Are you a fan or a gambler? A not-so-great moment in Big ‘Cap betting history …

Back in the day, the Santa Anita Handicap was one of the first major events that attracted me to the sport, er, gambling outlet of horse racing.

When I was a kid, most of my fellow teenagers played Nintendo. But I sweated whether Alysheba could hold off his nemesis Ferdinand in the Big ‘Cap.

Those days gradually gave way to only caring about the Big ‘Cap as it pertained to betting. Nostalgia be damned. By my late teens and early 20s, I couldn’t care less who won so long as I won my bet.

So, you’ll have to pardon me if I’m feeling more like sharing my fondest gambling memories of the Big ‘Cap and not some artistic remembrance of a past winner storming down the stretch of The Great Race Place while grown men in the crowd wept in disbelief at the beauty of the running thoroughbreds before them.

When I think of the Big ‘Cap, one memory comes to mind. It centers around one of the best yet simple philosophical questions I’ve ever heard asked at the track. And I’ve heard many.

The year was 1996 and the story centers around a character that those who work at TVG will know as “Laz” but back then was dubbed “Flyin’ J. Brian” by me and racetrack crew. Yes, there was also a talented thoroughbred sprinter around that time named Fly’n J. Bryan. The other major player in the story is a local jockey and one-time TV personality who we’ll call “Iggy.”

The combination of the three of us was a hot mess. We were three of a dying breed back then – guys in their late teens and early 20s fully consumed by the track. That breed is now extinct.

Anyway, for weeks leading up to the ’96 Big ‘Cap, Flyin’ J. Brian was touting long shot Mr. Purple. Almost every other thing that came out of his mouth for nearly a month was Mr. Purple-related. But once race day arrived, one of Flyin’ J. Brian’s biggest problems – hanging onto his money for longer than an hour after he came through the turnstile – reared its ugly head.

Back then, the concept of Santa Anita allowing its fans to bet on the races from up north was still new. It was simply too much for guys like Flyin’ J. Brian to bear. And predictably, long before the Big ‘Cap field took to the track for the seventh race of the day, Flyin’ J. Brian was busted out. That made for several hours of him pleading with Iggy to loan him money.

Finally, just minutes before post, Flyin’ J. Brian pushed too far, asking Iggy one too many times for a loan. It prompted Iggy to respond with an utterance that deserves to be put on a plaque, bronzed and placed somewhere next to Seabiscuit’s statue at Santa Anita.

“Are you a fan or a gambler?” Iggy asked.

Translated it means: Sit here and watch the horse you’ve been touting forever win the biggest race of the year at long-shot odds while you’re tapped, you degenerate idiot.

Soon, the starting gate opened. And if any of you have ever been in Flyin’ J. Brian’s shoes, you know what happened next … and it did. Mr. Purple circled the field on the far turn, took the lead at the top of the stretch and rolled home to an easy win at odds of 18-1.

What should have been a victorious procession to the betting window to collect a handsome return turned into an angry exit by Flyin’ J. Brian. Nobody knows for sure, but some accounts had him in the infield later that day kicking over trash cans.

Me? I cashed a nice Pick 3 only because I used Mr.Purple, who I did not like but felt compelled to throw in on my ticket.

You may not know it, but scenes similar to the one I just described will play out all over the track today. It’s part of what makes the racetrack culture so unique. Some of what you see on HBO’s “Luck” isn’t too big of a stretch.

Santa Anita will no doubt attract a lot of fans who make Big ‘Cap Day one of only a few trips to the racetrack per year. If you’re one of them, you probably don’t need to ask yourself whether you’re a fan or gambler.

But if you’re one of us who take it a bit more seriously than that, then embracing who you are, a gambler, may actually help you not follow Flyin’ J. Brian’s lead, and that could mean being in position to leave the track today with an epic Big ‘Cap score based on your handicapping convictions.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

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Santa Anita Handicap to go as the 11th and final race on Saturday (first time in history that’s happened) …

Brilliant move by Santa Anita Park to card the Big Cap as the last race on Saturday.

Nobody’s going home until Ultimate Eagle (your 5-2 morning line favorite) says so.

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Offshore sportsbook Bodog seized by feds, indictments issued …

Anybody who knows me knows that I think the dumbest thing in the world (beside having a Facebook account) is to front your money and bet with an offshore sportsbook … please pay particular attention to the first part of that statement … the part about “front your money”.

