On Friday nights in the fall for more than a decade, football bettors would crowd a small, smoky sportsbook on the Strip to see two handicappers go head to head in a $10,000 winner-take-all contest. The contestants’ names were lit up outside on the marquee, adding an element of prestige to being a part of the Stardust Invitational.
The contest concluded after the 2005 season — the Stardust closed on Nov. 1, 2006 and its two hotel towers were imploded in March 2007 — and it has been missed.
So it’s time to bring back memories of an old friend. In a tip of the cap to the Stardust Invitational, Circa owner Derek Stevens is putting up his money and putting his support behind a new VSIN-produced event, the Circa Friday Football Invitational.
The theme is the same, but the contest format is slightly different and improved. While there are still 16 handicappers in a bracket, all contestants are involved each week in a season-long competition, as opposed to the Stardust format that pitted only two handicappers a week in a head-to-head elimination duel. Stevens has boosted the prize money to $25,000.
The 16-handicapper field is officially set. Here are the contest details:
CIRCA FRIDAY FOOTBALL INVITATIONAL
Sixteen handicappers compete — with no entry fee required — in a season-long contest with $25,000 in prizes awarded.
When: Friday, September 9 through Friday, January, 6, 2023 (18 weeks)
Where: VSIN studio at the Circa sportsbook
Contest plays: Five plays, college and NFL sides and totals (no props, team totals, first-half plays etc.) with one designated as the Best Bet (BB).
— Plays will be graded as one point for a win and half-point for a push. If a game is canceled, it’s graded as a loss; a postponed game must be played by the following Thursday or it’s graded as a loss.
— The Best Bet (BB) point total will be used as a season-long tiebreaker if needed.
Use the Circa Sports lines posted on Fridays between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Send the Circa number posted at the time your plays are submitted. Plays can only be submitted once, no changes allowed, and use the proper line. As Derek Stevens said, “Honor amongst gamblers.”
— Five plays must be sent to VSIN’s Matt Youmans no later than 1:15 p.m. each Friday.
Prize structure: Derek Stevens is awarding $25,000 in total prize money: $15,000 for the winner, $7,000 for second place and $3,000 for third place. The winner also receives a trophy and a special green jacket designed by Stevens.
Contest field/format: The contest begins on Friday, September 9 and continues each Friday through January, 6, 2023.
— In December during the college bowl season, any games scheduled through the following Thursday can be used in the contest (and any games must be scored as final on that Thursday to count). For the final week, only games scheduled through Sunday, January 8 can be used in the contest (and any game must be scored as final on that Sunday to count).
Elimination rounds: At the conclusion of Week 9 of the NFL schedule (the Friday, Nov. 4 contest week), the contestant with the lowest point total will be cut.
The same elimination process will continue each week for the following seven weeks through Week 16 of the NFL schedule (the Friday, December 23 contest week).
— If there is a tie for last place in any elimination week, the Best Bet (BB) point total for the two or more contestants will be used as a tiebreaker to cut one contestant; if there still is a tie, the most recent week’s Best Bet (BB) result will be the tiebreaker, and that process of grading Best Bets continues in reverse order until the tie is broken.
— At the conclusion of NFL Week 16, the eight remaining contestants compete to the end.
Media participation: All contestants are invited to join the show in studio or by phone/video from 9 p.m. to midnight (PT) throughout the season. The contest will be broadcast on VSIN and in the Circa sportsbook, and contest plays will be published on VSIN.com.
(Derek Stevens has the authority to make a final ruling on any contest rules disputes.)
Introducing the Circa field of 16:
Bobby “Buckets” Brubeck, professional bettor from Texas
Chuck Edel, professional bettor from Las Vegas
Brian Edwards, professional handicapper from Florida
Chris “The Bear” Fallica, ESPN college football analyst
Steve Fezzik, two-time Westgate SuperContest champion
Adam Hill, Las Vegas Review-Journal NFL writer
Doug Kezirian, ESPN sports betting analyst
Marc Lawrence, 2005 Stardust Invitational champion
Randy McKay, professional gambler from North Dakota
Mike North, Chicago radio host
Erin Rynning, professional bettor from Las Vegas
Dan Saley, professional bettor from Las Vegas
James Salinas, 2015 Westgate SuperContest champion
Paul Stone, professional bettor from Texas
Jeff Whitelaw, professional bettor from Las Vegas
Cris Zeniuk, professional bettor from Las Vegas