07/13/2001 12:00AM

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and future books


In Las Vegas, future book betting is as popular as baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolets are to most Americans. There's nothing like betting the Kentucky Derby winner in January at 100-1. Or two years ago, playing the eventual Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams at 200-1 in July.

I figured this was a good time to tap into Andy Iskoe, one of the most respected sports analysts in town. Iskoe founded The Logical Approach newsletter that is available over

the Internet at www.thelogicalapproach.com.

During spring training, three of baseball's division leaders - the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, and Minnesota Twins - were 100-1 or more to win the World Series. Could sports handicappers have predicted this?

"I pegged Minnesota as an improving team," said Iskoe. "I actually played Minnesota to win more than 74 games. I liked their young pitching staff and thought they could approach at least a .500 record.

"If you can find the ingredients that dictate success, like good pitching and defense, you can make a case. In football, it's good defense and quarterbacking."

NFL handicappers are mining for another nugget like the 2000 St. Louis Rams. The Rams had endured a moribund 4-12 year. Their starting quarterback, Trent Green, was injured in pre-season. Coach Dick Vermeil was left with untested rookie Kurt Warner. The Rams opened at 200-1 and were still 100-1 before the season opener.

"We've seen in the last few years teams go from not even making the playoffs to winning the Super Bowl," continued Iskoe. "The last two Super Bowl winners, Baltimore and the Rams, and Atlanta which lost the Super Bowl to Denver, were not in the playoffs the year before.

"NFL playoff teams can come out of nowhere. Look at the New York Giants. They were not a playoff team the year before. There's tremendous personnel turnover in the NFL that affords an opportunity for realistic longshots to be able to go on a nice ride."

Iskoe explained that a longshot doesn't necessarily have to go all the way for a bettor to be in position to make a nice score.

"If you play a team that's 75, 100, 125-1, those teams don't have to win the Super Bowl for you to make a profit. Once the playoffs begin, you have hedging opportunities.

"The chances are, that team would be an underdog in the playoffs unless they've had a spectacular season," said Iskoe. "You have three or four playoff games before you eventually cash your future book ticket. If you have 100-1 odds, you have a lot of room to work with."

Iskoe used the 2000 Rams as an example of hedging.

"If you had St. Louis, you hedged off by playing the underdog because St. Louis was favored throughout the playoffs. The people who got 100, 150, 200-1, should be hedging some of that. They still would get a nice return in the vicinity of 75 to 100-1 minus the cost of the hedge."

As for this year's longshot, maybe it's the Atlanta Falcons at 75-1.

"Atlanta made the playoffs several years ago," concluded Iskoe. "Much of the nucleus of the team is still intact. Coach Dan Reeves is still there. Chris Chandler is a proven quarterback, who if he stays healthy, can put up decent numbers. Jamaal Anderson is two years removed from his knee injury. He should be as close to full strength as he's ever going to get."

Iskoe's other flyer is the Arizona Cardinals at 200-1.

Richard Eng is turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap-Up Show.