10/18/2005 11:00PM

As ever, never a dull moment


The saying is that there's always something going on in Las Vegas.

People have been saying that for a long time, and it's been true for a long time, so forgive me for stating the obvious, but it's truer than ever.

Seriously, it used to be New Year's/Super Bowl/Nascar race/ March Madness/Kentucky Derby/ World Series of Poker/start of football season/Breeders' Cup/National Finals Rodeo and then some major fights thrown in along with other headline-grabbing events scattered throughout the calendar.

Nowadays, there is an endless stream of big events at all times of the year. In the past, casinos didn't always market big events at this time of year since they assumed that with kids back in school families would have limited vacation time. Plus it was expected that football season would bring out the bettors anyway.

But with the mega-resorts getting bigger and bigger and the increase in competition to attract tourists, there's no differentiating between the peak season and the off-season.

This weekend, the popular World Poker Tour is in town with the Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship at the Bellagio. The $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas hold'em event will host its final table on Friday night. Make no mistake, poker has been a huge part of the recent explosion, as these types of televised tournaments seem to take place every week here, whether it be events open to the public, high-end made-for-TV invitationals, or celebrity charity tourneys. These days, poker players are treated like rock stars, so there will be famous people at the Bellagio all weekend. And that always draws a crowd.

Away from the Strip . . . well, actually, at the dragstrip called The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the top drag racers in the country will be competing this weekend in the Las Vegas NHRA Nationals.

Qualifying runs will be held Friday and Saturday afternoon, with the elimination finals starting at 11 a.m. on Sunday. At the Station Casinos sports books, Greg Anderson is the overwhelming 5-6 favorite in the Pro Stock division, with John Force at 3-1 in the Funny Car category and Tony Schumacher the 2-1 top choice over Larry Dixon in Top Fuel.

Rod Fuller, a Las Vegas resident whose fan base has skyrocketed in his first year back in Top Fuel, qualified well in the last NHRA event here in April and recorded his first victory in Memphis, Tenn., in August. Fuller is listed at 10-1 - after being 30-1 in April - and certainly has the incentive to perform well before the hometown fans. His pit will have a gallery this weekend.

One of the cool things about going to the drag races is that every ticket is a pit pass, so fans can get up close and personal with the drivers and see their crews working on the cars.

Also this weekend, the World Series starts Saturday night in Chicago with the American League champion White Sox hosting the survivor of the Astros-Cardinals series. Even without the Yankees or Red Sox involved, there are enough storylines to keep fans interested and checking out the action in this city's sports books, where there will be the usual full cards of college and pro football as well.

Looking ahead on the calendar, next Saturday night at the Thomas and Mack Center, the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings meet in an NBA exhibition. That will bring a lot of fans and celebrity-watchers to the arena as well as to the after-parties at the city's nightclubs.

Oh, and then there's this little horse racing card next Saturday called the Breeders' Cup. It should be said, though, that the BC kind of gets lost in the mainstream shuffle here in town. A little sad, but true.

Last week, it was an international show-jumping competition being held at the Thomas and Mack. After a few weeks off, the arena will host the Professional Bull Riders World Finals from Nov. 3 through Nov. 6.

And just like the Las Vegas Hilton offering odds on the show-jumping, the New Frontier has jumped in with odds on the bull-riding. The New Frontier has an Old West theme and is a popular hangout of the cowboy set, especially at a popular bar named Gilley's, which has the requisite mechanical bull.

Race and sports book director Tony Nevill has Dustin McBride as the 9-5 favorite in the list of 29 individual bull riders, followed by Guileherme Marchi (5-2), Chris Shivers (3-1), Kody Lostroh (7-2), Greg Potter (4-1) and Cody Whitney (9-2). In addition to the other 23 riders listed, there is also a field bet at 12-1.

Too bad we can't bet on the bulls.

Action on the airwaves, too

While they are not events that draw crowds in the thousands, the Leroy's Money Talks Invitational and Stardust Invitational football handicapping contests hold their own on Friday nights.

Last week in the Leroy's contest, held at 8 p.m. each Friday in the Riviera sports book and aired live on KDWN AM-720 and kdwn.com, veteran bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich rallied to post a 3-4 record and a net profit of $490 on his seven plays, which are weighted $110 on the first selection through $770 on the best bet. His opponent, Gary Greene of bluebooksports.com, went 1-5-1 for a net loss of $2,330.

In the Stardust Invitational, held at 9 p.m. and also aired on KDWN, local radio personality Steve Cofield advanced with a losing record of 3-4, defeating James Manos of vegasinsider.com, who went 2-5.

This Friday night, handicappers Bryan Leonard and Jeff Whitelaw meet at the Riv and well-known handicapper Marc Lawrence will take on Randall "The Handle" Murray of the Toronto Sun and national Canadian radio at the Stardust

* While a lot of drag racing bettors will go out to watch the action in person at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, stock car bettors here will wager on Sunday's Subway 500 and watch the action on TV from Martinsville, Va. Las Vegas Sports Consultants has Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch as the 7-1 co-favorites with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin at 8-1.