Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Las Vegas Football Contests are a Must if You Like Free Money

by Micah Roberts
Gaming Today

Football contests sponsored by Las Vegas casinos are a huge attraction to players during football season, partly because there is such a huge overlay, meaning that the casinos pay more out than they take in.

These contests range from weekly "freebies" to high-stakes affairs with buy-ins of $1,500 to $2,500 and more. Nonetheless, they might be the best value in Las Vegas for the guests because it remains one of the only consistently accepted loss leaders that the big casino bosses keep intact.

Most of these contests around town range from being free to $25 and the often encourage and reward multiple entries.

The minimal entry fee contests seem to be popular with everyone. Most of them don’t have point spreads and it’s all about picking the NFL winners, which can be more difficult than it seems. Everyone has an equal opportunity, so whether the entrant actually handicaps the teams or uses a strategy by picking colors or choosing their favorite city, it’s wide open.

For the serious handicapper who prides himself on being better than most in picking winners against the spread, there are several high-end contests in Las Vegas – usually against the world’s top experts.

Another reason these high-stakes contests have become popular over the last decade is because there’s a smaller pool of players to go against, coupled with a high reward for beating them.

Another attraction to the high-end contests is they are often highly publicized around the betting world and they attract some of the best handicappers in the business. Recreational bettors are always intrigued to see who is documented by the contest as being the best and what their selections are from week to week.

Some of the players who have done well in these contests have actually gone on to have successful handicapping services using that publicity to spur their business.

Here’s a closer look at the upper-end football contests in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Hilton Super Contest -Entry fee $1,500
This is the grandfather of all the high end contests and the one that started it all in Las Vegas. The base format is relatively unchanged with five mandatory pro football selections each week against the spread, with all entries, fees returned as prize money. But Hilton Super Book Executive Director Jay Kornegay saw a need to make a subtle change this year.

"Our objective was to generate more than the 350 entries we had last season," Kornegay said, "and one small change could help, which is pushing back the contest entry deadline of Friday to Saturday at 11 a.m. We may have hindered ourselves in maximizing entries in the past with the nine to fivers who want to go to a book after work on a Friday, handicap, have a beer, and unwind."

This will be Kornegay’s fifth year running the contest, which pays out to the top 20, with the winner getting $220,000. The Super Contest also offers bonuses totaling up to $20,000 paid out of their own pocket: $10,000 will be guaranteed to the best record over the last three weeks of the season for all entrants that sign up before Sept.7. The other bonus of $10,000 goes to contestants who can hit 67% or higher for the season.

"It seems like a really tough achievement," Kornegay said, "but we’ve paid the bonus in two of the last five years."

South Point Friendly Frank’s Pro Challenge: Entry Fee $2,500
This will be the third year the South Point will be offering the high end contest. This is another contest that has a huge overlay possibility. They are guaranteeing $250,000 in prize money regardless if they get the 100 entries it would take to pay for the contest. All additional entry fees are paid out to the top four finishers, with the winner guaranteed $100,000.

Another attraction to this contest is the bonus of $50,000 to contestants who win at a 65% clip or better for the year. All weekly entries must be submitted by 2 p.m. on Saturday.

M Resort Football Contest: Entry Fee: $3,000
Opened last March, M Resort is the newcomer on the block, but they’re doing everything to catch the neighbors’ attention. This contest has the highest entry fee of all the high end contests in Las Vegas. Only 30 entries will be taken for the contest with a $100,000 prize pool.

One of the major differences between M’s contest and some of the others is that they require contestants to pick three pro games and three college games against the spread. Each week, the full schedule of games will be used with about 15 college games offered to choose from.

To entice players to sign up early, the M is offering an early-bird bonus of a $2,000 two-team Super Bowl parlay to entrants who sign up before Aug. 29.

Station Casinos: The Challenge: Entry fee: $500
The Station’s high end contest made a few changes, and they are very player friendly, with virtually no risk for the player. The contest entry has been dropped to $500 from the $1,000 entry fee of the past, but in the new format, Stations will give back all of the all entry fee for just turning in your selections all 17 weeks. Just play every week and it’s basically a free roll.

