in 1986, $137,000 was up for grabs in the contest and in 1987, The Castaways advertised a $250,000 prize pool. Known and trademarked as the “Pro-Football Handicap,” the contest was a promotional home run for Castaways and Reizner in particular and sport betting in general.

Reizner gave out extra money for early entrants who won and even ran a preseason contest with a $50.00 entry fee at The Silver Slipper, a sister property through which he promoted his Castaways’ event.

Legacy of The Castaways’ Contest

nfl betting contest live odds castaways contests legacy
Courtesy Gaming Today

The Castaways was shuttered in July 1987 and demolished soon after to make way for the construction of The Mirage, which opened in 1989, on the prime Strip frontage. Despite The Castaways’ rich history — it was once owned by Howard Hughes — most remember it for the pioneering football contest conceived by Reizner.

The high price to enter The Castaways contest ($1,000) was significant and it utilized a point spread. The robust entry fee and big-buck prize pool made sure only the serious players took part. However, the ancillary benefit came when Reizner would post the various plays and consensus plays of the entrants for the public to see.

There was great interest in the plays of entrants like professional gamblers Lem Banker, Jim Feist and Austin. Both serious and casual players would come to the book when the plays were posted to see what games Banker, Feist and the others liked on Sunday and would then go to the windows to bet many of the NFL teams the entrants endorsed.

The significance of the contest can be viewed on a number of levels. It increased interest in betting, it created foot traffic for the casino and it served as the forerunner Westgate’s Supercontest (formerly known as the Hilton SuperContest and the LVH SuperContest), in which the 2017 winner took home $1.3 million.

[Also See: Breaking Down The 2017 Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest Winner’s Picks]

Just like football coaches, if a scheme works, others will play copycat. Nearly every other Nevada sportsbook took a page from Castaways and Reziner’s contest and Gaughan’s, including Caesars Palace, The Imperial Palace, Circus Circus and its other outlets including the Excalibur. In Reno, the Cal-Neva as well as other sportsbooks gave Northern Nevadans a chance to get in on what was becoming a highly competitive segment of the sports betting business. Entry fees varied and so did the rules. Some had point spreads, others did not.

Local taverns also began contests, offering up cash and prizes to customers who picked the most winners each week. A perfect card against the point spread and including some totals, especially on the Monday night game could net a participant $10,000. Newly opened casinos in Mississippi in the 1990’s also began contests, and just like the local taverns, entry was free to avoid any problem with state regulators. A contest was also offered at least one Trump property in Atlantic City. Because it was free to enter, as were contests at Nevada taverns, it was not illegal.

Making Contests Bigger and Better

nfl betting contests pick em contests nfl odds
Courtesy Gaming Today

Over the years, some sportsbooks targeted casual players by lowering the entry fee and guaranteeing a bigger prize pool that offered bigger money for weekly winners, as well as total regular season handicapping performance. Gaughan and Toti opened up the football contest for everyone by gradually reducing their initial $100 entry fee and emphasizing that no point spread was used. Now, even the most casual player could get involved and dream about the “Pick the Pro’s” big cash awards, if you were the lone weekly winner or if you had the most wins at the end of the season.

Entrants soon found out that even without the point spread, picking NFL winners is infinitely more difficult than it appears.

When Gaughan sold the Royal Inn, his hugely popular contest moved to the Barbary Coast on the Las Vegas Strip and as Gaughan and Toti’s Coast Casinos expanded to include the Gold Coast, Suncoast and The Orleans, this contest and the one offered by Station Casinos became a bonanza for the weekly and season-long winners as well as for the casinos because of the high player traffic they generated.

Local Las Vegans saw contest hysteria ramping up throughout the 1980’s and beyond as the all the major local-centric operators, which included Boyd Gaming, as well as Stations Casinos and Coast Casinos, targeted residents through these contests.

All of the properties gearing their marketing towards locals rewarded the best handicappers with multiple entries costing less money with a chance to win as much as $25,000 in a weekly contest as well as a prize in the $100,000 range for the most wins over the course of the regular season. Just one entry in one of these contests could be as low as $25.00 for the entire season. Often, if a player bought four, they received a fifth one free.

In the 1990’s it was not uncommon at a Station, Coast Casino (before its merger with Boyd) or a Boyd property to have long lines late on Friday night as the bowling leagues wrapped up for the evening and the bowlers would adjourn to the sportsbook to put in their selections.

The contest concept spread to free contests for employees at many casino/resorts and was used as a team-building incentive and further helped plant the seeds for today’s massive sports betting handle in Nevada.

The season-ending prize was based on total wins, thus requiring entrants to visit the casino each week to enter. If you missed a week, it was impossible to win the big, year-end prize because a “no play” was considered a loss.

Stations took the contest idea to a new level with cash prizes for the player(s) with the most losses and those who came closest to having half correct and half wrong, calling it “Fiddle in the Middle.” Stations for several years offered a free house option as first prize for the most winners, if the winner wanted that instead of the cash. That’s right, you won an actual house if you wanted that instead of the cash.

Syndicates created teams of entrants coaxing friends and relatives to enter and would submit hundreds and even thousands of entries each week, a practice technically against the rules, but impossible to enforce.

Today, contests remain in vogue in and around Las Vegas. Participants usually are required to use a kiosk to make their bets, thus making syndicate action a little less significant. However, just as when they were conceived forty years ago, it takes more than a little luck to win.

The Westgate’s SuperContest even promotes the option of proxy play, in which an entrant can designate a friend or a proxy service to make the plays in place of the registered entrant. Using a proxy allows an entrant to visit Las Vegas to register and then make the selection from another state or country.

If there’s a way to make a contest bigger and better, Las Vegas will think of it.  

Next time in Part II: what you need to know and consider when entering a new “cash entry” football contest where you live.

Robert H. Mann, a 31-year resident of Las Vegas, is the industry writer and columnist for Gaming Today newspaper and His opinions are his own and may not reflect those of Sports Handle.

The post Football Contests of Old Helped Create Today’s Massive Sports Betting Popularity appeared first on SportsHandle.