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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Dave Tuley
, for VSiN Sports
— Circa Sports owner Derek Stevens announced guarantees of $8 million for Circa Survivor IV — an increase of $2 million — and $6 million for Circa Sports Million V as the popular $1,000 buy-in contests opened Thursday morning for the 2023 NFL season.

Stevens, along with Circa VP Mike Palm, made their annual appearance on VSiN’s “Follow the Money” program to publicize the much-anticipated guarantees as well as new rule changes from previous year.

See rules for both contests below, but the most notable changes besides the prize money: 

  • 10 entries allowed in Survivor, up from 6
  • 5 entries allowed in Million, up from 3
  • In Survivor, the Thanksgiving and Black Friday games are combined into one week and the Christmas Day schedule is its own week for a total of 20 weeks

Last season, both contests had $6 million guarantees with Survivor (which requires contestants to pick 1 NFL straight-up winner each week without using the same team twice) drawing a Nevada NFL contest record 6,133 entries. The record $6.133 million prize pool was split by two entries using the aliases of BROWNA and JED for record payouts of $3,066,500 as they went undefeated at 20-0 during the 18-week NFL season, plus bonus Thanksgiving and Christmas “weeks.” A third contestant, THE ENEMY WITHIN, was eliminated on the final day, but also shared an undisclosed amount with a pre-arranged chop among the remaining contestants.

Last year’s Circa Sports Million (pick 5 NFL games against the spread each week from status contest lines) drew 4,691 entries, so Stevens paid the $1,309,000 overlay into the prize pool. The guaranteed $1 million first-place prize was won by a four-player team from Detroit using the alias CHIEF-3 (Brian Koestering, his brothers-in-law Anthony Coratti and Zack Zoltowski, and friend John Miller) when their hometown Lions beat the Packers 20-16 as 4.5-point underdogs in the season finale on Sunday Night Football.

After the June 2019 opening of Circa Sports (in the now-defunct Golden Gate sportsbook while Circa Hotel-Resort was still under construction across Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas), Circa Sports Million debuted that fall with a $1.5 million guaranteed prize pool and a guaranteed $1 million first-place prize and drew an impressive 1,875 entries (extra went to the quarterly prizes).

In 2020, Stevens increased the Million guarantee to $3 million and surpassed that with 3,148 entries despite entries basically being shut down from March through early June due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Circa Survivor also debuted that season and topped its $1 million guarantee with 1,380 entries.

In 2021, both contests had $6 million guarantees with Survivor drawing 4,080 entries and Circa Sports Million drawing a then-record 4,087 entries.

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