On top of the free-roll, Stations will also place $100 into your sports connection account should you turn in selections for all 17 weeks. They are basically paying the guest $100 to hold your money for 17 weeks and ensure you make a weekly visit each week of the football season.

The top prize for winning is a guaranteed $25,000. Second place is $10,000, with third place taking $5,000. They also have a $10,000 bonus for the best record in the four week mini-contest. Another bonus of $50,000 is offered for contestants who can pick at a 67% clip or better.

The concept remains the same. Make five selections each week with the weekly pro football games and two selected college games. Updated standings are posted each week in the book.

The new changes are fantastic and very player friendly, equally for the recreational bettor and sharp players alike.

LeRoy’s Pro and College Challenge: Entry Fee: $250 each
The sports book with multiple locations throughout Nevada has a couple of mid-range priced contests that appeal to both college and NFL football handicappers. Each contest entry fee is $250 with all prize money returned to the players.

The lower price and mix of both college and pro action make this a very attractive opportunity for both the serious handicapper and the recreational bettor. In each contest, the top 40 finishers win prize money, which is dictated by the amount of entrants. If 400 entries are signed up, first place will net $30,000.

Players can buy up to five entries per person for each league. In the college format, the entrant must select seven games a week against the spread. Deadline for entries is Friday, Sept. 4.

In the pro format, the entrant must select five games a week and the deadline to sign-up is Saturday, Sept. 12.

Cal Neva Gridiron Gold: Entry Fee: $250
All entry fees will be returned in this contest that asks you to make five selections a week against the spread. With an estimated 650 entries expected, $162,500 in cash would be available for the prize pool.

Most of the Cal Neva casinos are in the 26 Northern Nevada locations, but entries may be taken to Casino Valle Verde in Henderson near Sunset Station.

In addition to the high-end contests, the "one and done" or elimination contests have become very popular with players.

Elimination Contests

Station Casinos: Last Man Standing Entry fee: $25
Station sports books have made the college version of Last Man Standing and the pro version available at all Fiesta and Station properties. Both of these contests have been wildly popular in the Las Vegas Valley because all entry fees are returned to the winner and the volume of players has made the top prize very beefy, increasing each year since the contest began.

In both versions, you can buy four entries and get one free. Make one selection against the spread per week. If you win, you advance to the next week, until there is ultimately one contestant remaining.

An added bonus this season is an extra $100,000 dangling out there should someone happen to win both. It may seem like a tall task, but last season there was one player around Las Vegas that won several of the contests, so it can be done.

LeRoy’s Horse and Sports Place : Three-n-Out Entry fee: $25
This is an interesting King of the Hill type format that asks the contestant to make one selection a week playing pro games using either a side or a total. The concept is simple: keep picking winners and you advance to the following week; as a bonus, you get three losses until you’re out.

This is a very affordable contest that can actually stretch your $25 buy-in a long way in entertainment value. It’s also very convenient because LeRoy’s are everywhere in Nevada. All entry fees are returned and whoever is the final contestant without losing three times wins it all.

An added bonus is if you should be so unlucky to lose your first three weeks, it’s an automatic comp entry into the mid-season contest.

Finally, the bread-and-butter of the football contests are the "no spread" contests that simply require the player to pick the outright winners. These attract the most interest and create the largest crowds in the sports books.

Coast Resorts : Pick the Pro’s Football Contest: Entry fee: FREE!
What if I said there was a weekly contest offering $30,000 in prize money and there were eight locations across the Vegas Valley where you could sign up and turn in your weekly picks? That’s an easy sell, right? What if I added it was free? Would that be of interest?

That’s exactly what Coast Resorts is offering. They also give everyone who signs up three free entries. They don’t place any conditions on the free entry other than signing up for their players club card, which is free too.

