04/05/2005 11:00PM

Amount of 'juice' secondary to odds


Most bettors, even novices, know that in football and basketball, the most common betting sports, you have to lay $11 to win $10.

Converted to traditional odds, that's 10-11. In modern parlance, it's usually listed on betting sheets and spoken as -110. Anyway, you look at it, you're risking $1.10 of your money for every $1 you're trying to win.

A lot of people call this "dime juice," which means you're laying 10 percent. But that's not really a 10-cent line. It's really a 20-cent line because both sides of the betting proposition are -110, thus there is a 20-cent spread between the two bets.

A true dime line is when it's -105 on both sides.

Experienced baseball bettors know that a dime line is more common in baseball. There has been movement in recent years - here in Vegas, as well as offshore and at backroom bookmakers from coast to coast - to increase the juice to 20 cents like the other major sports. But when it has been implemented, bettors have revolted and taken their business elsewhere.

In Vegas, the casinos that cater to the locals know they won't book any baseball business if they go that route, so that's why you will see the dime line at the Station Casinos, Coast Casinos, the Palms, and the Leroy's outlets around town. The Stardust, owned by Boyd Gaming, has a mix of local and tourist clientele, so it deals a dime line there as do the rest of the Boyd Gaming casinos. Downtown casinos, which generally have to offer betting value to compete with the flashier Strip hotels, have also held the line at a dime at the Barrick Gaming properties (Plaza and Las Vegas Club), Fremont (Boyd Gaming), Golden Nugget, and El Cortez.

When you get to the Strip, it's a different story. With more of a tourist crowd, one that doesn't necessarily shop for betting value, some casinos choose to jack up the price. But you can still find the dime line at Mandalay Bay and the other Circus Circus properties (Excalibur, Luxor and, of course, Circus Circus), as well as at the Stardust.

The MGM Mirage properties (which include Bellagio, Treasure Island, and New York-New York in addition to the Mirage and MGM Grand) deal a 20-cent line. Other casino companies have opted not to go quite that far and have split the difference with a 15-cent line. Those include the Caesars Entertainment properties (Bally's, Paris, Flamingo, and Caesars Palace), the Imperial Palace, and the networked books of Harrah's on the Strip and the Rio across the highway.

Some bettors refuse to bet at a book that deals a 15- or 20-cent line, saying it's a matter of principle. While admiring anyone with principles, I still advise that bettors should still check the odds at those places. Even though the juice is theoretically higher, in many cases you can still find a better price on the particular team you're looking to bet, especially with underdogs.

Take the odds for Wednesday night's game between the Nationals and Phillies. (Go to http://www.vegasinsider.com/u/odds/15minute/MLB_lines.cfm, which is a great free site to comparison shop for odds in Vegas.) All the books with a dime line have the Phillies -145 with the Nationals at +135. The MGM Mirage, however, with its 20-cent line having the Phillies at an inflated -160, offers the best value in town on the Nationals at +140.

Final word on the Final Four

Las Vegas sports books had a very successful NCAA tournament for the most part as favorites and underdogs split 31-31-2.

North Carolina's 75-70 victory over Illinois in Monday night's title game, covering the 2-point spread, meant that favorites swept the Final Four (after North Carolina and Illinois won and covered last Saturday in the semifinals). That would normally not have been good for the books, but because the public tends to parlay the favorite with the over, they were saved when the two games involving Illinois went under the total and North Carolina's 87-71 victory over Michigan State landed on or under the closing number at most sports books.

Arena football heads into stretch run

Where has the time gone? The Arena Football League has already completed 10 weeks of play in its 16-game season. The Colorado Crush is the AFL's No. 1 ranked team, according to the league's website, arenafootball.com, with a record of 7-2, and it's also the best spread team at 7-2. Georgia is also doing well on the field at 8-2, though the Force is just 6-4 against the spread.

The local Las Vegas entry, the Gladiators, are splitting the league and money at 5-5 apiece. They are a half-game out of a playoff spot, behind Chicago and Los Angeles, and have a chance to get back on the winning track when they face the 1-8 Grand Rapids Rampage this Friday at 7 p.m. at the Thomas and Mack Center. The Rampage are just 2-7 against the spread, worst in the league, and the Gladiators are favored by 11 1/2 points.

Most people think of arena football as a high-scoring sport, which it is with totals often in the low 100's (the Gladiators-Rampage total is set at 106), but this year the under has a slight edge through 10 weeks at 42-36-2 (54 percent).

Nextel Cup drivers riding the brakes

Sunday's Advance Auto Parts 500 at Martinsville might look like a slower version of Nextel Cup racing for most fans. With a shorter track and tighter turns, the drivers won't be able to put the pedal to the metal the way they do at the superspeedways.

This should put a premium on driving experience. Veteran Rusty Wallace, who is retiring at the end of the year, is among the favorites, which isn't as common as it used to be. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are co-favorites at 7-1, followed by Kurt Busch and Wallace at 10-1, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, and Kevin Harvick, last week's winner at Bristol, at 12-1.