08/21/2003 11:00PM

Bettors must do comparison shopping

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LAS VEGAS - Any serious football bettor will tell you that you have to shop around and find the best possible point spreads.

A half-point can be the difference between losing a bet you should have pushed or settling for a push on a bet you could have won. Just a few swings like that can mean the difference between a winning and a losing season.

But there are other ways of making your football betting dollar stretch. One of the simplest is to only lay -105 (risk $10.50 to win $10) on your bets instead of the standard $11 to win $10.

Four Las Vegas area casino companies are offering that bargain during limited time frames.

The Aladdin offers 5 percent vig on Mondays from noon to 6 p.m. on that night's Monday Night Football game as well as college sides and NFL sides and totals for the following week's games. In addition, bettors can parlay the side and total the Monday night game at odds of 14-5 instead of the standard 13-5.

The Casino MonteLago on the east side of town at Lake Las Vegas, is offering 14-5 two-teamers on Tuesdays, as well as 5 percent vig on Wednesday and Thursdays.

That makes Thursday a great night for discount shoppers. From 6-9 p.m., the Stratosphere and its sister properties at Arizona Charlie's East and West will have reduced juice, while the Park Place Entertainment group will also offer 5 percent vig at all of its casinos (Caesars Palace, Bally's Paris, Las Vegas Hilton, Flamingo, Reno Hilton, Caesars Tahoe, Flamingo Laughlin) from 8-9 p.m.

While some books are offering limited chances to get 14-5 on off-the-board two-team parlays, the one place in town that used to have those odds all week long, Jerry's Nugget in North Las Vegas, is no longer offering it. They're down to the industry standard of 13-5. The best I could find was 13 1/2-5 at the downtown Las Vegas Club.

In the coming weeks, we'll also take a look at which parlay and teaser cards offer the best value around Las Vegas when those become available.

Station to hold racing seminars

Demonstrating again how Las Vegas race books realize that helping horseplayers with their handicapping is a win-win situation in the parimutuel pools, the Station Casinos is launching a rotating series of seminars on Thursdays at its properties throughout the valley.

"RaceDay Las Vegas" radio host Ralph Siraco will be moderating the seminars with Jerry Jacovitz, creator of Jerry's J Power Page sheets, which are distributed at race books around Vegas, and Richard Eng of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Yours truly will fill in on occasion.

The first Station Casino Handicapping Seminar will take place at the Sunset Station this Thursday, Aug. 28, at noon. The second one will be Sept. 4 at noon at the Santa Fe Station in the northwest part of town.

After taking a hiatus during the Fairplex meet, the seminars will resume Oct. 2 at the Palace Station and then will be held every few weeks on Thursdays at Texas Station on Oct. 16, Fiesta Rancho on Nov. 6, a return trip to Palace Station on Nov. 20 and the final in the series at Green Valley Ranch on Dec. 11.

The seminar fee is $2, but includes a $2 wager coupon and a free copy of Daily Racing Form.

More race book notes

The Stratosphere is also planning to begin monthly 9 a.m. Saturday seminars on Sept. 13 with race book host Jay Kessler. The first part of the seminars will be geared for those who are new to the game, and then expanding to include handicapping advice and money-management techniques for more experienced horseplayers.

* The early-bird deadline for the Oct. 9-11 Fall Classic at The Orleans (formerly the Championship at The Orleans) is Wednesday, Sept. 3. The entry fee is $500 with early sign-ups earning a free entry in a bonus $20,000 contest ($10,000 first prize and pay down to fifth place) on Sunday, Oct. 12, the day after the main contest concludes. The contest hotline is (888) 566-7223.

* After the races of a week ago last Friday (Aug. 15), Julie Krone led the Del Mar jockey standings with 19 wins, right ahead of Patrick Valenzuela with 18 and the trio of Mike Smith, Alex Solis and Victor Espinoza at 17 apiece. What a difference a week makes. Valenzuela booted home 11 winners in the four racing days between Saturday and Wednesday before going 0-for-Thursday. Krone added seven of her own this past week.

Entering Friday's card, Valenzuela led the standings with 29 winners with Krone sitting just off the pace with 26 and well clear of Smith in third with 21. Several Las Vegans are keeping a close eye on that race with a vested interest, particularly the Palms race book and the one bettor who backed Krone at 1,000-1 to win the jockeys' title.

Tennis anyone?

The U.S. Open begins Monday morning at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Tennis wagering barely registers a blip in Las Vegas, and bookmakers report minimal action leading up to the year's final grand slam event.

With Serena Williams out following surgery on her left knee earlier this month, the women's bracket is more wide open than usual. Kim Clijsters is the 2-1 favorite, followed by Justine Henin-Hardenne (5-2), Venus Williams (3-1), Lindsay Davenport (8-1), and Jennifer Capriati (10-1).

On the men's side, Andy Roddick is a lukewarm 3-1 choice, with Roger Federer (7-2), Andre Agassi (5-1), and Lleyton Hewitt (6-1) among the legitimate contenders.

The action starts at 10 a.m. Eastern time Monday, which is 7 a.m. in Las Vegas, so any future wagers would have to be made prior to the sports books closing on Sunday night.