Updated on 09/16/2011 9:01AM

A contest for every bankroll

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Football contests are one of the best things about living in Las Vegas.

There are more than a dozen contests in town this year, and there is something for every bankroll, from high-end tournaments for the pros to free contests for the cash-challenged.

The top players in town annually compete in the SuperContest at the Las Vegas Hilton, vying for up to $150,000 for first prize and the title of the top handicapper in the city. The SuperContest will be receiving competition this year from Station Casinos, which is launching its Gambler's Challenge.

The main difference is that the Stations contest has a $1,000 entry free - as opposed to $1,500 at the Hilton - and the Gambler's Challenge will have a handful of NFL totals (usually the Sunday and Monday night game) and a few selected college games to choose from. The SuperContest is limited to five NFL sides a week.

One similarity is that both contests return 100 percent of entry fees to the players, which didn't always used to be the case in high-end football contests.

A few contests have bitten the dust this year. The Stratosphere, which had a $1,000 buy-in contest in 1999 and 2000 and last year had a low-end contest combined with its Arizona Charlie's properties, doesn't have a contest this year. And with the Gambler's Challenge at all Station Casinos, Barley's, a subsidiary in Henderson, has dropped its Gridiron Growler contest.

But Barley's is running its College Knowledge contest again, which joins Park Place Entertainment College 101 as the only college-exclusive contests.

The Eliminator, which is conducted jointly by Bally's in Las Vegas and the Reno Hilton, also allows players to concentrate on college games if they wish. It's the football handicappers' version of "Survivor," as players get booted out of the contest once they lose a game.

But for the most part, it's all about the NFL. The longest-running and biggest contests are held at the Coast Casinos and Station Casinos. They each average in the neighborhood of 40,000 entries and each offers $1.25 million in prizes.

They are marketed mainly to locals, but tourists can join any time they are in town and take a shot at the weekly prizes of $25,000 at the Stations ($15,000 for picking winners, $10,000 for picking losers) and $40,000 at Coast Casinos. The same goes for the All-American Football Contest at the Boyd Gaming properties and the Football Frenzy at the Fiesta Rancho and Fiesta Henderson. Both contests offer $10,000 to the weekly winner.

For people outside Vegas, the pickings are slimmer, but the Reno-based Club Cal Neva network of 20 sports books offers its Pick Your Pros contest throughout the state, and Terrible's has combined its contest, which was held in Vegas last year, with its sister properties in Pahrump.

New to the contest scene are the Palms (which opened last November and is getting ready for its first full football season) and the Rampart. Both have promotions to lure people to their casinos on Monday nights.

The Palms has a party every Monday night and gives away $5,000 in cash to its contest entrants each week.

The Rampart has the most unusual contest format, and a guaranteed way to quadruple your money. The entry fee is $25 and the contest is on Monday night games only. Each contestant picks the straight-up winner, point spread winner, and over/under. Each selection is worth one point. But if you show up anytime between 5 p.m. and midnight for each Monday night game, the Rampart will give you $100 at the end of the season.

"The overview is, it's great for the player and it's great for the joint," said Rampart race and sports book director Sid Diamond, who said there will be table game and slot promotions on Monday nights to make it a property-wide party. "People aren't compelled to stay, but obviously we want them to stay."

And that's the goal of all these contests: to get people in the door and make them loyal customers. If you can win a bundle of cash while competing against your fellow gamblers, that's all the better.

Las Vegas Hilton: "SuperContest," $1,500 entry fee, pick five NFL games against the spread each week, first prize is an estimated $150,000, prizes paid through 20th place, total prize pool of $375,000 based on 250 entries, deadline Friday, Sept. 6, at 1 p.m.

Station Casinos (Palace Station, Boulder Station, Sunset Station, Texas Station, Santa Fe Station, Green Valley Ranch, Barley's and Wild Wild West): "Gambler's Challenge," $1,000 entry free, pick five games a week against the spread from a card with all NFL games, Sunday and Monday night NFL totals, and two college games, first prize is an estimated $100,000, prizes paid through 25th place, deadline Friday, Sept. 6, at 9 a.m.

