SugarHouse Launches $500K PA Pick ’Em, First Legal Season-Long NFL Picks Contest Outside Nevada

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It’s not the SuperContest. It’s the SugarContest.

SugarHouse casino in Philadelphia, in conjunction with sister property Rivers in Pittsburgh (both operate online under the Rush Street Interactive umbrella), is launching the first full-season NFL picks contest of the legal sports betting age outside Nevada.

It’s called the $500,000 Pennsylvania Pick ’Em — and there’s plenty to differentiate this from the most high-profile such gambling competition in existence, Westgate Las Vegas’ annual SuperContest. The SuperBook’s SuperContest has been around for more than 30 years, costs $1,500 to enter, and now awards a first-place prize in excess of $1 mm. The contest available on the Play SugarHouse site and the BetRivers site is significantly smaller in scale.

But while neighboring New Jersey sits idly by, the Pennsylvania Pick ’Em can distinguish itself as a groundbreaking football betting contest for the East Coast in the post-PASPA era.

Not your grandfather’s SuperContest

There are two key differences separating the PA Pick ’Em from the SuperContest. One is the price point. The Rush Street contest costs one-tenth as much to enter, $150. And from now through Aug. 14, the host is offering a discounted price of $125.

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SugarHouse is guaranteeing a $500k prize pool, which, at the full $150 price point, would mean 3,334 entries are needed to avoid overlay. Payouts will increase if the prize pool exceeds $500k — and, notably, SugarHouse and Rivers aren’t taking a cut. This contest is rake-free.

Assuming a $500k prize pool, the payouts are as follows:

  • 1st place: $125,000
  • 2nd: $40,000
  • 3rd: $20,000
  • 4th: $15,000
  • 5th: $10,000
  • 6th-10th: $5,000
  • 11th-20th: $3,000
  • 21st-30th: $2,000
  • 31st-50th: $1,000
  • 51st-100th: $500
  • 101st-200th: $250
  • 201st-400th: $200
  • 401st-500th: $175

There is also a $2,500 prize each week for the best individual score at both Play SugarHouse and BetRivers (with total points in the last game of the week as a tiebreaker), and a $2,500 payout at the end of the season for the most incorrect picks at either site.

The other big difference between this “SugarContest” and the SuperContest concerns the weekly picks. In the SuperContest, entrants are picking against the spread and select whichever five games they feel most confident in. In the Pennsylvania Pick ’Em, contestants have to make a pick on every single Sunday (1 p.m. ET or later) and Monday game, but spreads are irrelevant. Entrants are simply picking straight-up game winners.

Strategic considerations

In the SuperContest, with lines designed to evenly divide bettors, it can be a challenge to identify contrarian picks. In the PA Pick ’Em, it will be much easier.

Looking at NFL Week 1, nine of the 15 games that will be part of the contest (that Thursday’s Packers-Bears kickoff game is excluded) currently have spreads at the SugarHouse sportsbook of 4½ or fewer points. That leaves six games with very clear favorites. Will entrants pick a big underdog or two just to stand out from the crowd in a contest with thousands of entries? Or is the correct strategy, over a 17-week season, to almost never pick a big underdog?

In particular, with a Pennsylvania-based contest, is it smart to pick against the Eagles, favored by 9 points at home in Week 1 against Washington, because you expect roughly 95% of pool entrants will side with Philly? Or is that suicide, a way to almost guarantee you drop a game behind the pack?

(Speaking of which, is there a case to be made for intentionally tanking and playing for that $2,500 last-place prize? On the one hand, with straight-up picking rather than spread betting, it’s not that hard to get a majority of the games wrong every week. On the other hand, only one spot pays at the bottom, whereas 500 spots pay at the top.)

Another consideration is multi-entries. Each bettor is allowed to submit up to 25 entries. Those who do might spread their picks around in the early weeks until a handful of their entries emerge as real contenders. Those who enter just once face a more difficult path to the very top of the leaderboard.

Other details

  • Entries close on Sunday, Sept. 8, at 12:59 p.m.
  • Entries are non-refundable and non-transferable.
  • Accounts must be operated by entrants who are 21 or older, and picks must be submitted each week from within the state of Pennsylvania.
  • If a game ends in a tie, or if a game is postponed and not played by that Monday night, all contestants are credited with a correct pick for that game.
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Eric Raskin

Eric is a veteran writer, editor, and podcaster in the sports and gaming industries. He was the editor-in-chief of the poker magazine All In for nearly a decade, is the author of the book The Moneymaker Effect, and has contributed to such outlets as ESPN.com, Grantland.com, and Playboy.

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