Poker Betting Not Just For The Players

What's unique about the World Series of Poker, 58 separate card games that begin in Las Vegas, May 31, is that's it's the one endeavor where you can gamble on how well people gamble. Poker betting, especially when it comes to the Main Event, which starts on July 7, no longer is limited to those players sitting at the table.

The Main Event, a Texas Hold ‘em game with a $10,000 buy-in, is the big prize, the game that's given endless hours on ESPN and the one that attracts the most betting attention, thanks in no small part to ambitious and innovative sportsbooks that have designed a series of ways to bet on the poker marathon that does not crown a winner until the final nine players return to the table in November.

The most basic way to bet the Main Event is bet on which player will win it. The favorite, as he was last year, is Phil Ivey at odds of 80/1. Yes, 80/1 on a favorite seems generous until you realize that last year's Main Event attracted 7,319 players. Given the amount of luck required to survive hundreds of hands over a 13-day period, 80/1 suddenly doesn't look like much of an overlay, even on Ivey, arguably the best player in the world.

Thanks to television, poker players have become as recognizable as movie stars and familiar faces such as Daniel Negreanu (100/1), Michael Mizrachi (125/1), Gus Hansen (125/1), Barry Greenstein (125/1),Tom Dwan (125/1), Patrick Antonious (125/1), defending champion Jonathan Duhamel (125/1), Phil Hellmuth (150/1), Chris Ferguson (150/1) and Doyle Brunson (250/1) are sure to lure some betting dollars their way.

If choosing one player among several thousand seems like a fool's errand, sportsbooks have seemingly acknowledged as much, offering odds on a series of individual players "cashing" in the WSOP Main Event. The number of players who actually win some money or "cash" in the Main Event is based on the total number of entries. For example, last year's field of 7,319 yielded 747 "cashes," a bit more than 10 percent.

Unlike a straight win bet, you can bet "does" or "does not" on whether any of four dozen individual players cash at the 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event. The odds of Ivey cashing are +400 (bet $100 to win $400) but you also can lay -600 (bet $600 to win $100) that Ivey does not cash.

The price on Negreanu cashing is +425 while the odds that he does not cash are -625.

It's +450/-700 for a Hansen or Mizrachi cash while Greenstein. Duhamel, Dwan and Antonious each are offered at +500/-800. Hellmuth and Ferguson each are +550/-1000 while it's +800 that Brunson does cash and -2000 that he does not cash.

Several other proposition bets dot the betting landscape, including which American and which Canadian born players will enjoy the highest finishes. Ivey opened as a 12/1 favorite to be the top American while Negreanu is an 8/1 choice to lead the Maple Leaf contingent.

You can take +150 that the WSOP Main Event winner will be an American or lay -250 that he won't.

Younger players, many of whom learned the game on the Internet, have faired very well recently and there's a prop on whether the winner will be someone born before 1985 (-200) or after 1985 (+180).

You lay -240 that a woman will finish in the top 40 or take +160 that the feminine gender won't be represented in the final 40. It's even longer odds, +1000, that a woman will make the final table of nine players. Lay -1600 that the November Nine will be all men.

Speaking of the fairer sex, you can bet on which woman goes the farthest in the Main Event. Vanessa Selbst opened as the 8/1 favorite with Kathy Liebert, Liv Boeree, Annette Oberstad and Vanessa Rousso all offered at 11/1. Annie Duke and Jennifer Harmon, among the most famous of women players, each are listed at odds of 14/1 while Cyndy Violette, another familiar face, is held at odds of 16/1.

More than two dozen former Main Event champions are expected to compete in this year's title event and many sportsbooks are offered a proposition on which of them will have the highest finish. Carlos Mortensen, Huck Seed, Duhamel and Peter Eastgate share the favorite's role at odds of 8/1 in this category with Hellmuth listed at 10/1 and Scotty Nguyen offered at 11/1. Ferguson, Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem are bracketed at odds of 12/1.

Thanks to eager gamblers and industrious sportsbooks, at least when it comes to the World Series of Poker Main Event, poker betting no longer is restricted to just poker players.