08/12/2010 3:15PM

M Resort offers $100,000 buy-in NFL tournament

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LAS VEGAS – Las Vegas is known for hosting big-money contests. Most people know about the $10,000 buy-in Main Event at the World Series of Poker as well as football and horse racing contests.

Last year, the then-new M Resort on the south end of town jumped into the contest game with a $3,000 buy-in football contest. That garnered some attention as it eclipsed the Las Vegas Hilton’s SuperContest, the longest-running established football contest in town with an entry fee of $1,500, and the $2,500 entry fee at the South Point.

But this year the M has upped the ante – literally as well as figuratively – with a $100,000 buy-in NFL handicapping contest. No, that’s not a typo. Instead of bumping it to $10,000, they went all the way to six figures. When I first heard rumor of the contest, it was going to be a 10-person invitational with a winner-take-all prize of $1 million, but Mike Colbert, the M’s sports book director, announced it would be open to anyone with the guts (and bankroll) to enter, with the hopes of having upward of 20 entrants. Colbert is interested in attracting not only professional sports bettors, but also celebrites and athletes like those that play in the big poker events.

Just like the other high-end football contests in town, the format will call for each contestant to make five pays against the spread each week. The champion will receive 70 percent of the entry fees, with 20 percent for second and 10 percent for third.

Next Saturday, I will be posting my annual rundown of all the football contests available in Las Vegas, including those that require entrants to make plays every week (and which ones allow proxies) and those that can be entered at any time during the season by those visiting town who want to take a dip in the pools.

More NFL notes

Brett Favre’s annual retirement watch shook up the sports books here Aug. 3 as word spread that the Vikings’ quarterback had informed the team and some players that he was hanging it up. Most books took all bets involving the Vikings off the board. Those who decided to keep taking bets moved the line on their Sept. 9 opening game from the Saints –4 to –6 and even –6 1/2 at some books. The Hilton lowered the Vikings’ over/under win total from 9 1/2 to 8 1/2 and raised their odds to win the Super Bowl from 8-1 to 20-1. By the following morning, Favre spoke up and said he still planned to play if healthy, and the Vikings’ Super Bowl odds were lowered to 12-1. As of this Thursday morning, most books still have the Week 1 line off the board, with Saints –6 being the consensus line of those willing to book it. The over/under, which opened at 54 back in the spring, is currently all the way down to 48 1/2.

◗ The NFL exhibition season kicked off last Sunday with the Hall of Fame Game. The Cowboys had opened as a slight favorite, but after the Bengals’ signing of Terrell Owens and with the game being played in their home state, the money came in on the Bengals, who closed as a 3-point favorite. However, the “smart money” lost as the Cowboys rolled to a 16-7 victory. No one should bet the kids’ college fund on these games that don’t count, but for those looking for some action, the three games I like this weekend are: Lions +2.5 vs. Steelers, Browns +2.5 vs. Packers, and Broncos +3.5 vs. Bengals.

Horse tourneys heat up in August

The $125,000 Guaranteed Race Handicapping Challenge at the Wynn Las Vegas, held last Friday and Saturday, Aug. 6-7, wasn’t a qualifier for the Daily Racing Form /NTRA National Handicapping Championship, but with just a $60 buy-in contest at Suffolk Downs, the only NHC tourney on the schedule, it wasn’t a surprise to see top tournament players from coast to coast playing at the Wynn. The steep $2,000 entry fee wasn’t going to keep them away, and in fact the Wynn easily made its guarantee as there were 84 entries.

Players made 15 mythical win-and-place wagers each day, with Saratoga and Del Mar being the only contest tracks. Fourteen are $2 bets, with one being a $4 win-and-place best bet.

The king of the hill, at least on this weekend, was J. Randy Gallo of Jupiter, Fla., another frequent NHC qualifier who compiled an overall bankroll of $277.40 to claim the $60,480 first-place prize. With lots of longshot winners on Friday’s cards, Gallo compiled a score of $215.80 on that day alone to pick up $13,440 in daily money and held a comfortable lead on the team of Ira Schwartz/Gwyn Houston, who had a score of $178.50 to pick up a check of $6,720, with Paul Weizer in third at $151.70 to claim $4,032. Gallo and Schwartz/Houston coasted to a 1-2 finish, with the runner-up collecting $20,160. Michael Labriola rallied with a score of $139.40 on Saturday (the second-highest score worth $6,720) to finished third for another $13,440.

TVG’s Nancy Ury was playing for the California Retirement Management Account (CARMA) charity. She finished a respectable 15th but didn’t collect any prize money. However, Wynn director of race and sports book operations John Avello gave her $200 to play for CARMA in Saturday’s Whitney Handicap and she chose Blame, who upset Quality Road at 3-1, paying $8.80 to win and $3 to place, earning $590 for the charity.

◗ The next high buy-in contest in Vegas is the Aug. 26-28 Pick the Ponies Invitational at the Las Vegas Hilton. The entry fee is $500, but those beating the early-bird deadline of Monday, Aug. 16, only have to pay $400 with the Hilton kicking in the other $100 to the prize pool.

◗ That same weekend is the end-of-month NHC-qualifying tourney at the Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, with a $200 entry fee and two NHC berths up for grabs. Players also can earn entry in that by winning pre-qualifying tournaments at Station and Fiesta on Fridays in August.