08/23/2001 11:00PM

It's that time again: Everyone in the pool


Football office pools are popular from coast to coast, but nowhere are they taken to the extreme like in Las Vegas.

Go 15-0 in an office pool in middle America and it might get you a couple hundred bucks. If you enter every football contest in Las Vegas and were to go 15-0, you could possibly collect between $75,000 and $100,000. The Coast Resorts's "Pick the Pros" contest has a first prize of $40,000 if one person has the most winners, plus there is a $15,000 first prize in Station Casinos's "Great Giveaway," $10,000 up for grabs at the Boyd Gaming Properties, and other contests in the $5,000-$10,000 range (see box for complete lists and prizes).

And those are just the contests in which you pick the winners straight up.

Some significant changes have happened on the football contest landscape this year, some good and some bad.

The Stratosphere no longer holds its $1,000 buy-in contest and instead is combining with its sister properties, Arizona Charlie's East and West, for a $15 buy-in contest with weekly and season-long prizes. Both Arizona Charlie's books had free contests last year. This takes away a contest for the high-end player, but does open it up more for the masses, who will battle for $10,000 each week with the season-long champion collecting $100,000, which was the top prize in the defunct contest.

Station Casinos has tweaked its "Great Giveaway" contest, eliminating quarterly prizes and the Monday night contest it had last year. The total prize pool is $5,000 less, but the good news is that the quarterly and Monday night money is now distributed in bigger weekly and year-end prizes.

In another reduction in prize money, the Boyd Gaming casinos are cutting their weekly prize from $15,000 to $10,000.

Last year, the Reserve in Henderson had a free contest, but since it was bought by Station Casinos and is being converted into a Fiesta-branded property, it will have a combined free contest with the Fiesta in North Las Vegas. As opposed to other free contests which only offer one entry, each person gets two entries at the Fiesta and Reserve.

Terrible's, on Flamingo Road just east of the Strip, and the Regent, in suburban Summerlin, are also newcomers to the football contest game, with Terrible's offering a $15 buy-in contest and the Regent going the free route.

This is Vegas, baby, so there are also plenty of contests in which players pick against the spread.

The most prestigious of these is the Las Vegas Hilton "SuperContest," which has an entry fee of $1,500. Some of the top handicappers in town - and those who want to be - post their five top picks every week (and they're available in the sports book on Friday afternoons) in pursuit of this coveted title.

A welcome addition is the return of the "College 101" contest at Park Place properties throughout Nevada. It's the only contest based on NCAA games, and costs $50 to enter. Contest organizers designate 20 games each week and players must select 10 against the spread.

Bally's, which is part of the Park Place group, also has "The Eliminator" in which contestants pick one game against the spread each week. One loss and you're out. The contest usually lasts eight or nine weeks, until one person is left standing and wins all of the $50 entries. Last year's jackpot was $10,000.

Most of these contests are set up for locals, but out-of-towners can play, too. The "All-American Football Contest" at the Boyd Gaming properties and all of the other free contests, except for the "Football Frenzy" at the Fiesta/Reserve, can be entered at any time if someone is in for the weekend. The "Great Giveaway" at Station Casinos can be entered and picks for every week can be played ahead of time.

There's truly something for every level of player.

Book Notes

The New York-New York Hotel and Casino is unveiling its new race and sports book, located next to the ESPN Zone, this week. Jockey Kent Desormeaux, who won an ESPY Award for his 2000 Kentucky Derby victory aboard Fusaichi Pegasus, will be on hand to meet fans on Tuesday from 2-4 p.m. Mugs, T-shirts and hats will be given away with a $20 race wager or a $100 sports wager on Wednesday through Friday. In addition, everyone making a $50 wager between Aug. 28 and Oct. 12 will be entered in a drawing for a trip to the Oct. 27 Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park.

o There are also changes going on behind the scenes at several race and sports books around town. Sports supervisor Jeff Sherman has left the Regent Las Vegas and is consulting for some books while looking to hook up with a new sports book. Jonathan Jester is leaving the downtown Las Vegas Club and will be replaced by Tom Nevill, who used to work at the Union Plaza and in the Caribbean. Norm Stalzer is leaving his post at the Texas Station at the end of the month.

o The Imperial Palace is having a bunch of giveaways in September. On Saturday, Sept. 1, horseplayers making a $20 race wager will get a free "No Work, All Play" T-shirt in honor of Labor Day. On Sunday, Sept. 9, the opening day of the NFL season, a $25 parlay card wager will get you a free "Just Kick It" T-shirt. The race book will have a "ticket poker" promotion on Sept. 15 in which the first people to present a betting ticket with a serial number that makes a poker hand (such as four of a kind, or a straight) will win prizes. Prizes will be Turf Club items such as hats and shirts. On Sept. 22, a second-chance drawing will be held in which bettors sign losing tickets and put them in a barrel. Drawn tickets will win IP merchandise or autographed jockey trading cards.

o Nevada oddsmakers set a near-perfect line on the first college football game of the season Thursday night. Louisville was favored by 20 1/2 at most sports books in its game against New Mexico State, and Louisville won (and covered) 45-24.

Most books got balanced action, though the line drifted up to 21 at some properties. All bets taken at 21, mostly at the MGM-Mirage books and Station Casinos, were refunded.