Caesars Palace, Bally's, Paris, Las Vegas Hilton, Flamingo, plus Park Place properties in Reno, Tahoe and Laughlin: "College 101," $50 entry fee, pick 10 games against the spread from a list of 20 games each week, guaranteed $50,000 prize pool paid to 20th place, deadline Aug. 31.

Bally's, Reno Hilton: "The Eliminator," $50 entry fee, pick one total or game against the spread each week, one loss and you're out, last person standing wins entire prize pool, deadline Sept. 7 or 8 (game time of your first week's selection).

Club Cal Neva and satellite books in Reno and at Bourbon Street, Club Fortune and Thirstbusters in southern Nevada: "Pick Your Pros," $25 entry fee, no point spreads, $25,000 first prize for most winners for the season, $7,500 to each week's winner.

Terrible's casinos in Las Vegas and Pahrump: $10 entry fee, no point spreads, $10,000 first prize to overall champion, $1,000 weekly prize for Las Vegas entrants, $750 weekly prize for Pahrump, deadline Sept. 8.

Rampart: Monday Night Football Contest, $25 entry fee, predict straight-up winner, point spread winner and over/under for each Monday night game, 1 point for each correct pick, $15,000 first prize, $7,000 for second, $3,000 for third.

Barley's: "College Knowledge," $25 entry fee, pick 15 games against the spread from a list of 20 games, guaranteed $5,000 prize pool with $2,500 to the champion, $200 to each week's winner, deadline 10 p.m. on Aug. 30.

Season-long and weekly

Palace Station, Boulder Station, Sunset Station, Texas Station, Santa Fe Station, Green Valley Ranch Station, Barley's and Wild Wild West: "Great Giveaway Football Contest," $25 entry, no point spreads, NFL Sunday and Monday games only, $100,000 first prize, $100,000 for the most losers, each pays to 100th place, $250,000 prize pool to be split by everyone who compiles a .500 record. Weekly entrants not eligible for season-end prizes but still able to play for $25,000 in weekly prizes ($15,000 for most winners; $10,000 for most losers).

Barbary Coast, Gold Coast, The Orleans, Jackie Gaughan's Plaza: "Friendly Frank's Pick the Pros Contest," $25 entry, no point spreads, NFL Sunday and Monday games only, $1.25 million in total prizes, $100,000 to overall winner, pays to 400th place. Late entrants eligible for $40,000 in weekly prizes (guaranteed $10,000 winner each week).

Palms: "Pigskin Payoff," $25 entry fee, no point spreads, NFL Sunday and Monday games only, $25,000 to the season-long champion, prizes paid to 200th place, $20,000 in weekly prizes, $10,000 to the winner each week, $5,000 split up by anyone else tying for the top score.

Weekly

Stardust, Sam's Town, Main Street Station, California, Fremont, Joker's Wild, Eldorado: "All-American Football Contest," one free entry per person, no point spreads, players pick combination of 17 college and pro games, $10,000 winner take all (split equally among multiple winners), deadline 8 a.m. Saturdays.

Fiesta Rancho, Fiesta Henderson: "Football Frenzy," one free entry per person, additional entries $10, no point spreads, NFL Sunday and Monday games only, $50,000 in season-long prizes paid to 100th place with $25,000 going to the overall winner, $10,000 to each week's winner, deadline 8 a.m. Sundays.

Las Vegas Hilton: "SuperContest," $1,500 entry fee, contestants pick five NFL games against the spread each week, first prize is 40% of all entry fees, an estimated $150,000, prizes paid through 20th place, the Hilton also gives a $10,000 bonus if the champion picks 67%, total prize pool of $375,000 based on 250 entries, deadline to sign up and get first week's entry in is Friday, Sept. 6, at 1 p.m., everyone signing up by 5 p.m. on Aug. 25 will be eligible for a free $10,000 winner-take-all contest on the last three weeks of the regular season.