Circa Survivor, Circa Million Winners Talk NFL Picks Contest Success

Who wants to be a millionaire? Well, honestly, probably all of us. And certainly those who were feted on Friday night as winners in the Circa Survivor and Circa Million NFL picks contests.

The Circa contests allow entrants to ostensibly make a $1,000 bet on the entire NFL regular season. You've got action every week in Circa Million, making five plays against the spread, and action as long as you can stay alive in Circa Survivor – which four players did through all 18 weeks.

A few of the big winners – and the biggest losers, who also got a healthy paycheck – shared their thoughts on NFL picks contest success.

Down To The Wire

Matt Ste. Marie, middle, displays his $1 million Circa Million winner's check.

Circa Million V – signifying the fifth year of this point-spread contest – literally came down to the final game of the 18-week regular season. Matt Ste. Marie held the lead the last few weeks of the season and was up by 1.5 points on second-place Ryan Lown entering Week 18.

By the time the Buffalo Bills-Miami Dolphins showdown arrived, Ste. Marie had 61 points to Lown's 60.5. And as fate would have it, the two both used Bills-Dolphins among their five Week 18 plays.

"It came down to the last game," Ste. Marie said. "I had Buffalo -3, and he had Miami +3. If Miami covered, he would've won. That was crazy. It was an all-time sweat."

Buffalo escaped with a 21-14 win and cover. So Ste. Marie claimed the $1 million first-place check, in the first year he's every played this contest. And among 5,274 Circa Million entries, he only had one, riding it all the way to the winner's circle with a 62-27-1 ATS record. Lown picked up a hefty $500,000 for second place.

While that last game was obviously the most pivotal, Ste. Marie pointed to Weeks 13 and 14 as key to the win.

"I went 5-0 the week after Thanksgiving, then 4-1 [in Week 14] to get into first place," Ste. Marie said. "That's when it started to get real, that I had a chance to win this contest. That's when the sleepless nights started."

He can certainly sleep easy now, with that seven-figure check under his pillow.

More Millionaires

The stakes were much higher in Circa Survivor, which had 9,267 entries and a whopping $9.267 million pot. After 16 weeks and 18 picks – Circa made Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day additional weeks, to spice things up – the field was down to four. At that point, those four entrants made a deal to chop the pot.

But details of that arrangement weren't disclosed, and Circa Sports isn't involved in any such deals. As it turned out, all four entrants won their final two plays, so they all went 20-0. For Circa's accounting purposes, it was a simple four-way split of the pot, with each entrant getting approximately $2.32 million.

Harold G., who asked that his last name be withheld, was one of the four winners. He echoed Ste. Marie's Circa Million sentiments.

"For something that's supposed to be fun, it's so damn stressful. You can't sleep," he said.

That'll likely now be remedied by a mattress stuffed with more than $2 million.

Lucky Losers

James Mitchell, left, and Ryan Przydzial laugh off being presented a tiny check for winning $100,000 as the Circa Million's biggest losers.

One of the best elements of the Circa Million NFL picks contest is that it has a booby prize. Players vie for both quarterly and season-long payouts to the entrant with the worst record.

This season's big winner – or big loser, depending on how you look at it – was the tandem of Ryan Przydzial and James Mitchell. The two friends, teammates on the Northeastern University football team in the mid-2000s, had two entries for Circa Million V.

Five weeks into the season, neither entry was doing well. One had 9.5 points and the other 10, out of a possible 25.

"We were pretty bad. So we said, 'Let's tank one of the lineups and just go inverse,'" Mitchell said.

The tanking strategy: Come up with their five best plays for winners each week and use those on one entry, and then go opposite in those five games on the second entry.

It worked so well that the two nearly cracked the top 100 with one entry, while having their second entry plunge to the bottom. Przydzial and Mitchell won the $100,000 booby prize by finishing 29-60-1, averaging fewer than 1.5 wins per week over the final 13 weeks.

And again, the other entry nearly made it into the top 100, which would've cashed as well. That entry tied for 116th, finishing 54-34-2, with 44.5 wins over the last 13 weeks – an average of 3.4 wins per week.

"I guarantee you that, from Week 6 on, no one had a better or worse record than us," Mitchell said with a laugh.