The Circa Millions Pro Football Contest is back for the fifth time and football fans from around the country will have a chance to claim their part of over $6 million in guaranteed prizes.
Circa Millions V costs $1,000 to enter and each entry makes five NFL picks against the spread every week. Players get one point for a win and one-half point for a push and the top point-getter at the end of 18 weeks will take home $1 million.
The contest is the brainchild of Derek Stevens, the owner of Circa Hotel and Casino, and his team at Circa. Stevens and his team were preparing to open their flagship Circa casino on Fremont Street and they were determined to generate early buzz with their new Circa Sportsbook with a large football contest that offered a big guaranteed prize pool. It has since grown from a $1.5 million guarantee in its first year in 2019 to over $6 million in prizes given out at Circa Millions IV in 2022.
The first year brought over 1,875 entries and the contest most recently fielded 4,291 entries in 2022. It’s a contest that anyone can win, with champions ranging from accountants to stay-at-home dad handicappers to a cook that won the contest after he lost his job during the pandemic.
The First Year
With the opening of the Circa hotel property just a year away, Stevens launched the inaugural Circa Millions betting contest with $1.5 million in prizes — $1 million of which was to go to the winner.
It was the team known as “Booty Blockers” that came out on top of a field of 1,875 entries. The prize pool of $1,875,000 was split up among 10 season-long leaders and four quarterly MVPs. Team “Booty Blockers” took home a total of $1,071,875 after they tied for the MVP race in the third quarter of the season.
“Booty Blockers” was an alias of Isaac Meier of Los Angeles, who went 56-25-3 against the spread to become the first Circa Millions champion.
“You don’t have to be perfect every week,” Meier told the Review Journal in an interview after the win in 2019. “The most important thing is staying consistent and having the conviction to go with your picks. And you’ve got to have a short memory.”
Meier took a one-point lead into Week 17 and clinched the win when the Eagles covered in a 34-17 win against the New York Giants.
With the guarantee crushed, Stevens and his team looked ahead to growing the contest to be even bigger and better in 2020.
Circa Millions II
When the second Circa Millions was announced on March 12, 2020, Circa increased the guaranteed prize pool to $3 million. The world changed almost immediately and entries were shut down through July.
Thee opening of Circa Hotel and Resort was set for December of 2020 and the team pressed forward with the $3 million guarantee in the face of uncertainty all over Las Vegas. However, the worry proved temporary and 3,148 entries turned out for the second annual contest.
In the end it was Las Vegas local and unemployed cook Dakota Reed who outlasted the field and took the $1 million prize. Reed has lost his job during the pandemic and used a single entry to win the contest with a record of 56-27-2.
The contest came down to the final game with Reed battling against poker pros David “ODB” Baker and Mark Gregorich for the top spot on the leaderboard. Reed needed Baker and Gregorich to lose their final pick of Seahawks (-6) against the 49ers to claim victory.
The Seahawks got off to a rough start but they scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to take a 10-point lead with less than two minutes to play.
“I didn’t start sweating until the Seahawks started winning,” Reed said in an interview in 2021.
The sweat was short-lived, however, when the 49ers marched down the field and scored a touchdown with just a few seconds left in the game to give Reed the million-dollar win.
Baker and Gregorich lost by just one half game and tied with Chris Zeniuk for second. The two teams split $400,000 for the runner-up effort. The poker pros dominated the quarterly contests throughout the season and still won a total of $785,623.
Bigger and Better
The third-annual Circa Millions drew a bumper field of 4,087 entries to award over $4 million in prizes to several players for their season-long and quarterly finishes. In addition, a $100,000 booby prize was available for the worst record at the end of the season.
A stay-at-home dad from California named Tony Gordon used the alias DURBIFY to go 63-27 and win the $1 million grand prize on tiebreakers against fellow top finishers Jeff Petch and Jim Griffin from Mad Russian. Gordon won on the second tiebreaker with more winning weeks on the season.
While a stay-at-home dad, Gordon was also a seasoned sports bettor and the win was the culmination of many years of trying.
The contest, like most major football betting contests, came down to the final week with Gordon up against California’s Hannibal Johnson and the team from Mad Russian. Gordon and Johnson held the top four spots with two entries each, while Mad Russian was lurking with a chance to tie either of them. Gordon ultimately prevailed after two tiebreakers against the Mad Russian team that jumped into a tie for first on the final day.
“I can’t believe I actually did it,” Gordon said in a 2022 interview with VSIN after the win. “It’s made all the time and effort worth it to get to the top. I was happy just to cash before as you’re going against so many top handicappers. It used to take 60 percent to cash but now that’s not enough, and it’s even harder to win with so many entries now compared to just a few hundred when I first starting playing these contests.”
Circa Millions IV
The growth of Circa’s football contest continued in 2022 with a combined 10,824 entries jumping into Circa Millions IV and the annual Survivor contest.
The fourth annual contest drew a field of 4,691 and awarded over $6 million in prizes. This time it was a group of four friends under the alias of “CHIEF” that went 59-26-5 to win the $1 million grand prize.
Team captain Brian Koestering led a group of four Lions fans that included his brothers-in-law Zachary Toltowski and Anthony Coratti, as well as their friend Jon Miller. The team finished 19-4-2 in the final quarter to secure the victory in a game between their hometown Lions and the Green Bay Packers.
“We wanted to be in that scenario. We asked for it,” Koestering said in a 2022 interview with the Review Journal. “We felt confident that we wanted it to come down to that and be in that situation.”
The Lions prevailed and so did the Michigan-based group of friends to win well over $1.1 million in the fourth-annual Circa contest.
Registration Open for Circa Millions V
Registration for Circa Millions V is available at any Circa Sportsbook through September 9 at 2 p.m. PST. Sign-ups must be completed in person at one of the following Circa Sportsbooks: Circa Resort & Casino, the D Las Vegas, Tuscany Suites & Casino, Legends Bay Casino or the Pass at Water Street.
The entry fee is $1,000 and players can have up to 5 entries per person. There will be a total of $6 million in guaranteed prizes and the winner will received $1 million and the coveted Circa Sports blue jacket. There is no rake for this contest and any extra fees will go back into the prize pool.
Out-of-state players may use a proxy service to submit their picks but registration must be completed in person at a Circa Sportsbook. Any designated proxies must be present at the time of registration.
Point spreads for the contest are released every Thursday at 10 a.m. local time and selections are due by 4 p.m. PST on Saturday. Thanksgiving week point spreads will go up that Wednesday at 10 a.m.
Cash prizes are awarded to the top-100 finishers as well as the last place booby prize of $100,000 and the second-to-last prize of $50,000.