Four Can’t-Miss Football Contests

2293918256_4fec815eebThe wait is over, football fans. College games begin August 29, and the NFL season starts September 5. And we’re lucky to live in what may be the world’s best city for football fans. That’s not just because you can bet the games; it’s because of all the things that go hand-in-hand with the betting: Big screens, Monday Night Football parties, and game-day food-and-drink specials will be everywhere all the way through the Super Bowl.

And then there are the football contests. Of the dozen big ones this year, the most expensive are the SuperContest at LVH and the Friday Football Showdown invitational at the Golden Nugget, both of which cost $1,500. And William Hill is sponsoring a $100 college-football contest. All nine of the others carry either $25 entry fees or are free. Here are four favorites:

• My top pick is Pick the Pros at the Boyd casinos— Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Sam’s Town, California and Fremont. It’s free, convenient, and you can win up to $25,000 every week. It’s popular, too, so you almost have to pop a perfect card to win, but it gets exciting anytime your sheet is clean going into the afternoon games. The weekly prizes were reduced by $5,000 this year to accommodate an end-of-year $100,000 drawing that requires playing in at least nine of the first 12 weeks to be eligible.

• Station Casinos’ Great Giveaway is another strong contest for locals. You have to pay $25 for this one, but you get your money back at the end of the year if you play all 17 weeks and don’t win a prize. That must-play requirement takes away flexibility, but it’s a small negative. Take advantage of the buy-two-get-one-free deal to get three for $50—that’s $16.67 per entry.

The Palms has an interesting format with high weekly ($10,000) and monthly ($20,000) payouts, and less competition than Boyd or Station, but it’s the entry-fee bonuses that make it so good. Buy the maximum three entries, you get three more free. That’s six for $75—and if you enter by September 2, you’ll also get $10 in slot free-play, effectively lowering your outlay to $65. That’s a per-entry price of $10.83.

• This year’s top newcomer is the $25 contest at Aliante, which has a four-for-three offer for $75—just $18.75 per entry. With $103,850 in prizes guaranteed, the contest needs 4,154 players to reach even equity (that’s when the money collected from entry fees is equal to the prize money). For many of us, it’s quite a trek to get to North Las Vegas, which means the contest has a good chance of being undersubscribed. That, in turn, would make each entry theoretically worth more than $18.75. And that’s good news for bettors.

Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and