If you already have a Coast Club players card, you can register at PickthePros.com which will also make you eligible for sweepstakes prizes available for only those online entries. During the season, you can also check the weekly winners to see if you rank with your selections. Sign-ups have already begun and there is no cut off date since the prizes are weekly. Over $500,000 in cash prizes are up for grabs. Did I mention it was free?

Station Casinos: Great Giveaway: Entry fee: $25
This staple of Las Vegas contests is a weekly no-points contest that is offering $1.4 million in cash prizes with weekly prizes and end of season prizes. As always, if you buy two entries, you get one free. Players who have points on their Boarding Pass card may also use them to purchase entries.

Continuing with the Great Giveaway’s long-time tradition, most wins for the season wins a house, or you can take $100,000.

The contest remains unique because you can also challenge for picking the most losers, which has a grand prize of $100,000.

The weekly prizes are $20,000 for the winners and $10,000 for the losers. For the winners, you have the option of taking a brand new Ford F150 pickup truck instead of the $20,000.

Palms - Pigskin Payoff: Entry Fee: $25
This contest has been attractive over the years because of the small pool of contestants, compared to the contests offered by the multi-property chains. If you buy three entries, the Palms will give you three more for free. In addition, if you sign up before September 3, you’ll be given $10 in slot play.

This is a no spread contest, just pick the winners for weekly prizes of $15,000 and $10,000 guaranteed to one winner. End of season prizes total $100,000. When comparing the overall prizes for all the no spread contests, the Palms prizes are pretty large.

Lucky’s Race and Sports Books Progressive Parlay Card
Last season, one of the more creative features a sports book offered was Lucky’s progressive parlay card, which begins at $6,000 and increases $6,000 each week until someone finally hits it. The big pay day finally came at Terrible’s in Las Vegas where the Lucky winner took home $48,000.

The parlay card is simple. All you have to do is sign up to be eligible for making an entry. It requires 16 selections being made with no point spread. Should you get all 16 games correct, you win the weekly progressive pool wherever it stands. The best part about the progressive format is that it is 100% FREE! It doesn’t get much cheaper than that, and the overlay is through the roof on this one.

"We got some great response from the players last year," said Lucky’s Sports Book Director Jimmy Vaccaro, "so we expanded upon that success and added a consolation prize this year for the players that come just short of going 16-0."

The progressive parlay cards come out every Tuesday and are available at all 12 Nevada Lucky’s locations spread throughout Laughlin, Primm, Las Vegas, Pahrump, Carson City, Reno, and Elko.

Football Season Getting Vegas Geared Up!

by Micah Roberts
Gaming Today

The football season has begun in Las Vegas, which is unlike any other football city in America because of the emphasis the casinos place on making the action as exciting as any college tailgate party or NFL stadium.

It’s a time of year in which each casino attempts to out-market the competition, making their promotions the most attractive, which will hopefully maximize traffic through the doors.

The sports betting business is definitely larger during football season, even though revenue figures pale in comparison to what the overall casino takes in. However, the traffic driven to a casino by the football games on a typical weekend spills over onto the table games, slot machines and food and beverage outlets, making it a catalyst for other areas of the casino.

Casino promotions range from food and drink specials and football parties, to special handicapping contests, unique parlay cards, innovative prop and fantasy bets and space-age devices designed to enhance the betting experience, such as M Resort’s "in-running" betting computers, which open a whole new realm for bettors.

Some casinos have taken it up a notch with their facilities and how the game is presented to their customers. For instance, some casinos christen sports "cathedrals" with their high-tech video displays, lounges, private boxes, bottle service and catered food, and they will even place televisions around the table games to keep the players in touch with the action.

Station Casinos this season is setting up their viewing parties within all of their massive sports books, which are some of the greatest viewing screens ever created for sports viewing. They are adding a nice mix to each week of the regular football season by offering $1 hot dogs and Budweiser. Yes, one U.S. dollar, all day long, for all season long. It’s quite a deal, and with all the savings, it leaves a few extra bucks for the important things like betting.

The Stratosphere, appropriately, takes football action to new heights with parties set up for its showroom.