Further proof of why it’s a bad idea came on Tuesday when popular offshore book Bodog was seized by the feds and indictments were handed down to its owner/operators.

In case some of you haven’t figured it out yet, ALL of the major books will one day be seized. If yours hasn’t yet, it’s coming. At that point, you wonder about your money.

If you played at Millenium Sports (or BetMill) a few years ago, you know it’s a valid concern. Don’t even get me started on those who played at the poker sites like Full Tilt. It’s real simple, do things the old-fashioned way and head to Vegas … or make other arrangements.

I spoke to a friend who has a Bodog account and he informed that the book is still operating, but under a slightly different url.

We all know that sports betting should be legalized. There’s nothing that makes it right when you cross an imaginary line the desert and get into Vegas. There’s also no difference between betting on sports and the state-sponsored lotteries, the crook/government-manipulated stock market and horse racing.

Until the powers that be wake up, and it’ll probably be a while, try not to get yourself beat without even making a bet by fronting your cash at one of these offshore shops.

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These World Series bets offer a chance for bettors to hit it out of the park …

Around this time every year, sports columnists across the country dig down deep for some worthless play on words about how it’s almost spring and baseball season is near.

A wasted four years for a journalism degree leads to the same contrived poetic diarrhea splashed across sports pages and websites everywhere. But around here, for me anyway, spring training means one thing – it’s time to bet baseball futures.

Ahh, the smell of the fresh-cut grass. The sound of the ball off the wooden bet. Yawn.

Odds to win the World Series. Yippee.

There truly is no time like the present to lock in the great prices that abound across the sports betting landscape as it pertains to the World Series odds. That will be the focus of today’s piece. But there’s a caveat … and it could prove to be a costly one.

For the sake of trying to make a score and to also capitalize on a growing trend in pro sports, we’re going to cut our shopping list down to teams only listed at odds of 10-to-1 or greater. Anything less, and we don’t consider it.

Before delving into the selections, let’s examine the two previous statements: “trying to make a score” and “capitalize on a growing trend in pro sports.” They kind of go hand in hand.

Recently, championship winners across all pro sports have been of the long-shot variety. Monster payoffs could have been had on the Giants (NFL), Cardinals (MLB), and Mavericks (NBA) if you bet at the right time. Think about it, the Giants were 50-1 to win the Super Bowl in late November before putting together an amazing streak to win the title and reward backers handsomely.

The Cardinals’ odds of winning the 2011 World Series were astronomical in August of that season, but they came on strong and improbably won it all.

The Mavericks offered a hefty price at the start of last year’s NBA playoffs. Very few people had them pegged to even reach the finals, let alone beat the Miami Heat.

Long-shot winners have been the trend, so we’re going to ride it and hope it keeps going. That’s why anything less than 10-1 is out of consideration.

And anyway, who wants to lock up their money for the next eight months just to get a return of 4-1 on the Phillies (this year’s favorite)?

Conversely, because of the high odds and low probability of actually winning, we will not be making big bets on ANY of the following selections.

So don’t go raiding your 401k (or what’s left of it) to get down on these plays. They’re not those type of bets. The spirit of these wagers are small money to win big money.

1. Boston Red Sox, Odds: 10-1. Right at our cutoff, but we’re going to bite here on the Red Sox when everybody is seemingly off them. Considering that the AL East is no slam dunk for anybody, with the Yankees always formidable and the Rays always ignitable, the Red Sox are just as good as anybody with the potential to be better than all of their division mates.

The rotation is the key here. With Clay Buchholz supposedly healthy and Josh Beckett and Jon Lester already in tow, the Red Sox figure to have one of the top rotations in all of baseball. And that’s important because we have little doubt about the offense. There’s legit speed with Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury. There’s pop with Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez.

And in Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia, there’s two MVP-caliber players in the everyday lineup.

The Red Sox are not being priced as an elite team going into the season, perhaps because of the horrific way last year ended followed by the exits of the team’s manager and general manager. But a fresh start may mean a spark, and we absolutely love Bobby Valentine piloting the ship.

To be getting this type of talent several pegs above where the New York Yankees, Angels, Detroit Tigers and Phillies are currently priced is a steal.

2. Cincinnati Reds, Odds 20-1. A lot of good it does you now to hear that last year we had some nice Milwaukee Brewers money in our wallets at 35-1, which we were able to hedge out and turn a nice profit with when the Brew Crew reached the NLCS. Much of the same principles that went into that bet are in play here for the Reds.

