January 9th, 2022. Atlantic City. Steve and I decide to take a trip with the boys for one final, thrilling weekend of NFL action. Entering Week 18, we were tied for 12th in the Circa Millions III Contest with an ATS record of 57-27-1, a 67% win rate. We knew we had a very real chance of ascending in the standings and taking home a huge cash prize, but it was equally possible that we could flounder and fall beneath the top 50; only the top 50 win cash prizes. Needless to say, the stakes were high, and the nerves were even higher. Welcome to the Circa Millions Contest!
Here are the five selections we chose in the final week:
- Bills -16
- Steelers +6
- Browns -6.5
- Seahawks +6.5
- 49ers +4
That Sunday didn’t start off too well. Despite dominating the game between the endzones and Cincinnati sitting nearly all of their starters, the Browns failed to cover. They slept through the third quarter, going scoreless, and allowed Cincinnati to close the margin in the fourth. We ended the early games with a record of 1-1 since the Steelers won and covered. Steve (aka @BohBohBets on Twitter) was noticeably upset (I think I actually saw steam coming out of his nostrils), and he went off to play blackjack as the 49ers trailed the Rams 17-3 at the half. I had hope, but it was waning. Then things took a turn.
The 49ers caught up and forced overtime. Our odds of covering that game exponentially increased. The Seahawks went up by 11 against the Cardinals with under five minutes left, all but guaranteeing that they would cover. With little reason to score as they sat on a 10-point lead, the Bills went down the field and scored another touchdown, leading by 17 points with less than four minutes left in the contest. Suddenly, a 4-1 finish looked very possible.
And that’s exactly what happened. We finished Week 18 with a 4-1 record, passing seven entries and finishing in 5th place. Officially, our record was 61-28-1 (a 68% hit rate). Oh right, and we won $114k.
If the Bills didn’t muster that final drive, we would have won significantly less money. If the Browns hadn’t tripped over their own two feet and covered against a B-squad, we would have won considerably more money. Again, welcome to the Circa Millions Contest – where dreams can be achieved or shattered in seconds of NFL variance.
The NFL Circa Contest Ground Rules
Many NFL betting contests now exist. DraftKings created the Pro Football Millionaire Pick’Em Contest. The advantages for those who can access the DraftKings contest are fairly obvious: it’s all online; no visit to Las Vegas, and no proxy needed.
The original NFL pick ’em tournament was the Westgate SuperContest, but the Circa Millions has far surpassed the SuperContest in entries and guaranteed cash prizes. Other online sportsbooks offer similar contests, but for this piece, we’ll cover the general rules for the Circa Millions.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Each week, entrants pick 5 teams against the spread (ATS). Naturally, the best record/s win cash prizes
- This year, the top 100 will cash
- The top prize is $1,000,000 and the coveted blue jacket
- Other prizes are available throughout the season, including a $150,000 prize to each quarterly winner, and two booby prizes (the last and second to last place finishers)
- All entrants must initially sign up at Circa Casino in Las Vegas before the season starts
- If you don’t live in Las Vegas, you can sign up for a proxy service, and there are many in Sin City that can put your five picks in for you every week
Firstly, you’ll want to pick the right teams and go at least 4-1 every week. The only problem with that?– It’s impossible. Of course, most bettors probably realize that a win-rate of anything over 55% is incredibly difficult, especially in the NFL. The fact that the first-place winner hit at 70% in the 2021 contest? Well, that’s insanity. Regardless, it happens every year and there must be some sort of strategy the winners used, right? Everyone has their own models and methods, but here are a few things Steve and I did that seemed to work:
- We didn’t overthink it – There are so many podcasts, articles, and “handicappers” on Twitter that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by information and hot takes. Block out the noise, find a modality, and stick to it. Except before you can follow that advice, you’ll need a process that works.
- We created a process that works – Steve and I were great partners for several reasons. We seemed to align on three to four picks weekly, meaning we have a very similar thought process and approach to betting the NFL. That was crucial. Conversely, Steve and I each had one or two picks each week that either we separately loved or we completely disagreed on. That was a good thing– it forced us to ponder, discuss, and ultimately find commonality in our assessments. Whether you have a partner or you’re flying solo, find someone who thinks similarly to you and isn’t afraid to play devil’s advocate. You need both; luckily, I had both in Steve.
- We made every mistake ever – This one’s a bit harder to explain, but I’ll try. Steve and I are probably most similar in our shared loves for sports betting and consuming NFL content. We can eat, breathe, and eat the NFL all day and all night. Because of this addiction, we’ve made every last mistake you could possibly make betting the NFL in years past. Gigantic, uncorrelated parlays? We did that. Placing wagers just to place wagers even though we don’t really like a side? Yeah, we did that, too. Assuming we know it all about every team, placing too many wagers, betting wildly large sums of money? Yep, we did all that. I’m not sure how you can recreate that scenario, and if you do, you’ll probably lose a ton of coin, but it worked for us. Learn how to do it the wrong way, and I promise you’ll learn the “right ways” very quickly. The fact that we were forced to only pick five selections a week probably helped.
- Lastly, we never panicked – Steve and I had weeks where we went 1-4 or 2-3 (not many, but still) and we never got overly anxious. The reality is, in Circa, there are so many ways to win prizes. The contest is so long, too (18 weeks, for the layperson); it’s just not worth taxing yourself and damaging your mental health every week. At the end of the day, this is a ludicrous way to earn money.
Take advantage, have fun, and enjoy the ride. PS – we have two entries this year. Good luck!