"Every Sunday through the football season we will be opening up our showroom with big screen TV’s and show all the morning and afternoon games," said Stratosphere Race and Sports Book Director Ed Malinowski. "We have the ability to accommodate up to 600 people and seat them comfortably in table and booth seating, which make it more comfortable if you’re with a group of friends as opposed to makeshift row seating."

In addition to food and drink specials, Malinowski said they will have four convenient bet stations located outside the room. They are also offering an added bonus this season for guests checking into the hotel who will get a selection card for games. If they’re winning pick is selected in a drawing, their stay in the hotel will be free.

The Las Vegas Hilton’s Super Book is appropriately named, especially during the football season. With its expansive wagering menu already reason enough to visit the Super Book on Sunday’s, its Football Central is a great place to watch all the games in a raucous smoke-free environment.

"If you have never been to Football Central, you really need to check it out," said Super Book Executive Director Jay Kornegay, "It‘s truly a great environment with betting available, drink and food specials, former football player appearances signing autographs, and loads of prizes given away for simply being there."

Football Central has a capacity of 1,500 guests with large screens set up so the action isn’t missed anywhere you choose to sit.

Regardless of which sports book in Las Vegas you visit, you’ll sense an excitement and eagerness as customers anticipate the upcoming season.

"There is a massive turnaround in business going from baseball season to football for us," said South Point’s veteran Sports Book Director Bert Osbourne. "Everything is on a larger scale for football from the crowds – the volume of actions, and then the decisions. Everyone has just been waiting for this to start after a long, hot summer and there is something about football that stirs up an enormous amount of energy with the players."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Brett Favre Saga is Finally Over: He is Officially a Viking

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -Brett Favre is coming back for more.

The 39-year-old quarterback turned his back on retirement for the second time in as many years, agreeing Tuesday to play for the Vikings.

Favre took a morning flight on a team plane from Mississippi to Minnesota, arrived to cheering fans outside the team's practice facility and was in a helmet and pads less than 90 minutes later. His red practice jersey was the familiar No. 4, the same number he wore for years with the rival Green Bay Packers.

The team confirmed a deal was done to The Associated Press, but terms were not immediately disclosed.

This is Favre's second comeback. A year ago, he came out of a short retirement to join the Jets.
Favre had arthroscopic surgery to fix his throwing shoulder in May and three weeks ago told coach Brad Childress he would stay retired. The Vikings wrapped up training camp last week -

Favre was never a big fan of training camp - and beat Indianapolis 13-3 in their preseason opener Friday. They even got an encouraging performance from quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who has been competing with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job.

All that goes out the window with Favre returning to add to a resume that already includes nearly every NFL career passing record.

His zinger of an arm and toughness in the pocket are a combination few possess. With an offense he says he could operate in his sleep, Favre seems to fit well with Minnesota - epecially given the Vikings' problems finding a reliable quarterback since Childress took over in 2006.

The Vikings have Pro Bowl players all over their roster, with reigning NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson in the backfield and a dominant defensive line. No matter who's behind center, they ought to be in position to defend their NFC North title.

To win the conference, and perhaps that elusive Super Bowl, they'll need stability at the sport's most critical position.

Favre has wrestled with retirement for most of this decade and the will-he-or-won't-he saga became an annual offseason drama for the Packers, his longtime home. In Green Bay, the latest news elicted a few shrugs, little more.

A few months after Favre's tearful goodbye news conference in March 2008, Green Bay traded him to the Jets when he tried to come back, only to learn the Packers were committed to Aaron Rodgers. Favre started strong in New York, but faded down the stretch amid problems with his throwing arm and, with another ``I'm done'' announcement, headed for his second retirement.

The Jets released him from his contract right after the draft and soon after, the Vikings were openly expressing interest. Favre spent the summer working out in Mississippi and led everyone to believe he was on his way back to the NFL until last month.

``It was the hardest decision I've ever made,'' Favre told ESPN then. ``I didn't feel like physically I could play at a level that was acceptable.''
The next day, Childress was asked whether there was a chance the Vikings would still pursue Favre. He said: ``Not from my standpoint, no.'' Owner Zygi Wilf reiterated that pledge on the first day training camp.