The NL Central is quite simply there for Cincy’s taking. And if they do that, your ticket is punched to the postseason where 20-1 will look like a bargain.

The NL, as a whole, is no great shakes. We wouldn’t even rank the aging Phillies (with Ryan Howard still hurting) up there with the Angels, Yankees, Red Sox, Texas Rangers and quite possibly the Detroit Tigers. But the fact the NL is no great shakes is actually a positive for us as it pertains to this bet. Somebody has to win it, and the Reds look to be the next-best team behind the Phillies.

Adding Mat Latos to the rotation in the offseason was huge. Granted, Latos’ numbers will take a hit as he’s now in a hitter’s park in a hitter’s division. But now that the Reds have a solid No. 2 in Latos behind No. 1 Johnny Cueto, they can use the back end of the rotation to simply eat innings and keep things cool in games where their offense can pick up the pieces.

Joey Votto is one of the top hitters in the entire sport. There’s ample speed to set him up. There’s another solid power bat in Jay Bruce, who is the type of player that will one of these years post a magical-type of season.

No team in the Central is as complete as the Reds, so the generous odds being offered on this likely division winner is a must grab.

3. San Francisco Giants, Odds 15-1.
Three years ago, the Giants won 88 games.

Two years ago, they won 92 and the World Series. Last year, they won 86. We think that finishing with any of those win totals this season just might win them the shaky NL West this year.

One of the things we like to look for when taking big odds to win the World Series is a team that we feel can, or is very likely to, win its division and at least get into the postseason dance. Our first two selections both have strong chances to do that, as do the Giants simply on process of elimination.

Hey, Arizona won this division last year. What’s that tell you? It tells us that had Giants star-in-the-making Buster Posey not gotten hurt and played in only 45 games, this team very well could have won the division again.

So now we have the Giants, having added solid players like Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera to the everyday lineup, and getting Posey back to make the offense better on paper than it was even during the World Series season two years ago.

The beautiful thing about this bet is if we can just get the Giants into the playoffs, then we start to really like our chances at these great odds when the pitchers presumably taking the mound in October are guys like Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner.

The only NL West team whose everyday lineup got markedly better when compared to last year is the Giants. The pitching is still among the league’s best and now the hitting is that much better, making 15-1 on this very likely division winner well worth a shot.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

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It’s time to start thinking about MLB futures … and there’s already one prop bet that’s a STEAL!

On Friday, I will have a column about three excellent value bets to win the World Series.

The mere mention of such a thing should tell you it’s time to start doing your MLB futures shopping.

I have already begun. But before I tell you about the big play I’ve already made, let me first tell you that when it comes to any kind of totals betting, my natural inclination is to ALWAYS LEAN UNDER.

If I find myself making more than five OVER plays in a year on anything, be it a game total or a futures total or a prop bet total, then I know I’m off my game.

When you play UNDER, you force “things” to happen in order to beat you. When you play OVER, you “NEED THINGS” to happen in order to win. No bueno.

“Make them beat you” … that’s my motto when it comes to OVER/UNDER betting.

In that spirit, I have uncovered what I feel is an excellent opportunity in the MLB futures market. Hopefully, your book has this bet available to you. Most of them should.

The bet is ….

UNDER 61 1/2 STOLEN BASES by a player this season. The juice on this is -115.

I absolutely love this bet. Last year, Michael Bourn led the league in steals with 61. So it stands to reason the books would put out a number of 61 1/2 on this bet. Take the high-water mark from last year, add a hook to it and let the bettors bet.

This is a horrible mistake on their part … and they don’t make many. The next-highest steals total last year was 49 apiece by Coco Crisp and Brett Gardner. That’s a pretty big gap between the steals leader (Bourn) at 61 and second place at 49.

This should tell you that probably Bourn and maybe one or two others (presumably Gardner and somebody else) are the only ones with a realistic chance to cross 50 in 2012.

But basically, this bet centers around Bourn. Of this year’s group of speedsters, he’s the clear front runner to again lead the league in steals. But problems abound; Bourn isn’t a great hitter (he’s yet to hit .300 or better in four full MLB seasons). Nor is he a great OBP guy. And worst of all, Bourn is going from the hitter-friendly, pitching-void NL Central to the NL East. That means he will now see plenty of ABs this season against the Phillies’ strong rotation … and that means his numbers are heading south.

You can forget about Bourn hitting .294 with an OBP of .349 again this season. His numbers are very likely to dip now that he gets exposure against the likes of Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Josh Johnson, Johan Santana and Strasburg.

