Mike Buchmiller and friends realized the dream of winning the biggest football pool of all time last year. Buchmiller and three friends submitted 24 total entries ($1,000 per entry) into the Circa Survivor NFL elimination contest, a winner-take-all survivor pool with a $6.133 million grand prize.
Buchmiller and his three cohorts each submitted six entries, the maximum allowed per person per Circa Survivor rules. One of those entries made it through as one of the last two tickets standing, as the Buchmiller group’s “JED” entry and Alex Brown’s “BROWNA” entry split the grand prize.
Both JED and BROWNA had to go 20-0 to do so, picking one team per week and not using any team more than once. The contest came down to the final weekend of the season, with BROWNA clinching the perfect season when Jacksonville defeated Tennessee on Saturday of that weekend.
JED needed Seattle to beat the L.A. Rams on Sunday to tie BROWNA and lock up half of the $6.133 million prize. The game came down to overtime, with Seattle winning 19-16 on a 32-yard field goal.
A longtime Las Vegas resident, Buchmiller’s professional career spans decades in football, as both an athlete and a coach. Buchmiller is currently the Dean of Athletics at the Alexander Dawson School in Las Vegas.
We chatted with Buchmiller about the win, which saw $3.066 million split among the four friends behind the JED entry:
Did your background as a coach help you in the Circa Survivor contest?
MB: Without a doubt, no question at all. It helps me when I’m breaking down analytics, and looking at matchups with no subjectivity. I don’t really put emotion into my thinking. Coaching collegiate and professional athletes, you can’t trick them. What you can do is work with them and try to help them along your path. When I’m looking at games and analytics, I’m looking at matchups. I have no emotion in it whatsoever. A lot of individuals that I talk to get very emotional when they look at games week-to-week. Their eyes sometimes deceive them as far as recency bias.
You were part of a team of four, and all of you submitted six entries each last year. How did you and your teammates go about choosing teams during the weeks of the contest in which you still had multiple entries?
MB: Primarily it’s my partner (Russell Rosenblum) and I, we have a lot of fun with this stuff. We’ve co-entered a lot of different fantasy football teams. We’ve entered a lot of different contests. We have two silent partners if you will. They love the sweat, they love to be part of the action. Russ and I do pretty much the bulk of the heavy lifting and make the decisions on where we go specific to Survivor.
I read that your team lost a few entries one week due to not submitting before the deadline, is this true? If so, what was your team’s approach to rebounding from that?
MB: That’s 100% correct. We have one person that’s responsible for putting in the entries, and that would be Russ. Russ is about as dependable as the sun shining. He’s somebody we can always count on. The first year we played Survivor we realized that sometimes people wouldn’t turn in their entries. We would always shake our heads, like how can you not turn in your entries? You put the time and the effort and the finances behind it, and you just don’t do it? At one point last year, Russ had a medical episode, and he was unable to turn in the entries. Afterward, he reached out, and he told me that he didn’t get the entries in. I actually thought he was joking, because sometimes he’s kind of a prankster. I could hear it in his voice the second time he said it though. It was only by chance that we had two entries on the Thursday night game (that week). We normally don’t get involved in the Thursday night game. Well this week specifically we had two entries in the Thursday night game and they survived. So if we weren’t involved on the Thursday game, we would have been wiped out. The whole season would have been done. I wouldn’t be talking to you.
So when you go into that week you have nine entries still in the pool. Seven of them don’t get in. But you have two on the Thursday night game, and those two move forward. After that week, what did you think your chances were of still winning this contest?
MB: So when you get into a contest with 6,133 entries, you know it’s a long shot. We think we’re good, but are we that good? And are we that lucky? Because there’s a lot of luck involved with this. You have to know what you’re doing, but there is a lot of luck. From that moment on, we sharpened our saw, we sharpened our pencil. I know from that point it was a personal thing for us. To somehow put us in contention, and take the ride as far as we could. Did we think we could win it with two entries? Some people win it with one.
What week of the season was this?
MB: I believe it was Week 4. It was fairly early on.
Take me through the last three weeks of the season, how did you generally feel watching those three games?
MB: It’s hard to say. There’s a lot of emotion, for sure. In my background with coaching, and playing for that matter, you feel like you have some input physically and mentally.In Survivor, specifically, all the work is done prior. You put all your time and effort into finding your spots, your matchups, your games. Trying to use game theory to figure out where your opponents are going to land in terms of what teams they’re choosing. So once you make your pick, and you find out the reveal of what everyone else has picked, it’s out of your hands. At that point you just become a fan. A superfan. Emotions ride pretty high, because when you can’t control something, it can get very frustrating at times. You just have to rely on the fact that you did the best you could with the information that you had. And you let it play out.
Kind of a cliche question here, but can you describe the emotion you felt when you knew you had clinched the win?
MB: (Circa co-owner) Derek Stevens is one of the nicest guys, nothing but first class. Derek wanted us to come to Circa as guests to sweat the games (in the final week of the contest). On Saturday night my wife and I went down and watched the Tennessee-Jacksonville game. Derek asked if we were going to come back for Sunday’s games, and there was just something in me – I just wanted to be with close friends and family to watch the final game. I didn’t know what my emotions were going to be like. Russ was in Antarctica. Our remaining entry was under my wife’s name, which is now famously known as JED. That was her nickname growing up. The emotions of that game, every first down, every play, I don’t know if you could ever replicate that. Once the kick went through the goalpost it was a little surreal. I think I just dropped to the ground. I had nothing left to give emotionally.
To see all the hard work, and everything come to fruition, you feel like it’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
To hear more from Mike Buchmiller and his winning teammate, Russell Rosenblum, check out our new Survivor Sweat Podcast! https://youtu.be/W1kWfmH8IsI?si=mlK3xyG4VsdLfdzy
Wish you had an entry or perhaps a piece of someone else’s team in the Survivor contest? Check out our marketplace!https://survivorsweat.com/marketplace/