01/31/2002 1:00AM

Party hearty, but don't fall for those 'ties lose' cards


A quarter of a million people are in Las Vegas this weekend for the Super Bowl festivities.

If "Who will cover the spread?" is the most common question this week, then next on the list is, "Where are you watching the game?"

Las Vegas has the biggest and best parties anywhere, but unless you're a high roller or VIP and have already been given an invitation, you won't be getting through the door of the most lavish parties. But there are many options for the rest of us.

One of the most highly touted parties year after year, and the most expensive ($125) of the pay-to-attend events, is at the Riviera. There is a "Super Buffet," an open bar, and drawings for autographed memorabilia. The Riviera annually has the most former football players acting as hosts. This year's roster includes Gale Sayers, Jim Hart, and Floyd Little.

Other former football stars in town include Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo, Bally's ($60); Chargers tight end Kellen Winslow and Raiders defensive end Ben Davidson, Stardust ($50); and Chiefs runningback Christian Okoye, Buffalo Bill's.

Wherever you decide you want to go, here are some party tips:

* Pick up your tickets in advance. Many of the top parties sell out. You don't want to show up at kickoff without a ticket and be turned away. Don't assume that if you can't get into a party that you can hang out in the sports book. The books will be packed, too. And if you don't grab a seat hours in advance, you might be left standing for 5 hours.

* Don't wait until the last minute to make your bets.

* Don't bet more than usual just because it's the Super Bowl. It's just one game, and there are dozens of other opportunities.

* Avoid special Super Bowl parlay cards. Check the back. If it says "ties lose," throw it away. These cards have the Rams -14 and the Patriots +14. If the Rams win by 14, both sides lose (while straight bettors in Nevada will get a refund). These cards also typically have props on the numbers of made field goals (3), interceptions (3), fumbles lost (2), quarterback sacks (5), etc. These will also be losers no matter which way you choose if they land on the number. Instead, bet those same props off the board so if they land on the number you get your money back.

Equine inspiration

Some Nevada race book patrons look at football bettors with disdain, especially when they take over the sports books and overflow on the race side on Saturdays and Sundays during the fall and winter. But some horseplayers might have a rooting interest in this year's Super Bowl.

Patriots linebacker Bryan Cox is a horse owner. Late in the season, the Patriots were leading their division and in a position to make the playoffs, something no one expected them to do this season, especially after starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe went down in Week 2.

Cox brought coach Bill Belichick a videotape to help inspire the team. It was the running of last fall's Breeders' Cup Classic. Belichick showed his team the race and paused it at the top of the stretch. He then asked them to predict who won. When he rolled the tape, they saw Tiznow make a gutty run to the wire to win by a nose. Tiznow, despite winning the Classic a year earlier, was dismissed by a lot of people and went off as the fourth choice in the betting. Belichick told his team that a big stretch run would get them a first-round bye.

The Patriots haven't lost since.

Vegas news briefs

* Locals casinos are offering 5 percent vig on the Super Bowl line this week. Instead of betting $110 to win $100 at the standing 10 percent vig, bettors have to risk only $105. Of course, you only save money if you lose, but it helps in the long run to search out these values.

* For a list of many Super Bowl events, go to the website www.lasvegas.com/events/superbowl.

* On Saturday, Sam's Town starts its "Free and Easy" contest on the last three races at Golden Gate and the last three races at Santa Anita. The free contest awards $1,000 to the person compiling the highest win mutuel from the six races. In conjunction with the contest, Gordon Jones gives horse handicapping seminars at 10 a.m. every Saturday. He'll probably also give out his Super Bowl pick.

* Up the highway from Sam's Town, Boulder Station has suspended its "losers" contests on Mondays and Tuesdays. The format is being revised to cause more carryovers and might be started again in another week or two, according to race and sports book manager Kelly Airgood.

* Not only did the MGM Grand lose the Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis fight on April 6, but it also lost the ESPY Awards. The ESPY's, which were at the MGM Grand the last two years, will be held at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on July 10, the day after baseball's All-Star Game. The awards show was originally planned for this Monday, but when the Super Bowl was pushed a week back in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the ESPY's decided to make the move to one of the slowest days on the sports calendar.

* Effective this weekend, taxi fares in Las Vegas have risen 10 cents to get in a cab and 10 cents per mile. The "waiting-time" fee - which can add up if you're stuck on the gridlocked Strip - was also raised from $21 to $22 per hour. These rate hikes go directly to the cab companies to pay for higher insurance costs and don't help cabbies, who have seen a significant drop in business since Sept. 11. Another blow to their income was a court order last month that prohibits gentlemen's clubs from tipping cab drivers for delivering customers to their door. Some club owners were accusing their competitors of diverting customers by offering incentives as high as $40 per customer to hacks.