09/12/2006 11:00PM

Drop-offs at high-end pigskin contests

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When all the entries were counted in the big season-long football handicapping contests in town, there was a mixed bag of results.

The SuperContest at the Las Vegas Hilton attracted 416 entrants at $1,500 apiece, which was down from last year's record of 505. When it was announced over the summer that the Harrah's family of casinos was launching its inaugural Glory of the Gridiron contest, with a $2,000 entry fee, there was some speculation that it might cut into the Hilton entries by cannibalizing the high-end market, but that contest attracted just 70 entries, so the combined total was still less than last year's SuperContest.

Even with the drop-off, the Hilton will have a top prize of $249,600 for the handicapper amassing the most points (1 point for a win, half a point for a push) in picking five NFL games against the spread each week this season, with a $10,000 bonus for surpassing 67 percent. The Hilton also has a $10,000 mini-contest over the final three weeks of the season for those who signed up before the early-bird deadline.

The top prize in the Glory of the Gridiron will be $70,000, with bonus contests held over the first six weeks of the season (worth $15,000), the first 12 weeks of the season ($15,000), and the final five weeks ($20,000).

But not every contest had a drop-off. The Challenge at Station Casinos, with a $1,000 buy-in, saw an increase from 183 entries last year to 208 this year. The winner in that contest will receive $204,000. If the winner exceeds 67 percent, he or she will get a one-year lease of a Mercedes SUV from Fletcher Jones Imports. The Challenge also has a $12,500 mini-contest over the final four weeks of the season.

The biggest college contest in town also saw growth as the College Football Challenge at Leroy's, with an entry fee of $250, went from 364 entries in its inaugural running last year to 383 this year. Despite that odd number, the math on the winner's share is easy because Leroy's guaranteed a $100,000 prize pool, with 30 percent going to the champion.

Coast holding Hawthorne contest

After the Del Mar meet concludes each year, the race books here are usually quieter on September afternoons during the Fairplex meet. The Excalibur and Poker Palace tried to keep things going on the contest front by continuing their weekly freebies, but now Coast Casinos is back in the mix by launching a new Hawthorne contest this Friday and Saturday.

The contest is on the first five races at Hawthorne, with a $10 buy-in and a limit of 10 entries per person. The Coasts (which for this contest will include the Orleans, Gold Coast, Barbary Coast, Suncoast, South Coast, Sam's Town, and Fremont hotels) will give away $1,500 for first place, $700 for second, and $300 for third each day, plus another $2,500 to seed the bonus 5-for-5 pool. All entry fees will be added to the pool, and if it's not hit, the pool will carry over to the next contest day with another $2,500 added on top.

After this weekend, the contest will move to Thursdays through the end of October, with the only exception being the week of the Fall Classic at the Orleans on Oct. 5-7.

Sports book notes

Marco Antonio Barrera and Rocky Juarez meet on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in a rematch for Barrera's WBC super featherweight belt. In the first meeting on May 20, when Barrera was a -400 favorite (risk $4 for every $1 you want to profit), the fight at the Staples Center was ruled a draw. However, after it was determined that one of the scorecards was added incorrectly, Barrera was awarded the victory. The odds are much lower now, as Barrera is between a -150 and -165 favorite at Vegas sports books. Some books have the "will go/won't go" set at 11 1/2 rounds, with others at 12 full rounds.

* The Nextel Cup circuit moves to New Hampshire International Speedway this Sunday for the Sylvania 300. Kyle Busch is the 7-1 favorite at Station Casinos, with Matt Kenseth at 8-1 and Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne at 10-1, but more importantly it's the start of the 10-race Chase for the Cup season-ending series for the points championship. Kenseth, the current points leader, and Jimmie Johnson are Stations' co-favorites at 5-2, with Harvick at 4-1 and Busch at 6-1. He will certainly be lower if he wins Sunday.

* After thinking they had a good chance at a huge score or at least a great hedge position in the playoffs, bettors who are holding future book tickets on the Tigers (some as high as 150-1) are starting to squirm as the team is in a skid. Detroit went 11-22 in their previous 33 games heading into Wednesday's action and saw their onetime 10-game lead in the AL Central sink to 1 1/2. But if you think sports book directors are relieved at that news, their anxiety is being replaced by liability on the Twins, who were raised in excess of 100-1 at many books after their slow start - and they're the team on the Tigers' tail.

Oktoberfest on tap

Finally, the calendar says it's mid-September, but it's never too early to start Oktoberfest, right? Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas, a reproduction of Hofbraus Munchen in Germany, will kick off its Oktoberfest this Saturday at 7 p.m. with a celebrity keg tapping by none other than Siegfried and Roy. Hofbrauhaus is catty-corner from the Hard Rock Hotel on Paradise Road, east of the Strip.