12/10/2003 12:00AM

Semifinal pits bettor against oddsmaker


LAS VEGAS - On Friday night at the Stardust sports book, a classic battle will take place between an oddsmaker and a sports bettor.

Ken White is the new front man for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, a premier oddsmaking company. His job is to make it difficult for bettors to beat the sports books. One such professional bettor is Fezzik (a one-word name like Cher or Madonna), whose job is to find any soft lines that the sports books post.

The two will meet in the semifinals of the Stardust Invitational football handicapping tournament, where they will reveal their top seven plays on the weekend card during a one-hour program in the sports book. The program will be broadcast live on KDWN AM-720 in nine western states and worldwide on www.kdwn.com.

The winner will advance to the finals of the $10,000 winner-take-all tournament next weekend against GamingToday managing editor David Stratton, who went 4-3 last week to defeat Ted Sevransky, the local handicapper who slipped to 3-4 after going 12-1-1 in his first two appearances.

While White has been a prominent figure in the Las Vegas sports betting industry for nearly 20 years, Fezzik has earned a reputation as one of the sharpest sports bettors in town in the two short years since he left his job as an actuary and vice president at a major insurance company.

"I've been intrigued with sports betting since I turned 21 and made my first visit to Las Vegas," said Fezzik, who lived and worked in California but found himself making more frequent visits to Vegas. "I spent a lot of years in corporate America, but I finally got to the point where I didn't want to get up at 7 a.m. every day to go to work. I wanted to set my own hours."

Fezzik, 40, quit his job in October 2001 and became part of blackjack expert Stanford Wong's Sharpsportsbetting.com venture. He is now affiliated with LVAsports.com with gaming expert Anthony Curtis, publisher of the popular Las Vegas Advisor newsletter.

Fezzik says his career as an actuary prepared him well for sports betting.

"What an actuary does is take data that is incomplete or imperfect and make projections on what will happen, or the probability of certain things happening," Fezzik said. "In handicapping football, you do the same thing. You have all these incomplete statistics and you have to make sense of it and try and predict a final score."

Fezzik has said on many occasions that he considers himself a bettor first and a handicapper second. With him, it's all about line value and getting the right number as opposed to analyzing the Xs and Os in a football matchup. Fezzik also said that although selections are sold at lvasports.com, the main focus is on educating bettors to make smarter wagers.

"There are really two things that can make a successful bettor," Fezzik said. "One is to be a very good handicapper and one is to know the numbers and find the lines that are off. Obviously, the most successful are the ones who can do both - they bet the right teams, and at the right time."

And what's the deal with his name?

"I started using it about five years ago," he said. "Fezzik was the character played by Andre the Giant in the movie 'The Princess Bride.' I weighed more at the time and I liked the lovable oaf. The name stuck."

That pretty much sums up Fezzik's approach. He's a serious gambler, but he has fun with it. And he's having fun in the Stardust Invitational, showing up with hair that looks like he stuck a finger in a light socket, tossing a UNLV hat into the crowd when he picked against the hometown Rebels, and joking about how his opponents have gone a combined 3-10-1 so far in the contest.

"I play good defense," said Fezzik, downplaying his 9-5 record (64 percent) in his first two appearances; he won his best bet both times. "I've been the underdog both times, but my high-flying opponents go up against me and hit a wall."

He will have to play good defense against White, who is a combined 21-7 so far in the tournament, including 3-1 on best bets. He had to go two extra weeks to eliminate Lem Banker in the first round, before going 6-1 in his last appearance to beat Jimmy Vaccaro's 5-2.

"Ken is depending on handicapping too much and letting those older guys run up and down the field on him - he's like the Rams," said Fezzik. "But seriously, Ken has done a great job, and based on their records, it really should be him and Teddy (Sevransky) in the finals, but I'm not laying down for anyone.

"This has been a lot of fun. A lot of time as a sports bettor you're on an island, but this has let me meet more people. Hopefully we give out a bunch of winners."

Fezzik will also be giving out something else Friday night, but we'll let that be another one of his secrets.

Other handicapping contests

"Peter and Paul" went 3-2 last week to regain first place in the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest over "Jarhead," who went 2-3. "Peter and Paul" have an overall record of 46-23-1 for 46 1/2 contest points (pushes are worth half a point). "Jarhead" is 43-22-5 for 45 1/2 points, just ahead of "betaadss.com" with 45. Stalking the leaders is "Azeri" - obviously a horse racing fan - at 44 1/2, followed by former pacesetter "thesportspage.com" at 44. First prize this year in the SuperContest, which drew a record 346 entries, is $207,600. This weekend starts a three-week $10,000 winner-take-all "mini-contest" for the 214 contestants that signed up before the Aug. 24 early-bird deadline.

* "Jarhead" might have slipped a little in the SuperContest, but he still holds the lead in the Station Casinos Gambler's Challenge, which has a field of 131 entries and a first-place prize of $65,500. His 2-3 mark left him at 44-22-4, good for 46 points, a game and a half in front of "Big Richie" and "AJ Sports" with 44.5.

* Selections for the leaders in both contests will be available in the respective sports books Friday afternoon.