And yet here comes Favre, who turns 40 in October and said last month he didn't think he had enough left to get through a full season.

``I had to be careful not to commit for the wrong reasons,'' Favre said then. ``I'm 39 with a lot of sacks to my name.''

He has a lot of interceptions to his name, too, more than any other quarterback in NFL history. The last time Favre appeared in the playoffs - a bitter loss at Lambeau Field by the Packers to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game following the 2007 season - he put up one of his worst performances in recent memory.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Andy Reid Optimistic Despite Injuries

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Eagles coach Andy Reid refuses to let all the setbacks during the first two weeks of training camp get him down. In Monday's morning session, two more Eagles, Trent Cole and Kevin Kolb, had to leave the field with injuries. He's already lost Stewart Bradley for the season, and starting right tackle Shawn Andrews is out indefinitely with an injured back.

Coach Andy Reid is fighting the injury bug on his Eagles squad.Still, Reid looked as content Monday as I've ever seen him. He also looks a lot thinner after losing somewhere close to 75 pounds on a Medifast diet that was inspired by Maryland's famously large football coach, Ralph Friedgen. I asked him if he still enjoyed training camp as much as he did when he took over 11 years ago.

"I love it. I love it," he said.

And he said all the adversity that has come the Eagles' way so far in camp hasn't dampened his spirits. Reid admitted that he wanted to see more "continuity" on the offensive line, but he said the fact that players such as Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles have started games in the past makes him feel better about things.

Reid's demeanor when I brought up Shawn Andrews suggests to me that he's not all that optimistic about him returning any time soon. He said he doesn't have a good idea when the right tackle will return, and on Sunday, he told reporters that Andrews' status for the regular season opener was still in doubt.

"It's his back muscle," said Reid. "We'll calm it down and go from there. I can't tell you when he'll be ready."

What Reid knows is that a banged up offensive line could neutralize a potentially explosive offense. He acknowledged the Eagles had assembled "a lot of talent" on offense. Many of you wanted to know how much progress rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin's making, so I asked Reid that very thing.

"He's intelligent," Reid said of Maclin. "He's got good size and strength and it looks like he wants to be a good player. He's going to have to learn the schemes, but he's a quick learner."

Reid was once an assistant coach at Missouri, but it's not like they were running the spread offense in those days. We talked about how difficult it is for a receiver to make the transition from the spread to the Eagles' West Coast offense.

"Obviously, the closer the [college] system is to what we do, the better chance there is to learn the offense," Reid said. "But if you're willing to work at it, [the transition] can take place fairly quickly."

As a fan of Big 12 football (particularly the Waco representative), I was curious whether Reid thinks the spread offense would work in the NFL.

"Well, the quarterback has to take some hits in that offense to make it work," Reid said. "And the passing part of it, we already do a lot of this stuff. As a coach, you'd just hate to see the quarterback get that banged up. Some of these [college] guys are tough hombres."

I also asked Reid if he's still coming to terms with the fact that defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's not around. I was curious if he still has moments where he wants to ask Johnson a question and it sort of hits him what's happened.

"No, we're not in the same situation that people who didn't go through the whole process [of Johnson's illness] were in," said Reid. "There was a transition that took place, and we're moving along with that."

Reid did say that it really started to hit home with him when he was at the Pro Bowl without Johnson.

"He's what every coach wants to be," Reid said of Johnson. "He's a grandfather. And he was the best grandfather."

Regarding the rash of injuries in camp, I asked Reid if he ever stopped and said, 'Am I doing something wrong here?'"

"Most of those things happened in thud drills," said Reid, referring to mostly non-contact drills.

"I don't get caught up in all that stuff. You're sad for the person who goes through it, but on the other hand, you have to expect these things. Let's go play football."

So what do you think of the NFC East this season?

"The last three years the NFC East has been phenomenal," he said. "It's the most competitive it's been in a long time."

