07/07/2011 1:49PM

Wynn Las Vegas takes first legal wagers on World Series of Poker


LAS VEGAS – As of noon Thursday, the Main Event is under way.

For poker fans, that’s all I really have to say. For those who need more explanation, it’s the World Series of Poker’s $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Texas Hold’em Championship, the most coveted tournament title in the poker world, the one that started at Binion’s Horseshoe in 1970 and made legends of Doyle Brunson, Stu Ungar, Johnny Chan, Phil Helmuth, and the accountant/online poker player named Chris Moneymaker, who sparked the poker boom in 2003.

Okay, so we all know what I’m talking about. But here’s something even a lot of poker insiders don’t know: the Wynn Las Vegas sports book started taking the first legal bets on the Main Event this past Wednesday.

For years, many people assumed there was legal betting on the World Series of Poker, which is now held at the Rio, but that hasn’t been the case (we will leave the discussion of illegal betting and side bets among players for another time). In fact, most people are surprised to hear that Nevada sports books have been prohibited from taking bets on a lot of things that you hear from offshore and English books,such as elections, TV reality shows, the Heisman Award, Super Bowl MVP, etc. Those fall under things that are determined by a vote and Gaming Regulation 22.120 had previously banned those because there could be someone who has “inside information” with knowledge of the results and could take advantage of the books. The prohibition was a direct result of when Sonny Reizner, bookmaker at the Castaways on the Las Vegas Strip (where the Mirage now stands) posted odds on “Who Shot J.R.?” from the “Dallas” TV show in 1980. The Gaming Control Board made him stop taking the bets, though Reizner still benefited from the enormous publicity he received. Again, the reasoning would be that obviously the writers, directors, actors, stagehands, etc. would know the answer and could make bets or have someone make wagers for them.

Anyway, those bets were not allowed here for decades, but the Gaming Control Board loosened its rules this past January as long as casinos submitted proposals and went through a long list of procedures before being approved to post wagers. It’s unlikely we will see any odds on TV shows, especially the taped ones, but John Avello of Wynn Las Vegas was the first to be given approval to offer World Series of Poker wagering on Tuesday and posted five props on Wednesday.

“It was a back-and-forth process for two months,” Avello said. “We sent them our proposed wagers and house rules and they sent back revisions and we worked it out.”

David Salas, deputy chief in the Gaming Control Board’s enforcement division, confirmed Wednesday that no other casinos have been granted permission to accept World Series of Poker wagers.

“All the bets offered by the Wynn have been vetted out and are compliant with 22.120,” said Salas, who added that other casinos would need to seek approval at this time to offer the same bets.

Here are the opening odds for the Wynn’s five prop bets, starting with the simplest and going to the most complex:

◗ Will the champion be born before Jan., 1984?

Yes Even

No -120

◗ Will a woman finish in the top 40?

Yes -130

No +110

◗ Will at least one of these players finish in the money? (Johnny Chan, Allen Cunningham, Erik Seidel)?

Yes -160

No +140

◗ Will at least one of these seven men last longer than any woman? (Humberto Brenes, Johnny Chan, Allen Cunningham, Phil Helmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, Erik Seidel)

Yes Even

No -120

◗ Player from which group will last the longest?

New School -105

Old School -115

(“Old School” players include Billy Baxter, David Benyamine, Chris Bjorin, Andy Bloch, Johnny Chan, Allen Cunningham, Freddy Deeb, Barry Greenstein, Dan Harrington, Phil Helmuth, Mike Matusow, Scotty Nguyen, Erik Seidel; “New School” players are Matt Affleck, Patrick Antonious, Eric Baldwin, Jonathan Duhumel, Tom Dwan, Peter Eastgate, Bertrand Grospelier, Eugene Katchalov, Jason Mercer, Michael Mizrachi, Scott Montgomery, Annette Obrestad, John Racener)

All bets closed at noon Thursday with the start of the Main Event. As the deadline was approaching, Avello said he has been getting good, balanced action and has only had to adjust two lines: the odds on a woman to finish in the top 40 are now -110 each way and the odds on the group of seven men vs. “any woman” is down to yes -130/no +110.

“It’s interesting that they’re betting against a woman making the top 40 but betting that a woman will outlast those seven men,” Avello said.

It’s not likely the same people are making those bets as you could lose both (for instance, if a woman outlast those seven men but finishes 41st or worse.

One question on a lot of people’s minds is how many contestants will enter the Main Event, which actually has four Day 1’s running through Sunday due to the size of the field. It used to number in the hundreds; in fact, Moneymaker topped a field of 839 in 2002 and it exploded to 2,576 in 2003 and increased every year before topping out at 8,773 in 2006. After that, a combination of the Rio not taking third-party registrations from offshore poker websites and the overall downturn in the economy has seen entries stagnate and drop a little before rebounding last year with 7,319 entrants. The shutdown of the three biggest poker sites on April 15 has also led to uncertainty of how many will enter this year. But there isn’t a prop on that, as well as no individual odds to win the tournament.

“With something like this, we’re getting started with baby steps,” Avello said. “If this goes well, we’ll do a lot more with the November Nine and I’m sure a lot of other books will get in the game, too.”