04/17/2007 11:00PM

Try to buck trends, not follow them


LAS VEGAS - The key to winning at the races is finding horses before the rest of the public.

Taking a stand with your opinions gives you a head-start on the competition, who will be late to the party. Last year, think of how much better it was to have Bernardini at 12-1 to win the Preakness instead of the odds-on prices he commanded in his next three starts. And with much higher odds, you don't have to be right as often.

The same premise holds true in sports betting. Just like after a horse race when a railbird will say, "I knew that horse had a shot; I should have bet him" you hear sports bettors all the time saying, "I knew that was going to happen."

And generally, when you miss out on the start of a hot team or trend, it's best not to jump in after the fact. Once everyone knows about something, the oddsmakers adjust and the value is gone.

One of the most popular things I write every week of the pro football season is a recap of trends from the previous week. Readers love to see if the favorites have been covering, or if the overs or unders are dominating, or any other trends I'm able to cull from the week's action or over the course of several weeks. A few times a year I like to throw in a caveat that the trends are just as likely to reverse as they are to continue, especially as more people become aware of them. Jumping in late means you're usually betting an inflated line or price, basically taking the worst of it.

This is all a long-winded way of getting around to what got me thinking about all this in the first place.

Unders in baseball have been golden the first two-plus weeks of the season. Pitchers are often ahead of hitters at this time of year, but the inclement weather around the country has kept scoring down so far.

Through the first 10 days of the season, there were only two days in which there were more overs than unders, and unders were rolling along at a 63-42 clip (60 percent) after tossing out the five pushes. Then, last Wednesday, the unders went 10-3-1 and then topped that by going 6-0 on Thursday to improve to 79-45-5 (64 percent) overall. Under bettors were cleaning up.

If you were sitting on the sidelines and not betting the unders, it was very tempting to jump in at that point, but there's no such thing as easy money because market forces will inevitably level the playing field. Besides, it always pays to keep in mind the Wall Street mantra: past performance is no guarantee of future results.

If you played all the unders since that day, you would have gone 5-8 on Friday the 13th (another reason not to push your luck), 6-6 on Saturday, 3-6 on Sunday, 5-4 on Monday, and 5-6 on Tuesday. Just one winning day - barely - out of five. That coincides with oddsmakers dropping totals by a half-run in a lot of cases, which resulted in eight pushes in those five days as opposed to just six pushes in the first 12 days.

So, the moral of the story is that if you have an opinion, it's better to back it with cash sooner rather than later. He who hesitates is lost.

With oddsmakers looking to stem the flow of cash on the unders, and with the weather (presumably) about the get nicer, it would be advisable to instead try to figure out when the overs might start cashing in bunches.

No more Arabian Nights

The Aladdin Resort & Casino officially had its name changed to Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on Tuesday night.

Besides a Middle Eastern theme, the Aladdin was known for being the site of the 1967 wedding between Elvis Presley and the former Priscilla Beaulieu and, well, not much else.

All of the Aladdin signage and decorations (magic carpets, genie lamps, etc.) have been removed with a brighter, more-hip motif in place. Many of the 2,500 hotel rooms are being remodeled with movie memorabilia, just like the Planet Hollywood restaurants.

Opening ceremonies had a Hollywood celebrity feel, with appearances by actor Bruce Willis, model-actress Carmen Electra, boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, tennis legend Pete Sampras, and future Hall of Fame pitcher Roger Clemens.

Planet Hollywood co-chairman Robert Earl said Tuesday night was just a soft opening and the grand opening would be Sept. 28-29 with a lot more celebrities.

Planet Hollywood has a new 10-table poker room with a new race and sports book expected to be ready by June.

Point-shaving charges dropped for now

On Wednesday, the charges against Toledo running back Harvey "Scooter" McDougle were dismissed in a Detroit court, but federal attorneys warned that it's just a procedural move and that they expect to refile charges at a later date.

McDougle was arrested on March 30 and charged with participating in a bribery scheme to influence college football and basketball games. According to the motion to dismiss, "The government needs additional time to investigate the full extent of the offense(s) in question and identify all other individuals who should be held criminally responsible for the offense(s)."

In addition, the motion stated, "The government's ability to prosecute this case properly would be substantially impaired were it required to proceed to indictioins within the 30-day period prescribed by the Speedy Trial Act."

McDougle is accused of meeting with Detroit-area gambler Ghazi "Gary" Manni and recruiting other Toledo athletes to take part in the scheme. No accusations have surfaced about games being lost on purpose, but instead just to ensure the point spreads were covered. The 2005 Toledo football season, which included several big line moves and unlikely results, has invited the most scrutiny.