07/30/2006 11:00PM

Electrical tape the fashion of the day


The World Series of Poker's No-Limit Hold'em World Championship - aka the Main Event - is so big this year that the "opening day" had to be split into four separate days to accommodate the record field.

The fourth and final opening began shortly after noon on Monday, and Nolan Dalla, media director for the world series, said he believes 8,778 players put up $10,000 for the buy-in or won a tournament to earn a spot.

"That's pretty close to the official number," Dalla said Monday afternoon. "Right after the start, we can't be exact yet because there might be illness issues, dead stacks, or an accounting error or two, but I would say we're within five of that being the number."

That blows away last year's record of 5,619.

More than 2,000 people played each day Friday through Monday, and there will be just 3,200 or so left when the surviving players play again - Friday/Saturday contestants were scheduled to play Tuesday, and Sunday/Monday players return Wednesday before the remaining players all play together Thursday. The champion, who will be crowned Aug. 10, will receive in excess of $10 million, topping last year's champ, Joe Hachem, who earned $7.5 million

* The buzz of Friday's opening day was the announcement that dot-com shirts and hats were banned from the Arizona Ballroom floor because of Nevada gaming regulations. Dot-net apparel is allowed since it advertises free or educational sites, as opposed to real-money sites that can't officially be affiliated with Nevada casinos. Thousands of players, most of whom had won online tournaments to have the dot-coms pay their entry, were seen with black electrical tape covering the offending words or with shirts turned inside out.

Dalla said that "it's always been the case" that dot-com apparel has been banned.

Obviously, most Internet operators didn't get - or chose to ignore - the memo.

* Phil Hellmuth Jr. tied Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan as the only players to win 10 world series gold bracelets when he captured the $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament last Wednesday. The Poker Brat, however, took an early exit from the Main Event on Saturday after just a few hours of play.

* Yours truly played in the media/celebrity charity event last Thursday night. Celebrities in the field included Dick Van Patten, Vince Van Patten, Penn Jillette, Shannon Elizabeth, Cindy Margolis, Norm Macdonald, Jennifer Tilly, and many younger actors that I'm too old to recognize.

* Nevada casinos aren't allowed to take bets on the world series, but the Imperial Palace posted odds for entertainment purposes only. The over/under on the age of the winner was set at 34. Odds on whether a female would make the final table were -600 (risk 6 fake dollars for every 1 you would want to profit) on the "no" and +400 (win 4 for every 1 wagered). The U.S. was favored at 3-1 for the winner's country of origin, with England at 8-1, Vietnam at 10-1, and Australia at 15-1.

Bernardini's stock rises, odds plummet

In this space last Saturday, John Avello, the director of race and sports at the Wynn, predicted that he would get action on Bernardini in his Breeders' Cup Classic future book in advance of the 3-year-old's return in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. When Avello was interviewed, Bernardini was 15-1. On Monday, Avello said that 15-1 didn't last long and Bernardini was down to 12-1 when he entered the starting gate on Saturday. After his impressive nine-length romp, he was bet down to 6-1.

"He ran great and proved his Preakness win was no fluke," Avello said. "I have a vote in the NTRA poll and I moved him to the top of the list. We have enough money on him now; we don't need anymore."

In other big BC future moves, Angara was bet down from 25-1 to 12-1 in the Filly and Mare Turf off her win in the Diana Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday, and Spun Sugar was bet down from 18-1 to 12-1 in the Distaff after her victory in the Go for Wand at Saratoga on Sunday.

Pure as Gold wasn't on Avello's list for the Sprint before the weekend, but his upset of the Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar on Sunday earned him a spot at 35-1.

In the Turf, Avello made Shirocco the 8-1 favorite to repeat with Hurricane Run and English Channel the co-second choices at 12-1. Avello said he didn't drop Hurricane Run's odds after his win in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

Sports book notes

With most of the top golfers taking the week off after the British Open, the US Bank Championship in Milwaukee was a wide-open affair with the field (all golfers not listed as individual betting entries) being the favorite at 7-4 at the Las Vegas Hilton.

Corey Pavin had won 14 Tour events by the time he was 36 in 1996 and at that time he wouldn't have been left off any odds list, but he hadn't won in the past 10 years and was relegated to the field last weekend. Pavin, however, came through for field bettors with a two-stroke victory over Jerry Kelley, a 25-1 shot.

This weekend, the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich., will have a much stronger field with Tiger Woods listed as the solid 5-2 choice. Jim Furyk is the second choice at 8-1, Vijay Singh is 10-1, and Geoff Ogilvy is 15-1.

* Last Saturday night in Boise, Idaho, Roy Jones Jr., a -400 favorite, won a unanimous decision over Prince Badi Ajamu for the NABO light heavyweight title. Jones is vowing a comeback, but it's telling that the fight was held in an obscure location for an obscure belt.

* The next major fight here in Vegas is the heavyweight title bout Aug. 12 between Hasim Rahman, the sole U.S. fighter with a heavyweight title belt, and Russian Oleg Maskaev. Station Casinos has Rahman as a -200 favorite with the over/under set at 10 full rounds.