01/13/2006 12:00AM

Horseplayer World Series gets started

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This week at The Orleans, reality TV gets a heavy dose of horse racing as HRTV will broadcast live four hours per day from the Horseplayer World Series.

Viewers will see hundreds of handicappers doing what they do best, using their brains and horse savvy in trying to find longshot winners. It will cost those who didn't qualify for the Horseplayer World Series $1,000 to enter the event, with a chance of winning a $400,000 to $500,000 first prize. To win a life-changing score, it's a gamble worth taking.

Watch 'em go for broke

Now let me tell you about two other reality TV shows starring bettors willing to gamble away their life savings on camera. Literally.

The shows are "Man vs. Vegas" on the Country Music Television network and a Fox reality show, that's casting right now, to be titled "Double or Nothing."

In "Man vs. Vegas," Daren Leverenz purportedly sold all his worldly possessions to amass a $1 million bankroll in trying to win a fortune against Las Vegas casinos.

On the CMT website, Leverenz claims to have lost more than $3 million gambling in Las Vegas casinos in the late 1990's. It cost him his business, his house, and eventually his wife and family. Now he wants to get even, and more.

"Everybody will be behind me," said Leverenz in interview footage on the website. "Vegas's goal is to swallow you whole and take all your cash. I am going to beat them."

Episodes show him gambling with other people, helping them win, encouraging them "as he pushes them beyond their normal gambling limits," according to the website. Reportedly, he makes good on other people's losses.

In "Double or Nothing," Fox will show one risk-taker willing to bet his or her entire life savings on one roulette spin, betting on either red or black.

Let me advise you that the odds are not 50-50 just because the 36 numbers on a roulette table are half red and half black. The casino has the huge built-in advantage of two additional numbers, 0 and 00, which are green - a loser for anyone betting red or black.

"Double or Nothing" is a copycat of a British program that featured London resident Ashley Revell. In April 2004, Revell liquidated all of his assets to amass $135,300. He was videotaped at the Plaza Hotel and Casino betting his entire stake on red. His one spin for all the marbles came up red 7, a winner.

While gambling is a voluntary act, the thought of anyone risking his or her life savings on the flip of a card or a roll of the dice is not amusing. And to glamorize it? Some people may actually be dumb enough to try it themselves.

The old cliche" that the mega-resorts on the Las Vegas Strip weren't built because of winners is as true today as it was 40 years ago.

Richard Eng is the turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap Up radio show.