You Don't Have to Play Poker to Bet Poker

If you're interested in playing poker it will cost you $10,000 to enter the 2010 No-Limit Hold 'em World Series of Poker Championship. But if you interested in betting on poker, you can be a part of the action for a whole lot less. That's because many sportsbooks already have a future book posted on which card player will win the 13-day marathon event.

The World Series of Poker gets started at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas on May 28 with the Main Event, the last of 57 different games, getting the cards in the air on July 5 with the final table of nine players returning in November to crown a champion. Some books will post odds on other games within the WSOP but the Main Event, because of its stature and, even more importantly, because ESPN will provide weekly coverage, will attract most of the poker betting action.

Phil Ivey, often acknowledged as the best poker player in the world, is the 80/1 favorite. Under normal circumstances getting the favorite at 80/1 would be a tremendous overlay but in a field expected to be in excess of 8,000 players and where elimination often is just one card away, the price is anything but generous. Although his resume lacks a No-Limit Hold 'em title, Ivey has won seven WSOP championships, including two last year, when he also finished seventh in the Main Event.

After Ivey, you can get triple digits on anyone else, including such well-known poker players as Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, Gus Hansen, Allen Cunningham, Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, Doyle Brunson and 2008 champion Peter Eastgate.

Hellmuth, whose lack of grace has earned him the nickname "Poker Brat," has accumulated a record 11 WSOP bracelets, including the No-Limit Hold 'em World Championship in 1989. You can get odds of 125/1 on Hellmuth.

Chan, who won back-to-back World Championships in 1987-88 and finished second in 1989, has won 10 WSOP bracelets and still is one of the more feared players in the room. The "Orient Express" is offered at odds of 200/1.

Interestingly, Hansen, who has yet to collect a WSOP bracelet, is a co-second choice at 100/1. "The Great Dane" is unpredictable and has earned a reputation for making large bets with almost any two cards.

Like Hansen, Allen Cunningham also is listed at odds of 100/1. A former civil engineering student at UCLA, the quiet, cerebral, understated Cunningham has won five WSOP bracelets and always is a threat.

Negreanu, 125/1, has earned four WSOP bracelets and was the runner-up at last year's WSOP Europe. He's familiar face to most of those who watch poker on TV.

Nguyen, dubbed "The Prince," has won five WSOP championships, including the 1998 No-Limit Hold 'em title. Many will find him an attractive bet at odds of 150/1.

Even at 76 years of age, Brunson, who has won 10 WSOP bracelets, is one of the most respected players in poker. Sent off at odds of 200/1, "Texas Dolly" is as well-known for his landmark book, Super System, as he is for his card playing ability.

Eastgate is listed at 125/1, half the price of defending champion Joe Cada, at 250/1.

Sportsbooks understand that picking of the winner of the 2010 No-Limit WSOP Championship may be a bit too random for many sporting betting fans so they're offering others ways for gamblers to get involved in the action. For example, you also can bet on certain individual players making it to the final table, where they would be one of nine for a chance at the title.

Ivey is 33/1 to still be playing in November while Hellmuth, Hansen and Cunningham each are 50/1 to make it to the final table.

You also can bet on the age of the No-Limit Hold 'em champion. Lay -130 (bet $130 to win $100) that the champ is 34 years of age or more, or lay -105 that the winner is under 34.

Some sportsbooks also have a prop on the nationality of the winner. American is the -200 favorite; Danish, +1800 (bet $100 to win $1,800); Swedish, +2000; Norwegian, +2200; German, +4000; Italian and German, each +5000. "Other," which includes any nationality not mentioned, is the second choice at +165.

Sportsbooks want to involve the bettor in the entire WSOP process so there's a prop on whether any player will win more than one of the 57 titles offered. "Yes" is favored at -600 while "No" is held at +400.

For those in no hurry, there's also a proposition on what the tournament's winning hand will be. Two pair is +160; one pair, +230, straight or flush, +475; three of a kind, +550; high card, +1000; and full house, four of a kind or straight flush, +1200.

Clearly, whether you're at the table or just watching, you're not excluded from poker betting.