01/03/2002 1:00AM

Parlay bettors escape on New Year's Day


It's not often that you hear Nevada bookmakers complain about parlays. The house edge on those bets generally takes care of itself.

The true odds against hitting a three-team parlay is one in eight (or 7-1 against), yet bookies generally pay only 6-1 off the board or between 5.5-1 and 6.5-1 on parlay cards depending on where you shop. The true odds of hitting a four-teamer is 15-1, yet bookies pay between 10-1 and 13-1, and the takeout increases as you increase the number of teams.

However, parlays are the only thing that kept Nevada's sports books from having one of their most profitable bowl seasons ever. The books cleaned up on side bets as a lot of the "steam" games from professional bettors and their followers were on the wrong side time and time again. On New Year's Day, Ohio State, Michigan, Colorado, Illinois were all bet heavily and all lost. Except for Ohio State, which rallied from a 28-0 deficit to lose 31-28, none of those games were really close.

But the savior for parlay bettors was that in the games that were most heavily bet, favorites were winning and covering. When that happens, a lot of parlays stay alive since a high percentage of parlay players (especially tourists) tend to string favorites together.

But the bookmakers don't need sympathy, as a very profitable bowl season helped make up for a rocky regular season. No bookmakers in town will publicly announce their bottom line, but many admit that bettors did very well during the college regular season.

Among the most successful were professional bettors who concentrate on smaller conferences. They look for loose lines on games the bookmakers don't have enough time to analyze, since they're focusing on the major conferences that draw the most action.

Years ago, the Ivy League was a profitable conference for many bettors, but those games were taken off the board. Recently, the Mid-American Conference has had a lot more "sharp" action.

That could change. You might not have seen the item buried in the briefs column of your local newspaper about a month ago, but the NCAA is considering pulling Division I-A status from schools that don't meet attendance minimums and other criteria. A number of those schools are in the MAC. Las Vegas casinos do not put up lines on regular season I-AA games.

Hotel rooms at a premium

If you're thinking about a trip to Las Vegas for the Kentucky Derby festivities, you would be well-advised to book your trip now. The town is always sold out on the first weekend in May, and that's doubly assured now that Oscar De La Hoya is scheduled to fight Fernando Vargas on May 4.

Promoter Bob Arum hasn't announced a venue, though Mandalay Bay is the front-runner. Hotel rooms are still available, but they will sell out fast once the fight becomes official.

An even bigger fight is tentatively slated for April 6 between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson. Tyson, however, continues to make headlines with rape allegations and last week he threatened journalists on a trip to Cuba. These events could put a snag in Tyson's attempt to get his Nevada boxing license reinstated. When his license was revoked in October 1999 (after hitting Orlin Norris after the first round bell in a fight that was ruled a no-contest), Nevada State Athletic Commission member Lorenzo Fertitta said, "I'm not so sure we need him in the state of Nevada any longer."

Tyson was advised to clean up his act before reapplying for a license. Will the commission nix potentially the biggest-grossing fight in boxing history? Or will Tyson's behavior be brushed aside again?

Other interesting boxing matchups: Charles Shufford, who portrayed George Foreman in the movie "Ali," will fight Jorge Luis Gonzalez Jan. 18 at the Paris Las Vegas hotel-casino. On March 2, Marco Antonio Barrera will get his rematch against Erik Morales at the MGM Grand. Morales beat Barrera in a controversial decision on Feb. 19, 2000. Many boxing publications called it the fight of the year.

* Ralph Siraco's "RaceDay Las Vegas" radio shows are moving to a new station starting Jan. 14. KRLV AM-1340, where Siraco has been for eight years, is changing to a Hispanic format. Siraco's show is moving to KSHP AM-1400 and will air from 9-10 a.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 8-9 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The "RaceDay Wrap-up Show" with host Richard Eng will also be moving to KSHP and air Wednesday though Sunday nights from 6-7 p.m.

* Longtime Vegas icon Lee Pete, who is credited with inventing the radio sports talk genre in Toledo, Ohio, in 1951, is retiring. He spent 20 on the air in Ohio and the last 31 years in Las Vegas. He has interviewed and hosted shows with some of the biggest names in sports (Jim Brown, the Hall of Fame running back) and sports betting (Lem Banker, the wise guy's wise guy).

* Brad Bryant is moving his tack from Boulder Station to Sunset Station to run that race and sports book for the company. No successor has been named yet at Boulder. For now, none of the contests at either property will change, Bryant said.

* Arizona Charlie's has tweaked its Win and Quin contest on Wednesdays to give more money to the winner. The fourth-place prize has been eliminated and now first place receives 65 percent of the prize pool (which is all the $10 entries, plus $800 which the casino adds to the pot) with second place receiving 25 percent and third getting 10 percent.