The other thing about speedsters is that they’re fragile. If a stolen base guy has any kind of injury, mild or serious, to his legs, you can forget about him running free. Any type of injury to their hands, arms or shoulders are also detrimental because these guys are typically not strong enough hitters overcome discomfort with strength. It just doesn’t happen.

Speedsters, by nature, are among the most fragile guys in the game. And while we don’t wish injury on anybody, we also realize this is a type of player that tends to get little tweaks more than others.

Setting the line at 61 1/2 has left the books little margin for error. There aren’t as many pure speed guys in the league as there were even two years ago. And the main one, Bourn, has now gone from the hitter-friendly division to 18 games against the league’s best staff. Numbers don’t tend to rise under those conditions.

Beside Gardner, we’re having a hard time to find another threat to steal over 50 bags. Gardner could push for 60 if everything goes right for him. So could Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury, if he reverts to ’09 form. But we don’t see that happening because the presence of a secondary speedster (Carl Crawford) in the Red Sox line up actually slows Ellsbury down.

It’s been my observation that an abundance of speed in a lineup actually spreads the wealth instead of keeping it one place.

Given this year’s field of speedsters, this number seems a bit high and a bit focused around one player — Bourn. I’ll take my chances his numbers fall this summer and after him, there just isn’t anything there that I feel can beat me.

(As always, we don’t share the delight your profits, nor do we feel the pain of your losses, so PLEASE do your own due diligence before making a bet.)

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

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Aram gives into Lin hype, takes position in Knicks at 30-1 to win NBA title …


I stand to Lin $3k if Knicks win NBA title.

I just did it. Couldn’t resist. I’ve bought into the Jeremy Lin hype by risking $100 to win $3,000 on the New York Knicks to win the NBA title.

Obviously, this is a pipe dream. Obviously, despite the glamorous number odds of 30-1, this is a terrible value. The line should be more than double that. BUT, I am making this bet partly because of Lin and partly because of something else.

I believe the Knicks will have arguably the best front line in the league when they’re totally healthy. Lin will likely continue to do his thing at the point and I kinda get the vibe that Melo’s return won’t be a disaster that puts the kibosh on Lin. If anything, you might see Melo play some of his best hoops ever.

At 30-1, the value is just about gone, but I think there’s just enough left to force a bet for small money. Remember, the recent theme in pro sports has been for the longshot to win the championship. Think Mavs last year, think Cards in MLB. think Giants in NFL. No reason Knicks can’t follow that trend, or at least give me a nice for my money.

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DRF’s Brad Free hits $41k Pick 6 on $20 investment …

DRF’s SoCal handicapper, and I believe former Pasadena Star-News employee, was one of the winners in last Sunday’s Pick 6.

That’s pretty remarkable by itself, but when you consider Free’s ticket cost him a measly $20, then it gets downright epic.

Free’s ticket: 5 by 2 by SINGLE by SINGLE by SINGLE by SINGLE = $20.

Free’s haul: $41,418.40

You can read all about it HERE.

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Commerce Casino is LA’s place for Tournament Poker

The Commerce Casino is in the middle of the L.A. Poker Classic, which continues through the end of the month. Here on the blog, we will highlight some of the top events going on at the casino. One of the more interesting events is the Knockout Bounty No-Limit Hold’em event takes place on Feb. 17 at 1 p.m. What make the event great is you get paid $100 for every player you knockout of the event. Aggressive players have an edge in this tournament. But as all that play in tournaments know, one bad push of the chips could mean a quick exit.

Tournament entry is $340
Starting on Feb. 18, the $100,000 Two-Day No-Limit Hold’em with rebuys event starts at 1 p.m. Tournament entry is $125 with rebuys allowed during the first four levels at $100 each.
For a complete list of the daily events, click here.    
These events all lead up to the 6-day, $10,000 entry, World Poker Tour No Limit Hold’em Championship which kicks off on Feb. 24. The event is televised. There are many satellites scheduled so you can earn your way into the event. 
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HBO’s LUCK after three episodes: It’s dark and getting darker … but I like that!

Fortunately for HBO, I have no life. And I have the past experience of throwing in the towel early on shows like ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ only to later be calling both the best shows I’ve ever seen. So, that means I’m likely to stick with HBO’s ‘Luck’ until the bitter end. As for others, I don’t see it happening.

