11/16/2005 1:00AM

Why some big bettors prefer hoops

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One of the keys to winning at gambling - whether we're talking sports, horse racing, or casino games - is to get as much money down when the odds are in your favor, or at least when the house's edge is minimized.

Part of the reason football is so hard to beat - in addition to there being so much information available that the oddsmakers' lines are pretty sharp - is that there are not enough games on the board in a given year.

If you're trying to beat the NFL, there are only 256 regular-season games and just 11 playoff games. Even if you count college football, with 119 teams playing an average of 12 games, that still leaves you with less than 1,000 opportunities to bet, even after adding in the college bowl games.

That's why a lot of professional bettors actually prefer to make their money on baseball (2,430 regular-season games) or basketball (1,230 regular-season games in the NBA and several thousand more in college basketball based on 235 board teams playing about 30 games apiece).

To make this point clearer: By Monday night, all NFL teams will have played 10 games in the past 2 1/2 months. By the end of this weekend, most NBA teams will also be playing their 10th game - and the NBA season started Nov. 1.

With an early look around the NBA, the Pistons have broken out of the gate with seven straight wins through Tuesday night and they were 5-2 against the spread. The Cavaliers and the defending champion Spurs were 6-2, both straight-up and against the spread.

The Heat, playing without Shaquille O'Neal, was actually off to a decent start at 5-3 in the standings but were 2-6 against the spread. But that's a great spread record compared to the Raptors, who were 0-7 both straight-up and against the spread. Other underperforming teams against the line were the Bulls (1-5) and the Hawks (2-5).

In totals wagering, the 76ers were 6-1 with the over, followed by the Bucks (5-1 after having their first under on Tuesday), Seattle (5-2), and the Hornets and Nets (both 5-2-1).

The top under teams were the Nuggets (6-2), Warriors (6-2), and Lakers (5-2).

Leroy's contestants fit to be tied

When the Leroy's Money Talks Invitational was set up this year, the plan was to eliminate the chance of a weekly matchup ending in a tie, which seems to happen a few times a year in the Stardust Invitational with each handicapper making seven picks a week with a best bet to be used as a tiebreaker.

Marketing director Jimmy Vaccaro set it up that each handicapper in the Money Talks contest would make seven picks with them graded from $110 to win $100 for the first selection and up to $770 to win $700 for the best bet. And the records wouldn't determine the winner, just the money won or lost.

So, which contest do you think had a tie first this year?

Leroy's, of course. Last weekend, "Doc" Moseman of Doc's Sports went 5-2, winning his $770, $440, $330, $220, and $110 plays, while bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich went 4-3, winning his $660, $550, $440, and $220 plays. When the arithmetic was done, both had a net profit of exactly $490. They will give out seven more plays on Friday night at the Riviera sports book, which will be broadcast on KDWN AM-720 and kdwn.com

The regularly scheduled quarterfinal match will feature Bryan Leonard of footballwinner.com vs. Alf Musketa of vegasinsider.com.

* In the Stardust tournament, which hasn't had a tie so far this season, radio broadcaster Steve Cofield will face handicapper Tim Trushel of sportsmemo.com in the Stardust sports book at 9 p.m., which will be broadcast on KDWN. Last week, Marc Lawrence went 4-2-1 to eliminate defending champion "Big" Al McMordie, who went 3-3-1.

Sports book notes

Oh, how the Eagles have fallen. Before the season, the Eagles were among the favorites to win the Super Bowl, in the 4-1 to 5-1 range. Now, the 4 and 5 numbers refers to their record, and they can be found at 20-1 or higher to win the Super Bowl at Vegas sports books.

And how much of a difference does quarterback Donovan McNabb's injury make? On Sunday, the Imperial Palace, Las Vegas Hilton, and Stratosphere put up odds on this week's Eagles-Giants game with the Giants favored at either -3 or -3 1/2. After Wednesday's announcement that McNabb will miss Sunday's game, the line is now between Giants -7 and -8.

* It's not Jermain Taylor-Bernard Hopkins - next Saturday's rematch for the undisputed middleweight title with the odds right around pick-em at most books - but this weekend's top boxing match is Floyd Mayweather vs. Sharmba Mitchell at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore. Mayweather is around a 1-9 favorite, or -900, with Mitchell around 7-1 to pull the upset. It's not a marquee matchup, but since it's on HBO and not pay-per-view, it can be seen in most sports books.

* The Nextel Cup season ends Sunday night with the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Station Casinos has Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle as the 7-1 co-favorites. Stations opened Tony Stewart as the third choice at 8-1, but with him only needing to finish ninth or better to clinch the series points championship, his odds have been raised to 9-1. The race could be anti-climactic if Stewart is able to play it safe, but if he gets knocked out early by an accident or car trouble, that would open the door for the other contenders in the series points championship and make for a wild finish.