11/16/2001 1:00AM

Palm offers new parlays; Fish offer value


Television and newspaper coverage of the opening of the Palms Resort & Casino Thursday night focused on the A-list celebrities (Pamela Anderson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Dennis Rodman), but more important to me was the presence of local gaming figures.

Palms owner George Maloof has borrowed unabashedly from other casinos in designing his ultra-chic property to make it appeal to both locals and tourists. And on Thursday night, casino owners - ranging from Coast Resorts' Michael Gaughan to Bellagio developer Steve Wynn, who is working on La Reve, which replaces the Desert Inn in 2004 - were on hand to see what Maloof made. This kind of competition and one-upmanship is what made Las Vegas great.

Sports bettors now have another independent book at which to shop for prices (with all the consolidation in the industry, we have to relish every extra option we get) and another competitive set of parlay cards.

Marc Nelson, Palms director of ancillary gaming (which includes race, sports, keno, poker), took a cue from his boss and picked up parlay cards from all over town and looked for ways to improve them. The result is a comprehensive menu of seven cards - including ties-win, half-point mini-teasers (3 points each way), ties-win mega-teaser (9 points each way) and a ties reduce halftime card - that offer decent payoffs.

For instance, the standard half-point card pays 6 1/2-1 for a three-teamers, 13-1 for four teams and 25-1 on five-teamers.

Hopefully this kind of competition will cause other sports books to look at how they do business. This can lead to giving players a fairer shake.

Jets at Dolphins (-5 1/2)

This line has wavered between 5 1/2 and 6 all week, with most books back down to 5 1/2 on Friday morning. In the first meeting between these two teams this year, I had the Dolphins and saw them jump out to a 17-0 halftime lead only to lose 21-17 in New York. The Jets aren't as good as their 6-3 record, and the Dolphins get their revenge at home.

Play: Dolphins for 22 units

Jaguars (+5 1/2) at Steelers

The Jaguars are a team I've had my eye on all season. They have lost some close games and aren't as bad as their 3-5 record indicates. Mark Brunell and Jimmy Smith should hook up often. On the other side of the ball, the Steelers' offense has struggled to get in the end zone and has been settling for a lot of field goals (when Kris Brown doesn't have the shanks). Getting any points is a bonus, and this line is inflated.

Play: Jaguars for 22 units.

49ers (-7) at Panthers

The 49ers are playing as well as anyone right now (if not for being a victim of a Bears miracle rally three weeks ago, they could be 7-1) . . . and the opposite is true of the Panthers. Carolina, despite being at home, has no chance to slow down the 49ers' offense, and the Panthers' offense (with or without Chris Weinke) will be hard-pressed to keep them within two touchdowns.

Play: 49ers for 11 units.

Titans at Bengals (-2)

The Titans have owned this series in recent years (they have won the last six, and covered four of those), but these are clearly two teams heading in opposite directions. The Titans, already with a short week of practice after Monday night, have to still be distracted by that heartbreaking, emotionally draining loss. Bengals RB Corey Dillon should pound away at a tired Titans defense, which will get more tired as the game goes on. Titans QB Steve McNair is questionable (both on the injury report and on the field).

Play: Bengals for 11 units.

Lions at Cardinals (- 1 1/2)

Many people are saying this is the winless Lions' best chance to get a victory. That might be true, but I don't think they get it here. The Cardinals aren't world-beaters either, but their offense is well-suited to take advantage of the Lions' weak secondary, and Jake Plummer should put up some big numbers. When the Cardinals' defense doesn't give up big plays, they don't play too badly. That shouldn't be a concern against the Lions.

Play: Cardinals for 11 units.

Bears at Bucs (under 35)

We'll close with one total play. Both these teams have conservative offenses and are better on the defensive side. With the Bears at 6-2 and the Bucs at 4-4, points will be at a premium and I expect both teams to play it close to the vest. This looks like a 13-10 or 14-13 final, so hopefully a fluke defensive or special teams TD won't push the game over.

Play: Bears-Bucs under 35 for 11 units.

Starting bankroll: 1,000 units.

Bankroll entering last week: 951 units.

Last week: 4-1, for net profit of 39 units.

Current bankroll: 990 units.

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