11/18/2002 1:00AM

Good bets come in threes

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LAS VEGAS - Three's a crowd . . . and it draws one when football bettors are around.

Three is the most common winning margin in the NFL and bettors like to have that key number working in their favor.

On Sunday night, when the Stardust put up the opening lines for 10 of this upcoming weekend's NFL games (six of the games were kept off the board because of teams playing Sunday and Monday night and injuries to key players around the league), seven of the lines were between 2 and 4 points.

So, it wasn't any surprise when a lot of the action involved those games. Bettors were either wagering before the line got to 3 (as was the case with bettors taking the Panthers and Seahawks at +4 and +3 1/2 in their respective games vs. the Falcons and Chiefs, as well as giving 2 points with the Buccaneers vs. the Packers) or betting before it moved off 3 (as was the case with giving 3 points on the Dolphins vs. the Chargers before it moved to 3 1/2).

In the Jets-Bills game, the line opened with the Jets -3 and bettors laying the standard -110 (bet $110 to win $100) on each side. When money came in on the Jets, the Stardust attached a money line to the 3 and made Jets' bettors lay -120 while trying to entice money on the Bills at +3 and +100 (the same as even-money).

It also should be noted that all five of the lines that moved involved the home team taking the money.

There were no major line moves in the college ranks, with no line being moved twice. The most interesting move was the Akron Zips being bet from a 4 1/2-point favorite over Kent up to 5, and then money coming in on Kent to knock it back down to 4 1/2. That doesn't happen too often, especially when it doesn't involve a key number.