Summer’s over. It’s football time. That means lots of fun things in Las Vegas—Monday Night Football parties, game-day food and drink specials, and, of course, football contests. The contests represent an excellent gambling opportunity, given that you can enter for a low (or even no) cost and get a season’s worth of action, and a chance at a monster payday.
Additionally, the average fan has a reasonable chance to win. Well, usually, that is. Last year’s winner of the prestigious LVH SuperContest was a financial trader based in Chicago who has a master’s degree in statistics, a bachelor’s in math and lectures on predictive modeling in sports statistics. So you might be able to put that $1,500 entry fee to better use elsewhere. Good thing is, there are other options well-suited to the casual player.
My perennial top recommendation is the free Pick the Pros at the Boyd casinos—Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Sam’s Town, California and Fremont. Aside from the price being right, it’s easy to play and you can win some serious coin if you pop a big card. A significant change this year: You get only one free entry instead of three, but it applies to everyone. It’s a winner-take-all format each week, and there’s a lot of competition, so you’ll usually have to go perfect to win. But with a $20,000 prize through Week 8, $30,000 in Weeks 9-13 and $50,000 in Weeks 14-17 on the line, just getting close will get the juices moving.
Station Casinos’ Great Giveaway is $25, but the fee is returned in free slot play at the end of the season 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-2-get-1-free deal and the average cost drops to $16.67 per entry.
Perhaps best of all is the $25 contest at Aliante. With $103,850 in guaranteed prizes, it needs 4,154 players to reach even equity (when the money collected from entry fees equals the prize money). Aliante’s isolated location on the north side makes it too inconvenient for most; hence, this one is pretty much a lock to be undersubscribed, making each entry theoretically worth more than the $18.75 per it will cost after spending $75 for the 4-for-3 offer.
William Hill sportsbooks ($25) and Ellis Island (free) also have weekly contests, along with a new one this year at Rampart Casino. Rampart hadn’t released details by press time, but based on its gambler-friendly stance, I’m expecting something good there. Other smaller contests will turn up at bars all over town. Most don’t have a lot of value, but if they’re free rolls, they’re worth playing when you run into them.