BETTORS GO ALL IN ON 2008 WORLD SERIES OF POKER



Poker betting is one thing but wagering on poker betting is quite another. And yet that's the challenge gamblers will face when they match cash to conviction on the 39th World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, beginning May 30.

Although some books have prices for which poker players will win each of the 53 preliminary card games, it is Event #54, the $10,000 buy-in World Championship of No-Limit Texas Hold ‘em, known as the Main Event, that not only attracts the most poker players but the most action from bettors, as well.

That competition gets underway July 3 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel with the Final Table determined on July 14. The nine players who advance to the Final Table will return to the Rio on November 9 where the outcome will be decided on the evening of November 10.

Poker exploded as a TV and gambling essential a half-decade ago when new technology allowed viewers watching at home to see each player's hole cards. Bookmakers, who tried to keep pace with the phenomena, have been swamped of late as the number of entries to the Main Event swelled to a record 8,773 in 2006. Try making a future book involving that many names!

So, given the huge fields and the fact that an established professional poker player has not won the Main Event since 2001, books have taken to offering prices on players merely making it to the Final Table. (Odds on winning the top prize will follow after that).

The lowest odds on any individual reaching the Final Table is 100/1, a price afforded to 1987 and 1988 Main Event champion Johnny Chan, 1989 winner Phil Hellmuth and 2001 champ Carlos Mortensen, as well as such highly regarded poker players a Gus Hansen, Daniel Negreanu and Allen Cunningham.

Scotty Nguyen, the champion in 1998, and Chris Ferguson, the winner in 2000, each are offered at odds of 125/1 to reach the Final Table, the same price as the colorfully named Huck Seed, who captured the Main Event title in 1996.

Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson, who competed in the first World Series of Poker Main Event back in 1970 and a two-time champion (1976-77) in his own right, is 150/1 to be one of the last nine players left standing, er, sitting at the Final Table.

Last year's Main Event winner, Jerry Yang, is 300/1 to make a second straight Final Table while the 2006 champion, Jamie Gold, who pocketed a record $12 million, is held at odds of 200/1. Joe Hachem, the winner in 2005, and Greg Raymer, who it won it all a year earlier, each are listed at 150/1 while the aptly named Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 title holder, opened at 200/1.

At odds of 150/1, Jennifer Harmon has the lowest odds to make the Final Table of any woman while Gabe Kaplan, 200/1, of “Welcome Back, Kotter” fame, is among the celebrities who have made a successful switch from entertainment to poker.

In addition to straight Final Table wagering, many bookmakers also are offering a series of proposition bets on the Main Event. One of the more interesting asks bettors to predict the size of the field. A record field of more than 9,000 is rated at 7/2, the same price as a field of 6,500-6,999. You get 4/1 on 7,000-7,499 entries and 5/1 on either 6,000-6,499 (the range for last year's Main Event) or 7,500-7999.

If you think the bottom is about to fall out on poker, you can get 250/1 that the field numbers a paltry 2,000-2,499.

With 87 countries represented at last year's World Series of Poker, there also are prices on various nationalities reaching the Final Table. For example, you can get 2/1 that a Swede is among the last nine players and 9/2 that a player from Norway reaches the Final Table. Denmark (6/1), Russia (7/1), Spain (10/1), Germany (10/1) and Italy (12/1) also are on the international list. Sorry, no price on the obvious, an American player making it to the Final Table.

Given that the World Series of poker is about the only game where you can bet on people betting, most sports betting fans probably will want to play a hand or two.