10/14/2010 3:15PM

Here's a contest where you can lose twice and still be alive


LAS VEGAS – We are through five weeks of the NFL season and the sports books here are enjoying their best year in recent memory.

This isn’t surprising as the public tends to bet favorites (especially in parlays) and underdogs haven’t had a losing week yet and are hitting at an unheard of 55 percent clip at 47-36-2 against the spread. That doesn’t tell the whole story as the books have also been benefiting from wise-guy steam plays that have gone down in flames over and over.

Some handicappers have been thriving, such as the leaders of the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest, where “Dantastiko” and “Bright Oaks Drive” – the Hilton allows aliases instead of players using their real names – are 19-5-1 against the spread (79 percent) and in first place. Longtime readers of this column know I play almost exclusively underdogs – oh, really, Dave? – and my ViewFromVegas.com entry is tied for 11th place at 17-8 (68 percent).

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The run of underdogs has also had a major impact on the one-and-you’re-done elimination pools as very few favorites have been a safe bet. The Wynn’s new Survivor contest, with a $100,000 winner-take-all prize is down to just nine contestants after starting with more than 500 and the Station Casino’s Last Man Standing contests (pro and college) are also looking like they will be decided earlier than usual.

When I talk with bettors around town that aren’t in these contests, it’s usually a case of them saying stuff like “I’m doing better than those guys” or “I’d still be alive and have a chance at the big jackpot if only I had entered.” Of course, no one ever has documentation.

But when they insist they’re as good as they claim – but, shucks, I can’t prove it this year – I tell them to go over to a Leroy’s sports book and enter their Midseason Three N Out Contest for just $25 an entry (maximum five per person). It’s a contest where you pick one NFL game (side or total) each week and you’re not eliminated until you have three losses. Leroy’s does this contest at the start of the year, and it drew 492 entrants of which 301 are already out. Of the 191 survivors so far, only four have zero losses with 59 with one loss and 128 with two.

It sure seems easy to outperform those people, but here’s the chance for people to put their money where their mouth is as the Midseason Three N Out starts with the games of Oct. 24 with the entry deadline being at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23. The contest runs through the rest of the year, including playoffs if necessary.

Back to the betting board

With my plays in this column last week, I went 2-1 again with the Titans and Buccaneers winning outright as underdogs and then losing with the Vikings on Monday night vs. the Jets, though that was nearly a winner as the Vikings (+4) got within two points on two separate occasions but a late Brett Favre pick 6 sealed the deal. I will take it as I’m 11-5 (69 percent) overall.

Ravens +2 1/2 vs. Patriots

Word to the wise (guy), this line can be found +3 (-120) or (-125) and might be worth paying the insurance in case a 3-point loss bails you out, but since I’m generally graded here in laying –110, I will go with the +2 1/ 2 as I think the Ravens win this outright. A lot of the talk about the Patriots revolves around the trade of Randy Moss (which certainly doesn’t help their offense, especially taking on the Ravens’ D here) but their big problem in defense, where they have allowed 24 points to the Bengals, 28 to the Jets, and 30 to the Bills(!!!) before holding the Dolphins to 14. The Ravens’ improved offense should be able to put up points while containing the Moss-less Pats’ offense.

PLAY: Ravens for 1 unit .

Lions +10 vs. Giants

The Giants have certainly turned their season around with convincing wins over the Bears and Texans the last two weeks, but I just think this line is too high against a Lions’ team that continues to improve. That’s clearly evident when you consider they’re 4-1 against the spread this year with their only setback being 24-10 vs. the Vikings in Week 3 as a 13-point dog in a game where they had plenty of chances to get in the back door. Add in the fact that the Lions are coming off a 44-6 confidence-building win over the Rams (another team that has also exceeded expectations but got run over by this team) and you have a live double-digit underdog.

PLAY: Lions for 1 unit .

Browns +13 1/2 vs. Steelers

I will stick with one more double-digit dog (note: despite the overall success of underdogs, DD dogs are just barely profitable at 4-3 ATS) as this line has skyrocketed from Steelers –10 in advance wagering prior to last week up to nearly two touchdowns with the return of Ben Roethlisberger and the possibility of rookie Colt McCoy being thrust into the Cleveland starting lineup against the league’s No. 1 defense. However, I can’t stop thinking that Big Ben will be rusty and keep this from being a blowout against a Browns’ team that has been competitive all year, with a push vs. the Buccaneers in Week 1 and a loss in Week 2 to Kansas City (neither performance looks as bad now based on how those teams have continued to play) and a double-digit cover vs. the Ravens and an upset of the Bengals. Last week’s loss to the Falcons was also respectable, so I’ll again take the big points.

PLAY: Browns for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-1 for a net profit of 0.9 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 11-5 for a profit of 5.5 units .