11/02/2005 1:00AM

Picks on radio come off mostly static


It hasn't been a good football season to be a public handicapper on local radio.

Up and down the dial, prognosticators have been put up on a pedestal only to be knocked off time and time again. I'm not just casting stones here - yours truly is 6-8 (43 percent) in giving my two "top" plays each Friday on the "Raceday Extra: todayatthesportsbook.com" show on KSHP AM-1400. I'm just one person, and one person's ills do not an epidemic make. The most glaring example of this is the two invitational contests that are aired each Friday night: the Leroy's Money Talks Invitational and the Stardust Invitational.

The Leroy's contest, which airs live from the Riviera sports book from 8-9 p.m. on KDWN AM-720 - and worldwide on kdwn.com - has 16 handicappers who put up $2,500 of their own money to play for a $50,000 purse. Leroy's kicked in $10,000, and the champion at the end of the single-elimination tournament will win $40,000, with the runner-up receiving $10,000.

The two contestants each week give out seven plays, making mythical wagers of $110 on their first graded play up to $770 on the best bet. The handicapper showing the biggest profit (or smallest loss) is the winner and advances. Through the first round of eight matchups, the 16 handicappers have a combined record of 47-61-4 (44 percent). Worse yet, if a bettor had made the same dollar bets on all the selections, he would be $4,340 in the hole.

This week's first quarterfinal match pits a team from Statfox.com (which went 4-3 with a profit of $280 in its first-round victory) vs. "Chicago" Pete Ventrella (3-3-1 and a loss of $750).

The contestants in the Stardust Invitational, which follows the Leroy's show from 9-10 p.m. on KDWN, are doing slightly better, but certainly nothing to brag about. The contestants also make seven selections a week with a designated best bet to be used as a tiebreaker. The 16 handicappers are a combined 52-55-5 (49 percent) overall and 7-8-1 (47 percent) on best bets. The performance of those in the sports advisory business is even worse when you consider that the best week by far was on Sept. 30, when Ed Salmons, sports book manager at the Las Vegas Hilton, took on Rich Dressler, sports book manager at the Imperial Palace. Salmons went 6-1 with a best-bet winner, while Dressler was 5-1-1 and also won his best bet. Taking away the bookmakers' records, the rest of the field was a combined 41-54-4 (43 percent) and 5-8-1 (38 percent) on best bets. Dressler's loss was made even worse when his record held up as the second-best mark of the 16 handicappers, but he was eliminated from the competition.

This Friday, Andy Iskoe (4-3 with a best-bet winner in the first round) faces Kevin O'Neill (3-4 with a best-bet winner).

In the midst of all this mediocrity, a tip of the cap has to go to Dave Cokin. He is best known as being part of Jim Feist's handicapping stable, but he also does a lot of local radio here in Las Vegas and gives out his three top college plays between 10 p.m. and midnight on the Sunday night edition of the "Stardust Line." After going 29-16 (64 percent) last season, this year Cokin is 20-6-1 (77 percent). This week, his plays were Louisville -18 1/2 vs. Pittsburgh on Thursday night, Georgia Tech -7 1/2 vs. Wake Forest, and Penn St. -10 vs. Wisconsin.

Spurs look dressed for success

The NBA season tipped off Tuesday night, and the defending champion Spurs - after complaining about the league's new off-court dress code and collecting their rings - beat the Nuggets 102-91.

On "SportsCenter" that night, ESPN's Scott Van Pelt said "lots of people consider them the chalk." He didn't say it directly, but surely he meant the oddsmakers and bettors here. Las Vegas Sports Consultants has the Spurs as the 2-1 favorite to win the 2005-06 NBA title. The Heat is the second choice at 5-2, followed by the Pistons (6-1), Pacers (8-1), Mavericks (12-1), and Nuggets (12-1).

The Spurs also have the highest over/under season win total at 58 1/2 with the Heat at 57 1/2. Then there is a drop-off to the Mavericks and Pacers at 52 1/2.

The New Orleans Hornets, who will play 35 of their "home" games in Oklahoma City and six in Baton Rouge, have the highest odds to win the NBA title at 350-1, and have the lowest over/under at 22 1/2.

Familiar names head NCAA

The NBA season is under way, so college basketball can't be too far behind. In fact, the season starts next week, and the futures list is full of the usual suspects. LVSC has Duke as the 3-1 favorite, followed by Texas (5-1), UConn (6-1), Michigan St. (7-1), Villanova (10-1), Oklahoma 10-1, Louisville (10-1), Kentucky (10-1), and Arizona (12-1).

Yankees favored for 2006 Series

If you don't mind waiting until April (NCAA) or June (NBA) to cash a basketball ticket, then why not wait until next October to cash a baseball wager? World Series futures are also available, with the Yankees the 4-1 favorite, followed by the Cardinals (6-1), Red Sox (7-1), defending champion White Sox (10-1), Indians (10-1), Braves (10-1), Astros (10-1), Angels (12-1), Marlins (15-1), and Mets (15-1).

With the Red Sox and White Sox ending their long droughts in back-to-back years, a lot is being made of the Cubs' chances. LVSC has them at 16-1.

And then there were three . . .

The Nextel Chase for the Cup is down to the last three races, with this Sunday's event being the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Station Casinos auto racing oddsmaker Micah Roberts has Greg Biffle as the 6-1 favorite, with points leader Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson at 7-1. Carl Edwards, who won last week's race to get back in contention for the season-long title, is 12-1.

In the points race, Stewart is a slight favorite at +120 (the equivalent of 6-5 odds) with Johnson at +130. Biffle is the third choice at 4-1, though Roberts said if he made a prop on which driver would earn the most points in the last three races, Biffle would be the favorite, so he might be worth a bet at that price. Ryan Newman is 15-1, while Edwards is 30-1.