November 2007
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Betting on pro football for dummies

Back in August, I entered two football contents in Las Vegas.  These things are pretty cheap for 17 weeks of take-home gambling, with some added instant perks as well as the chance of a big score.

The Great Giveaway at all the major Station Casinos is $25 per entry but you can get three entries for the price of two.  That total $50 fee also gets you $25 in slot play, so it’s really just $25 for all 3 entries if you’re going to play there anyway.  Each week they pay $10,000 to the person with the most winners and $5,000 to the person with the most losers, with $100,000 given away at the end of the season to the overall champion and other cash prizes to the biggest loser and the "fiddle in the middle".

The Football Frenzy contest is also run by Station Casinos, but is only available at their properties that don’t have the word "Station" in their name, which includes both Fiesta locations and a bunch of smaller neighbourhood casinos.  It costs $15 for 3 entries and a t-shirt, and you can never grumble at a free t-shirt.  This contest gives most of its money away each week to the top 50 winners, rather than having one massive grand prize.  Losers and those who get it all about half right get nothing here.

Both contents use the same system that allows you to choose your teams for each week at a touchscreen terminal in the sports book.  Fortunately for me, you can make your picks as far in advance as you want – unlike at some other casinos where you have to turn up once a week to hand in your selections.

However, for both contests, I just pressed the "random" button for each week in turn and decided to treat it like a lottery ticket.  There wasn’t much point trying to actually make the right picks for a whole season of games back in August, especially when you have to compete against Las Vegas locals who are able to enter or change their picks each week once the season is in full swing.

I’d only override a computer-generated selection if it gave a stupid number for the tie-breaker, which is to guess the total points scored on Monday Night Football.  Computer says 4 points?  That could only happen if both teams scored exactly one safety each in four quarters, and then nobody managed to do anything in overtime for a 2-2 final score.  I can’t say for sure that it’s never happened, but safeties are pretty rare and it’s been five years since the last tied game in the NFL.  Declining to bet on a 4 point game total here doesn’t exactly make me a wiseguy.

It’s Football Frenzy where my numbers seem to have come in – this Sunday I had apparently picked 11 winners out of 13.  It doesn’t sound spectacular, but nobody chose all 13 correctly this week and only five people were better with a 12-1 record.  The system only shows eighteen of us with 11 wins, so with 50 weekly prizes I’m already in the money!

I don’t know yet how much it will be, it depends on the outcome of tonight’s game, but the very worst case is $50 in slot play in the bank for Christmas.  Prizes 1-5 are obviously gone but if I can scrape 6th-8th I’ll have a massive $100 cash to collect from the Fiesta Henderson in December!  9th or 10th place makes it $50 cash instead of the slot play, which makes little difference to me at a casino with +EV video poker.

My randomly-generated-by-computer tie-breaker for tonight’s MNF game is 31.  It’s a sensible number…. come on the 17-14 scoreline!

EDIT: 24-0.  Officially I took 28th place in the Football Frenzy.  The MNF result was still to be counted and I got it wrong, slipping to 11-3 for the week.  Still, it’s $50 in slot play in the bank…