We are now three episodes into the much-hyped horse racing drama and I still have ZERO clue what Dustin Hoffman’s character is all about. Uh, he’s not a rat. He’s chairman of the board somewhere. He owns a $2 million racehorse. So why the hell do I care? I don’t think I or anyone should be this lost this far in about the supposed main character.

That’s flaw No. 1 with the show. But beyond that, I don’t find any of the characters outside of ‘Turo Escalante’ to be the least bit interesting. Gary Stevens is playing himself. Great. The degenerate crew who hit the Pick 6 and still live in a motel are cute, but you’re not exactly capturing the imagination of the masses by having their next caper be owning a horse race. Thrilling.

Nick Nolte’s character. Well, I don’t even know his name. And each time Nolte raises his voice and starts cursing, I get bad memories of ‘The Prince of Tides.’

That brings us to Turo Escalante. This is my favorite character and that’s only because Santa Anita head of PR Mike Willman told me the character is based on real-life trainer Julio Canani. I’ve always found Canani to be very interesting. Don’t know why. Whenever I see him interact with people at the track, I can tell NOBODY trusts him but EVERYBODY kinda likes him.

Actor John Ortiz is hitting it out of the park with this character. It’s very easy to ALREADY understand what the character is all about and through three episodes, every part of him has been executed perfectly. What Turo Escalante does next is probably the only reason I remain excited to watch.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably like me and have extensive experience at the race track and its many interesting aspects. If you’re not like me and are essentially a novice, then this probably isn’t the show that’s going to get you hooked on horse racing.

Think about it, desperate race track execs were hoping this would be the sport’s e-ticket into the mainstream. Think ‘Rounders’ but for horse racing. But so far the show has taught/reminded us that trainers do shady things to cash winning tickets for THEMSELVES, the only way anyone can win is to get lucky and that horses can sometimes snap a limb and die right there on the race track. Oh yeah, and jockeys can crack their heads open by sitting in a sweat box trying to pull weight for too long.

If that sounds like something you’re interested in, then come on down to Santa Anita with your gambling dollar Wednesday Thursday-Sunday … just don’t forget to bring $5 to park your car. Another $5-$12 to actually get in. Another $2-$8 to get a program and some form past performances.

All of this brings me to Luck producer/writer David Milch. I give him credit for tackling something nobody has ever tackled — the abundantly seedy side of the sport. Granted, much of what you see in Luck happens to be Milch’s own interpretation of that element. We all have our own.

If you’ve lost enough photo finishes, then you know movies like ‘Seabiscuit’ and ‘Secretariat’ do little to move your own personal needle. The horse racing fan in everyone dies a little bit with each hundred-dollar bill he/she sends through the window only to never see it return.

I got my start in horse racing because of Sunday Silence. I was the fat kid stuffed into a suit sitting in the Hollywood Park Turf Club with tears in my eyes when Prized beat Sunday Silence in the Swaps … frickin’ Siegel. Through the years, the more money I lost the less the Sunday Silences of the world mattered. (If any of you take umbrage with that line of thinking, please get off my blog and never come back).

So in the sense that Milch is trying to portray a realistic look at all the crappy things that make the race track scene what it is, and is so far steering clear of the feel-good ‘Seabiscuit’ garbage, Luck is a breath of fresh air. I appreciate that aspect of it more than anything.

I may not be able to understand the important characters thus far, but I at least know a rise and even bigger fall is likely coming for all of them. The overall theme of Luck is quite dark. That may suck for track execs, but for those of us who truly know the track, it’s somewhat refreshing.

In order to keep EVERYBODY watching, though, the plot better thicken and the characters better develop and fast!

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

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Linsanity!!! Books better brace for Asian money to really start pouring in on Knicks …

As we all know, Asians make up some of the biggest gamblers the world over. Just look at Maccau. Vegas has got nothing on Maccau. So when an Asian basketball sensation like the Knicks’ Jeremy Lin comes to the fore, you gotta wonder if books (legal or illegal) who take a lot of Asian action are getting worried.

Think about it, the Vegas line cannot account for an illegal book in, say SoCal, or wherever there might be a big Asian population, taking extraordinary money on the Knicks because of Lin.

Maybe there isn’t a lot of Asian money being bet on the Knicks at Treasue Island in Vegas, but I guarantee there is at certain offshore and illegal shops elsewhere in the world. And the Vegas number isn’t going to account for all that action those books will get hit with.

If I was a legal/illegal book with a lot of Asian clientele, I might start shading the Knicks line 2-3 points in NY’s favor.

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