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October 23, 2014

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The safest bet on the final WSOP table? No bet

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Steve Marcus

The final table of the World Series of Poker will no doubt be exciting, but isn’t really worth betting, according to Jeff Haney.

The best bet among the nine players remaining in the World Series of Poker main event is … none of the above. The odds on the betting boards in Las Vegas casinos are not high enough to entice a savvy gambler to put any money down.

The big tournament, on hiatus since July, resumes Sunday, November 6, at the Rio. In analyzing final table odds, a natural starting point is to compare the number of chips each player has with his betting line.

To illustrate, Matt Giannetti has 12 percent of the chips in play. A betting line on a guy with a 12 percent chance of winning should come in at plus-733 (risk $1 to net $7.33) before accounting for any “juice,” or house commission. Yet the line on Giannetti to win is only 5-1 or 6-1 around town. The same pattern holds for all nine finalists, with their betting line coming up short compared to the odds that their chip count dictates.

Ah, you might counter, maybe one or more players are so talented that they have a better chance of winning than their chip count suggests. For example, Pius Heinz fans might argue that even though their man has only 8 percent of the chips, he’s so good at poker that he has a 16 percent chance of winning, making his 10-1 odds a great value play.

Well, that line of thinking certainly has a place in oddsmaking. But we’re not seeing any evidence of it. When one player’s odds are much shorter than expected given his chip count, I would want to see the odds on another player higher than expected given his chip count before placing any wager.

When the odds on all nine players are short compared to the amount of their chips, however, we have what the sharper-than-thou crowd calls a “negative expectation play.” That means you can expect to lose money betting into the proposition.

My solution: Books should also offer the opportunity to bet on each player not winning. This structure would help ensure the odds remain fair to the betting public as well as the house.

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