05/22/2002 11:00PM

Take a dip; just try not to take a bath


The saying in Chicago, my hometown, is that there are two seasons: winter and construction.

There's more of an overlap of the seasons in Las Vegas, and that's not because many here think of the four seasons as football, basketball, hockey, and baseball. Our winters don't even deserve that name in most northerners' mind; most hotel swimming pools don't even close.

But the pools here get much more use during the summer, and the Tropicana hotel-casino offers swim-up blackjack in its pool starting on Saturday. Two tables, accommodating seven players each, are open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day through Halloween.

The Hard Rock and the Palms also have pool-side gaming tables. It's for people who want to take a dip and get some sun, but don't want to waste time away from their main reason for coming to Vegas - to gamble. Dealers have towels and dryers if your money gets wet, but they won't launder it for you.

Swimming pools are being used for more and more promotions, for locals and tourists alike. Here's a list of the pool parties this summer:

Daily: Green Valley Ranch (Whiskey Beach), from 7 p.m. to whenever, free admission; Polo Towers (Hush Lounge), 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., $10 (local women free with ID).

Tuesday: Palms (Skin Pool Lounge), 9 p.m. to whenever, $10 and up, depending on entertainment booked for that night; Orleans, starting June 4, 7 to 10:30 p.m., $2 for women, $5 for men (includes two drinks and food).

Wednesday: Hard Rock (Pink Beach), starting June 5, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m., ladies free, men $10 (includes two drinks), men in uniform admitted free; Suncoast, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m., $2 for women, $5 for men (includes two drinks and food).

Friday: Palms (Skin Pool Lounge), 7 p.m. to whenever, $10 and up, depending on entertainment booked for that night.

Also, the Las Vegas Hilton has scheduled pool parties for three weekends (June 21-22, July 19-20, and Aug. 16-17), from noon to 10 p.m. There will be a disk jockey from noon to 6 p.m. and a live band from 6 to 10 p.m. Cost is $20, which includes all food, beer, soda, and water).

Drive time

The Indianapolis 500 will be run Memorial Day. This year's race starts at 9:05 a.m. Pacific and begins a full day of action for auto racing fans. The day is capped off by NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 at 5:15 p.m.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants made Brazilian Gil De Ferren the 4-1 favorite to win the Indy 500, followed by Brazil's Helio Castroneves (5-1), USA's Scott Sharp (6-1), USA's Sam Hornish (7-1), and Brazil's Bruno Junqueira (8-1). Station Casinos has Castroneves as the 9-2 top choice, while the Palms has de Ferren and Castoneves the co-favorites at 11-2.

The rivalry between the American and Brazilian drivers has prompted Station Casinos to put up a prop in which you pick the country of the winning driver. Brazil is the -200 favorite (bet $2 to win $1) while the USA is +250 and the rest of the field is +350.

Station Casinos also has a prop on the starting position of the winner - 10th through 15th, which includes de Ferren, Castroneves and Al Unser Jr. is the even-money favorite - and nine head-to-head driver matchups.

In the Coca-Cola 600, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the 4-1 favorite at Stations, followed by Tony Stewart (5-1) - who decided to pass on running in both big races this year -Jeff Gordon (6-1), and Las Vegan Kurt Busch (8-1). Jeff Burton, who won this race last year and also in 1999, is 16-1.

Station has 10 head-to-head matchups, plus props on the winning manufacturer (GM is -120, Ford or Dodge is -110), over/under lap leaders (over 12 1/2 is -130 with the under at even-money) and Robby Gordon's finish position (1 through 28 is -120, 29 through 43 is -110).

Playoff season

After taking the middle of the week off, the Lakers-Kings series, tied at a game apiece, continues in Los Angeles with games Friday and Sunday. The Lakers were 8-2 straight up in the playoffs heading into Friday's game but only 2-7-1 vs. the spread. The Lakers know how to win close games but don't always cover. I lean toward the Kings on Sunday. In the Eastern Conference final, also tied 1-1, the Nets are 4 1/2-point underdogs at the Celtics Saturday, and also warrant a look as a road dog.

* In the NHL, the Avalanche lost a great opportunity to take control of their series with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Red Wings Wednesday night. I liked the Avs in this series, but it's hard to lay -120 on them in Saturday's game 4. The total (5 goals, with the under having to lay as high as -150 at most sports books) is also unplayable. The Hurricanes-Maple Leafs series returns to Carolina Saturday night, but no odds had been set pending Thursday night's game 4 in Toronto.

* Las Vegas Sports Consultants had Tiger Woods as the 2-1 favorite to win this weekend's Memorial Tournament at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. By the time you read this, you will know if Woods is in contention, but 2-1 seems like an overlay considering he has won the tourney the past three years.