Reid also talked about the loss of an emotional leader such as safety Brian Dawkins. He's not worried about other guys on the defense assuming that role.

"I think we've got good leadership on defense," he said. "We'll just sort of let their personalities show when they play. The whole defensive front are great leaders. Mike Patterson, Darren Howard... and [linebacker] Joe Mays came on as a rookie. And you have Omar Gaither to sort of get you going."

Reid said the fact that Johnson did a "great job of cultivating young talent" is one of the reasons he's not going to panic about injuries.

One last thing: What is different about Donovan McNabb today than, say, three years ago?
"You just get a better feel for the offense," said Reid. "He's seen it all. He's able to take you through the whole package. He's a good player."

OK, I have to race back for special teams practice. I have interviews with LeSean McCoy, Brent Celek and Maclin to share with you over the next couple days. And special thanks to Deja Brew in downtown Bethlehem for providing my workspace this afternoon.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Vikings QB Jackson Sprains MCL in Practice

by Associated Press

MANKATO, Minn. -- When defensive tackle LeTroy Guion rolled up on Tarvaris Jackson's left knee in practice on Saturday, the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback competition nearly ended before it really started.

Much to Jackson's relief, the injury was not nearly as serious as it first looked and he expects to be back on the field competing for the starting job in no time.

Jackson sprained the MCL in his left knee, but avoided any serious injury, a person with knowledge of his condition told The Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because the team did not make an official announcement.

Coach Brad Childress declined to divulge the specific injury, but said Jackson would be OK.

"It looks like he'll be just fine," Childress said.

It was still a scary sequence for the Vikings. During an 11-on-11 drill in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts in the morning practice, Guion got tangled up with a few offensive linemen and fell to the ground just as Jackson was stepping up in the pocket. The 303-pound tackle rolled up on Jackson's leg, the kind of play that has often inflicted far more serious damage.

"I really don't know what happened," Guion said. "Everybody was moving so fast."

The fourth-year pro first received some attention at a tent on the side of the field before heading to the team's locker room area at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He got an MRI, which revealed the most mild form of a sprain, and the rest of the team breathed a sigh of relief.

Jackson is in a competition with Sage Rosenfels for the starting quarterback position after Brett Favre decided not to come out of retirement and join the Vikings.

"We're competing out here and I'm sure he'll be back," Rosenfels said. "You never want to see anyone with an injury, even an opponent much less your own teammate."

In his four seasons in the pros, Jackson has had to deal with multiple injuries. He tore the meniscus in his right knee during his rookie season, missed two games with a strained groin, one with a broken finger and one with a concussion in 2007. He sprained his right knee in the preseason last year but did not miss any regular-season games because of it.

"Whether it's Tarvaris or any of your guys, you don't want to see any of your guys go down, no matter who it is," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said after practice. "Whether it's your quarterback, your third tight end, it doesn't matter. You don't like to see anybody have any type of injury."

The Vikings have held three practices since training camp began on Friday, and Jackson and Rosenfels have been splitting the snaps with the first team.

"It's pretty tough [to see that], especially in practice," left tackle Bryant McKinnie said.
"Hopefully he'll be all right."

In his first season on the job in 2006, Childress drafted Jackson in the second round as his quarterback of the future. He has been up and down in his first three seasons in the league, which led to the recruitment of Favre all summer long.

When Favre called Childress on Tuesday to tell him he wasn't coming, the competition started anew for Jackson and Rosenfels.

Jackson's familiarity with the offense appears to have given him a slight edge so far, but it's still very early in the competition.

"At this time, Tarvaris has a little bit more knowledge of our system," Bevell said. "He is an athletic quarterback. He's got a very strong arm and those would be the positives about him."

Childress said there was no need at this point to bring in another quarterback to help out Rosenfels and third-stringer John David Booty in practice, a telling statement on the health of Jackson.

Jackson missed the Vikings' practice on Saturday night. If he can't go for the team's lone practice on Sunday, Rosenfels and Booty will get all the work.

"You can't put a price on the elevated snaps they're getting," Childress said.