11/11/2002 12:00AM

Bet early, follow the lines and have it both ways

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LAS VEGAS - Andy Ducay doesn't have an office job, but you could say he's in middle management.

Ducay, 49, is a professional sports bettor and an 18-year veteran of the pointspread wars. He is one of the dozen or so regulars in the Stardust lottery each Sunday night - when the pros take the first crack at the opening football lines in Las Vegas - and also bets at the Monday morning lottery at the Rampart.

In the vernacular of the sports book, Ducay takes leads on games early in the week and then tracks line movement during the week looking for profitable middles, especially around keys numbers such as 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 14 and higher multiples of 7. Ducay said the biggest advantage goes to those who bet early.

"On Sunday night, you see numbers you'll never see again," Ducay said. "You're looking for that elusive point or half-point." Comparing this type of sports betting to the securities market, he added, "It's like you're taking a one-week option on a pointspread."

Last week, it worked like a charm. The Stardust opened Air Force as a 22-point favorite over Army. Ducay bet Army plus the points. The line dropped all week, and with an hour before kickoff Saturday, Ducay bet Air Force -17 at another sports book in town. When Air Force won 49-30, he cashed both bets while risking only the vig. Another game was Utah-UNLV, which opened Utah -9 1/2. It got bet up to 11 1/2, and the final score landed in the middle, a 28-17 Utah victory. Another game just missed as New Mexico, bet from -1 1/2 to -6, led 13-8 in the closing minutes, but the Lobos got a late safety to win 15-8.

Ducay said another opportunity to catch middles is with halftime wagers. Last week, he had Purdue +7 1/2 vs. Ohio St. With the score tied 3-3 at halftime, Ohio St. was made a 3-point favorite in the second half. Ducay bet on the Buckeyes to win the second half and the Buckeyes scored a late TD to win 10-6. That meant Purdue covered for the game and Ducay also cashed his halftime wager since Ohio St. outscored Purdue 7-3 in the second half.

Today's professional sports bettor compares the Vegas numbers to those offshore at books such as CRIS, then gauges in which direction they think the lines will move during the week. But for Ducay, it's not strictly about the numbers.

"You still have to do your handicapping and make your own lines," Ducay said. "You prefer to have a side you want to keep. Once you have a number you like, you can decide what percentage of the bet you want to bet back on the other side. Sometimes it's zero percent, sometimes it's 100 percent."

There was very little movement in this week's Stardust lottery as only six college lines moved and five in the NFL (three sides and two totals).

Ducay took Illinois +10 vs. Ohio St. before the line dropped to 9 1/2. CRIS opened Temple -10 over Rutgers, so Ducay took Temple -8 1/2 at the Stardust (though that line didn't move). After the lottery was over, Ducay took Texas -5 1/2 vs. Texas Tech. By Monday morning, that line had risen to 6.

The biggest college line move - which Ducay didn't get involved in - was Akron, bet from a 12 1/2- to a 14-point favorite over Buffalo. The only other double move was on Rice - bet from +11 to +10 1/2 to +10 - vs. Hawaii.

In the NFL, all of the lines were moved just once.