New Jersey Casino’s First Skill-Based Contest Is A Slam Dunk As Teacher Nets $10k In Free Throw Contest

Posted By Steve Ruddock on March 24, 2015 - Last Updated on February 8, 2021

It was billed as the New Jersey casino industry’s first skill-based competition, and this weekend over 1,000 people from all over the country turned up at the Borgata with the requisite $20 entry fee to see how many foul shots they could sink in 60 seconds.

The winner was set to earn $5,000 of the $10,000 of guaranteed money, but with 1,022 competitors, the winner ended up pocketing over $10,000.

In the poker world we call doubling your a guarantee a massive success, and the Borgata should be thrilled with the turnout.

Teacher from Pennsylvania wins $10k

Even though there were plenty of them in the field, it wasn’t some recently graduated D-I college basketball player, or some former pro, or some playground legend, or even some shooting guru who works with NBA teams (there was at least one of those in the field, by the way) who took home the top prize and the trophy.

It was a 37-year old teacher, Al Callejas.

Callejas certainly wouldn’t have been one of the odds-on favorites at the outset, but he’s not a slouch either, and would probably be a ringer on your over 30 basketball team at the Y, considering Callejas is a former D-III player (University of Scranton) and the son of a basketball coach at Holy Cross High School in Dunmore, PA.

After navigating the tough and deep field, Callejas squared off against Wayne Nelson, the Cedar Creek High School boys’ basketball coach, in the final round.

As in previous rounds, each player took 15 shots with 13 being worth 1 point and two multi-colored “money” balls being worth 2 points. With one shot left for Callejas, the two were tied with 14 points, and Callejas buried it for the 16-14 win.

Like any good shooter, Callejas knew it was going in when it left his hand, as he was heard saying “got it” before the ball went through the rim.

Don’t feel too bad for Nelson, though. He pocketed $6,132 for his runner-up showing, more than the originally announced first-place prize of $5,000 thanks to the tremendous turnout.

What to do with the money

Callejas didn’t say what he would use the money for, although a little of it might find its way back into the Borgata cage, as he and his wife were also given a free suite at the Borgata after his sharpshooting display courtesy of the casino’s Senior Vice President of Operations Joe Lupo.

The added gift brought a coy smile to the face of Callejas, a man who doesn’t consider himself much of a gambler. But as Callejas noted, there are always exceptions.

“Maybe I will gamble now. I’m going to find a roulette wheel and bet 16,” he said.

Still, don’t expect very much of his winnings to be put at risk (maybe the $220 of the $10,220 he won) considering Callejas is a married first grade teacher in Pennsylvania who has a four-year old and one-year old at home.

Lupo and the Borgata were certainly happy with how things worked out, considering the event brought over 1,000 potential customers through the casino’s doors. So, it’s not surprising Lupo said the casino would “one hundred percent” be hosting more skill-based contests down the road.

Why did this casino promotion work so well?

The contest was pure genius in every way. From the $20 buy-in to the skill-based competition that was selected, it all worked beautifully.

Even the biggest rec league hack would probably try their hand in this contest for a mere $20, and the free throw, while incredibly skillful, is something anyone (man, woman, child, senior citizen) can do, evidenced by a 37-year old teacher and a high school boys’ basketball coach making the finals.

A free throw contest is the great equalizer, as neither height, age, or gender plays much of a role. And as one player noted, even the best shooters have to deal with the pressure.

This weekend’s free throw shooting contest appears to be the start of a whole new era in Atlantic City, and marketing directors at every Atlantic City casino are likely spending their Monday mornings thinking up the next skill-based competition.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.

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