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October 24, 2014

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How you could win $$ on World Series of Poker final table

Caesars aiming for pari-mutuel poker wagering before November’s final table

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Steve Marcus

The “November Nine” reach for a championship bracelet after making it to the final table during the World Series of Poker $10,000 buy-in, no-limit Texas Hold ‘em main event at the Rio early Wednesday morning July 20, 2011. The players will come back in November for the final table. From left are: Badih Bounahra of Belize, Phil Collins of Las Vegas, Matt Giannetti of Las Vegas, Pius Heinz of Germany, Sam Holden of Britain, Ben Lamb of Las Vegas, Anton Makiievskyi of Ukraine, Eoghan O’Dea of Ireland and Martin Staszko of the Czech Republic.

2011 WSOP Main Event Final Table Betting Odds

  • Martin Staszko — 5-to-2
  • Eoghan O'Dea — 4-to-1
  • Matt Giannetti — 5-to-1
  • Phil Collins — 6-to-1
  • Ben Lamb — 7-to-1
  • Badih Bounahra — 9-to-1
  • Pius Heinz — 10-to-1
  • Anton Makiievskyi — 12-to-1
  • Sam Holden — 14-to-1
  • Source: Lucky's sports books

Chip Counts

  • Martin Staszko — 40,025,000
  • Eoghan O'Dea — 33,925,000
  • Matt Giannetti — 24,750,000
  • Phil Collins — 23,775,000
  • Ben Lamb — 20,875,000
  • Badih Bounahra — 19,700,000
  • Pius Heinz — 16,425,000
  • Anton Makiievskyi — 13,925,000
  • Sam Holden — 12,375,000

Unfamiliar names like Martin Staszko and Matt Giannetti that have recently started flashing across betting boards in Las Vegas sports books don’t belong to race car drivers or golfers.

They’re card players. Sports books have made the World Series of Poker the first nonsporting competition available to bettors since the Nevada Gaming Control Board approved amendments to allow event wagering this year.

Most sports books in town have posted odds on who will win the 2011 WSOP Main Event final table in November, following the lead of Wynn Las Vegas, which first offered betting options before the tournament started.

“It’s a no-brainer that this was the first one to be approved,” said Jason McCormick, director of race and sports operations for Station Casinos. “It’s a poker tournament that is already governed by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. So I think from an approval standpoint, all the regulations and things that had to be followed were right there.”

Bookmakers have unanimously crowned the 35-year old Staszko, who will enter the final table as the leader with 40 million chips, as the favorite at around 5-to-2 odds. The longest shot is 22-year-old Sam Holden, who is posted at 14-to-1 with only 12 million chips to work with.

Caesars Entertainment properties account for some of the only spots that have yet to reveal odds on the Main Event final table. That’s because the company also operates the annual poker tournament series at the Rio and has more regulatory hurdles to cross, according to WSOP spokesman Seth Palansky.

But Palansky expects the Gaming Control Board to sort those things out soon and says after it’s approved, Caesars will add even more betting options. Discussions are under way to offer a full menu of propositional wagers, including everything from ‘what will be the color of the final table’s first flop — red or black?’ to ‘how many opponents will the chip leader eliminate?’

Caesars also hopes bettors will be able to place an exacta or even a trifecta wager, picking the final table finish in order.

“We’re looking at it more like a horse race,” Palansky said. “We’re really looking into that. We think there can be some kind of pari-mutuel wagering, but we’re totally in due diligence mode with that right now.”

Until then, bettors will have to settle on the traditional future odds posted throughout town. The response has exceeded expectations this early at Station Casinos, according to McCormick.

He said much of the early money has come in on 26-year-old Las Vegas resident Ben Lamb, who is fourth in chips, at a price of 9-to-2. That should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the WSOP this summer.

Lamb is the leader for the WSOP Player of the Year award after cashing for more than $2 million over the course of the 58-tournament event this summer. He advocated betting on himself through his Twitter account.

“Odds are out at the Wynn,” Lamb said. “I’m 6-to-1. I may end up losing money on this event after all.”

Neither sports book operators nor WSOP officials are concerned with the players betting on or against themselves. Palansky compared it to boxing, where fighters aren’t forbidden from wagering on themselves to win.

Any potential collusion for a player to bet against himself and lose purposely is a non-issue because of the limits in place. The highest betting limit on the WSOP final table is $10,000, equal to the event’s buy-in and 75 times less than what the ninth-place finisher will receive in prize money. The winner of the Main Event will take home more than $8.7 million.

“They are all playing for much more money than any sports book wagers are going to be,” McCormick said. “If there’s any funny business or wagers coming in, then I think as a group the Las Vegas sports books would be highly alerted to it and able to put a quick stop to it.”

McCormick predicted the amount of money wagered on the WSOP would zoom upwards as the final table drew closer and ESPN started to air its weekly Main Event episodes starting Aug. 16.

“Ultimately, this is just another tool to drive interest and anticipation for the event,” Palansky said. “We think it’s great.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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