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Prolific Las Vegas NFL contest winner shares tips, strategies

Professional sports bettor Cris Zeniuk is riding a remarkable hot streak in NFL handicapping contests in Las Vegas.

Zeniuk, aka Las Vegas Cris (@lasvegascris), claimed second and fifth place in the Circa Million II contest (3,148 entries) last season for $244,444 in prize money.

He took 20th and 31st in the inaugural Circa Million (1,875 entries) and has hit 64 percent of his contest picks overall the last two years with a 212-120-8 ATS record on his four entries.

Zeniuk also previously won Wynn Las Vegas’ Single Survivor contest for $100,000 and Station Casinos’ Last Man Standing contest (2,700 entries) for $52,000, among others.

He will be on a panel at Circa from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday that will discuss contest tips and strategies.

Here are some of Zeniuk’s top tips for Circa Million/Westgate SuperContest, in which entrants pick five NFL sides ATS each week, and Circa Survivor, in which entrants pick a different NFL winner straight up each week, with no point spreads.

Be different

“Generally, you can’t win Survivor if you’re playing the same teams as everyone else, because you want them to get knocked out on those teams. The gift to you, as a player, are the weeks with huge favorites. But you don’t want to be on those huge favorites.

“The simple goal is to pick games that other people aren’t picking.”

Last season, for instance, 425 of the 1,390 Survivor entries were on the Colts in Week 1 and eliminated when they lost to the Jaguars as 7-point favorites.

Play to win

“Million is hard because there are so many people. But the No. 1 good piece of advice I would say is play to win. Don’t just play to get in the money. When you get down to the end and get close to being in the money, maybe you’re happy to play popular games and you’re playing not to lose ground instead of being aggressive to gain ground.

“If you play too defensively and you play scared, what was the point of playing?”

Keep an open mind

“Don’t get laser-focused on games early in the week. Most people pick games early and get research to support what they wanted. But you’ve got to do it in reverse. Wait until the end of the week and evaluate what you’ve heard all week long.

“My focus is on gathering information and keeping an open mind.”

Wait to place picks

Zeniuk said he doesn’t seriously narrow down his selections until an hour before the entry deadline.

“We already know that COVID can really mess you up, so why would you put your picks in before you absolutely have to?” he said. “Every single week, there’s going to be something unexpected in one of the games, and if that’s your game and you already have your picks in, there’s nothing you can do.”

Whittle down

“I can’t tell you how many weeks it’s five minutes until the deadline, and I open up the app on my phone and just eliminate team by team, 12 teams down to seven teams. I don’t like to add teams. I like to remove teams.”

Learn from everybody

Zeniuk said he listens to dozens of podcasts and shows and gleans information from the best and worst sources.

“The very best in the NFL are going to lose 44 percent of their games,” he said. “Any professional handicapper would be happy at 56 percent. If the very best professionals would be happy losing only 44 percent of the time, that means you can accept any information.”

Don’t chase line moves

“Contests will oftentimes have stale lines that appear to have line value. There’s a handful of pros, that’s all they do in contests. But you actually want to stay away from those games more than you’re on them if you’re aggressively trying to advance.”

Don’t play futures or fantasy

“Fantasy is a lot of fun, and futures are a lot of fun, but they’re going to absolutely influence how you look at games. You can’t help but think about it subconsciously because you always want to win, and it doesn’t matter if you have $100 on it or $10,000 on it. If you want to deal with that mental angst, more power to you.”

Avoid bad weeks

This is obviously easier said than done, but Zeniuk has not had a 0-5 week in the Circa contest.

“I’m not a contest superhero. You have to be lucky,” he said. “Nobody knows anything. I don’t know anything. If I didn’t have a math model to point me in the right direction, I would be screwed because I’d be believing my lying eyes.

“In the NFL, you can’t believe your lying eyes. You have to dig deeper.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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