04/26/2006 12:00AM

Horseplayers welcome another race book


Las Vegas locals tend to avoid the Strip whenever possible, and the ever-growing local casino market makes that easy to do.

You have Sam's Town and Boulder Station on the east side of town; the Sunset Station, Green Valley Ranch, and Fiesta Henderson in the booming southeast Henderson area; the South Coast directly south of the Strip; the South Coast, Rampart, and the new Red Rock on the west side of town; and even the Texas Station, Fiesta Rancho, and Santa Fe Station in the northwest.

But the area due north of the Strip and downtown Las Vegas, despite having some of the fastest-growing zip codes in the country, has been underserved. The Cannery opened on Craig Road in 2002, just west of I-15, with a sports-book counter but no race book. Residents in the surrounding area who have wanted to make race bets have had to go to the northern stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard - not the nicest part of town - to the Poker Palace, Silver Nugget, or Jerry's Nugget, or else go way out of their way to Texas Station or Fiesta Rancho.

However, a new option comes up Monday as the Cannery opens it new race and sports book just in time for the Derby.

Kevin Klein will manage the book, which is networked with the Rampart, where race and sports book director Eric St. Clair will set the sports lines.

"That's a growing area and the book has been a long time coming," St. Clair said. "We're expecting to get a lot of foot traffic and hope to build a regular clientele."

The 1,800-square-foot book has 130 seats with plush overstuffed chairs and 110 individual TV's, St. Clair said. The Rampart has a $500 twin quinella wager every Wednesday through Sunday, but St. Clair said that with the addition of the second race book, it would be increased to $1,000 a day.

Remembering the Intimidator

This weekend's events leading up to the Aaron's 499 Nextel Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Charlotte, N.C., will be an emotional time for auto racing fans. On Thursday night, the late Dale Earnhardt was to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame. "The Intimidator" would have turned 55 on Saturday, so his son Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive his No. 8 car, which is usually predominately red, in all black to honor his father. Junior does well in the restrictor-plate races at Talladega as well as at Daytona, so with all of the above factors, it's not surprising that he is the 4-1 favorite at Station Casinos. There is precedent to expect a top effort from Junior. He won the next race at Daytona in 2001 after his father died on the track in that year's Daytona 500. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are the co-second choices at 5-1 with Jimmie Johnson at 8-1 and then a big gap to Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Elliott Sadler at 15-1.

Zig-zag method off to good start

The zig-zag theory, which calls for NBA bettors to back the straight-up loser of a game in its next game, was 3-1-1 through Tuesday's game. The system got off to an inauspicious start with the Bulls being +7 vs. the Heat and getting a push in a 115-108 loss and the Nuggets losing 98-87 as a 3-point underdog. But all three plays covered Tuesday as the Wizards beat the Cavaliers 89-84 as a 4-point dog, the Nets routed the Pacers 90-75 as an 8-point favorite, and the Kings covered vs. Spurs with a 128-119 overtime loss as 11 1/2-point dogs.

World Poker Tour finale

The championship event of the World Poker Tour's fourth season concluded at the Bellagio Monday after the starting 605 players, who put up $25,500 apiece, were whittled down to the final table of six.

The edited show will air on The Travel Channel on June 28, so read no further if you don't want the results.

At the conclusion of the tournament, TV host Mike Sexton said the theme of the fourth season was "youth will be served," and that was developed as the two youngest players at the final table finished first and third.

Joe Bartholdi is 26 years old and undoubtedly still gets carded at casinos and bars based on his youthful looks. But he was all man as he walked away with the $3.76 million first-place prize after finishing atop the star-filled field that began play on April 18.

On just the fourth hand of the final day, Bartholdi took the chip lead from fellow Las Vegas resident James Van Alstyne after calling several large bets. Bartholdi had pocket 8's to go with the pair of 4's that came on the flop. Van Alstyne mucked his cards so as not to show what he had (that will be revealed in the taped version).

Bartholdi is a San Diego native who said he has "been living off and on" in Las Vegas for seven years. He said he mostly plays in cash games at the Bellagio and hadn't entered many tournaments prior to putting up the $25,500 for this event.

He said he drew inspiration from his boisterous fan club, which included friends and family.

"Yesterday, everybody around me started telling me I could do it, and I just went with that," Bartholdi said.

The WPT nearly has its version of the World Series of Poker's Chris Moneymaker. David Matthew of Toronto got into the WPT finale by virtue of winning a satellite with a $25 entry fee. He finished second to earn $1.9 million, a return of $76,000 for every $1 invested.

Heads-up play between the two finalists started at 9:28 p.m. with Bartholdi holding a 2 1/2 to 1 chip-count advantage (approximately $21 million to $8.3 million), but Matthew chipped away and actually took the lead at 10:21 p.m. for a few hands. However, just 15 minutes later, Matthew was down to less than $10 million and went all-in on a flush draw, and Bartholdi called with a pair of 9's. When Matthew didn't catch his draw, Bartholdi's entourage rushed the stage and lifted him in the air in what can best be described as a mosh pit at a rock concert.

Roland De Wolfe, of London, was the other player in his 20's to make the final table and became the third millionaire as his third-place finish earned him $1.02 million. Men "the Master" Nguyen was the only well-known player to make the final table, but he was the first eliminated Monday and finished sixth, earning $292,915.