04/18/2003 12:00AM

Are you ready for some football?


LAS VEGAS - In spring, a young or old bettor's fancy turns to . . . football.

The National Football League draft hasn't even taken place yet - it's next Saturday and Sunday - but the lines for the opening week of the season are already up at the Imperial Palace.

The season opens with the Jets visiting the Redskins on Thursday night, Sept. 4. The Jets are -2 as one of only three road favorites opening weekend. The others are the Broncos -6 at the Bengals and the Falcons -2 1/2 at the Cowboys.

The biggest spread is the Dolphins -10 vs. the Texans, while the smallest is the Titans -1 vs. the Raiders in the Sunday night game to be televised on ESPN.

The rest of the week 1 schedule has the Lions -4 vs. the Cardinals, Browns -2 1/2 vs. the Colts, Packers -6 vs. the Vikings, Chiefs -4 vs. the Chargers, Steelers -6 vs. the Ravens, Panthers -4 vs. the Jaguars, Seahawks -2 1/2 vs. the Saints, 49ers -6 1/2 vs. the Bears, and the Eagles -3 vs. the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers on Monday night.

Even with the games about five months away, Imperial Palace's race and sports book director Jay Kornegay said it's a pretty easy process making the opening numbers.

"We hash them out like we always do," Kornegay said. "Our staff has their input and we try to arrive at the best number. It's a continuation of last year and we factor in the public perception of the teams. It's a lot easier with the NFL because we know all the players. In the colleges, you might have half the team graduating and it's hard to know all the new players. But in the NFL, for instance, the Broncos replaced Brian Griese with Jake Plummer and we know both players well. It's easier to see how changes will affect the line."

Because the lines are so solid, there hasn't been any line movement off the opening numbers. The lines you see now will likely be pretty close to the ones available in September.

"Wise guys don't tend to play them unless they think they're way off," Kornegay said, "but putting the lines up early like this generates a lot of interest and a lot of discussion. It's never too early for people to talk about football. The bettors get more involved when we put up season win totals and our games of the year."

Kornegay said the NFL over/under season win totals will be up by the end of this month. The IP also puts up college and pro "games of the year," picking about four NFL games per week and the biggest rivalries in college football so patrons, especially tourists who want to bet a game early because they won't be in town when it's played, can bet all the marquee games early.

$1 million on poker table

Las Vegas is the capital of a lot of worlds - entertainment, gambling, etc. - and it certainly retained its title as Poker Capital of the World this past week with separate events at the Bellagio and Binion's Horseshoe.

The Bellagio was buzzing from Monday through Friday with the $25,000 buy-in World Poker Tour Championship. With an entry fee like that, you know an elite field is on hand, and that was reflected in the players who made it to the final table. Most are major tournament winners, including two-time World Series of Poker champion Doyle Brunson, James Hoeppner, Ted Forrest, Alan Goehring, and Phil Ivey. Kirill Gerasimon of Moscow was the relative outsider.

The six finalists were vying for the first-place prize of $1,011,886 plus a free $25,000 entry into next year's World Poker Tour Championship April 19-23, 2004.

The final table was to take place at 3 p.m. Friday. This is the final event in the World Poker Tour series that has been airing on The Travel Channel from 9-11 p.m. (Eastern and Pacific) every Wednesday. The air date for the Championship event is June 25.

The shows are taped live, with cameras positioned under the table so viewers can see who has the best cards, who is bluffing, and who is walking into a trap, and then edited down to fit into the two-hour window. Poker experts give play-by-play of all the action.

"Poker has proven to be one of those activities that plays very well on TV," said James Ashurst, director of communications for The Travel Channel. "It's entertaining for experienced players and novices alike, and they get an insider's view into the world of high-stakes poker."

Meanwhile, downtown at Binion's, the World Series kicked off this past week with some lower-stakes events ($1,500 to $2,000 buy-in), and will continue until the $10,000 buy-in World Champion-ship Event of Texas No-Limit Hold'em begins May 19.