by Kevin Stott | Sure there’s the pollen, the Taxman and the karaoke-ish American Idol contestants clogging up your television three nights a week, but for sports gamblers this truly is the best time of year with action in every sport from almost every corner of the globe.
In motor sports, both NASCAR and NHRA are revving up their seasons with Carl Edwards (8-1, LVH to win the Sprint Cup championship) winning back-to-back races heading into the Kobalt Tools 500 and John Force – drag racing’s most prolific winner with 14 world championships – back and recovering from a near career-ending injury and gearing up for the ACDelco Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida from March 13-16.
The Sport of Kings is also drawing attention with the three-year olds competing in the Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Illinois Derby, Wood Memorial and Arkansas Derby among others, all in the next month in hopes of garnering a precious spot in the Kentucky Derby on May 3 at Churchill Downs.
You can follow their progress in our weekly "Road to the Triple Crown" feature and stay on top of the ponies through our crack horse expert, Richard Saber.
The Las Vegas Hilton has only two horses that have been bet down to single-digit favorites in its’ sports book so far in War Pass (5-1) and Pyro (7-1).
And although football just ended in February with the Super Bowl, there has been plenty of off-season NFL action in free agent signings (WR Donte Stallworth from Pats to Browns), re-signings (WR Randy Moss re-upping for five years with the Pats) and retirements (Packers’ Brett Favre), making a futures wager a tricky thing at this point in time.
In the Arena Football League (AFL), Dallas (National Conference) and San Jose (American) look like the teams to beat and are the favorites, at 7-2 and 5-2 respectively, at Caesars to win the Arena Bowl. Philadelphia (5-1), Los Angeles (12-1) and Arizona (15-1) are all vastly improved and opened up the new season up with victories. For weekly Arena picks, check out our "The Indoor War" column in GamingToday or access our website (www.gamingtoday.com).
On the tennis court, a grand slam from either sex is doubtful after Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic were somewhat surprise winners at the Australian Open. And on the links, although he has dropped from 18-1 to 3-1 (Caesars) to win all four majors, Tiger Woods is tearing it up and has become the darling of golf gamblers despite the always short odds for the living legend.
One of the favorite times of year for basketball fans, gamblers and the sports books is March Madness – that three-week period of pure bliss when you perennially hear about the Butlers (50-1, Coast Casinos) and the Davidsons (40-1, Field) of the world.
Talk about an opportunity to make a futures bet on a team that really can make you some money, the NCAA Tournament is easily the best. Where else can you get down on teams like Texas (18-1, LVH), Notre Dame (50-1, Coast Casinos) or Clemson (Field, 40-1) and try to turn $20 into a pocketful of cash?
Also on the immediate horizon in the sports books are the NBA and NHL playoffs, both which are wide open despite the imbalance of talented teams in the Western conferences in both pro basketball and hockey.
Although the Celtics (5-2, MGM-Mirage) have dominated the East and appear destined to make the NBA Finals with Kevin Garnett this year, there is little return for the gambler who makes that bet. Detroit (6-1, LVH), actually has the best starting five in the entire league still and provides more value in the East. In the West, the Jazz (20-1), the Rockets (30-1) and even the defending champion Spurs (5-2) are worth a look while everyone else has become drunk on the Lakers newfound success. To follow the NBA in depth, read the estute Andy Iskoe’s "Bettin’ on B-Ball" here every Tuesday.
On the hardwater, it’s anybody’s Stanley Cup to win this spring despite the Red Wings (4-1, MGM-Mirage) gaudy record to date. The Ducks (6-1, LVH) are quacking with Conn Smythe Trophy winner Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne back on the roster and goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2.16 GAA) in top form and may have enough to keep the championship in southern California.
The East seems like a race between the Senators (7-1, LVH) and the Penguins (12-1) right now but two teams that are just as talented as just as likely to make the finals are the Rangers (20-1, MGM-Mirage), who are finally starting to hit their stride and the Devils (10-1) who could ride the strong back of netminder Martin Brodeur throughout the playoffs. For daily NHL selections, read GT’s weekly "Power Plays" column.
The true indicator that spring has indeed sprung, baseball, also begins later this month and the most appetizing as well as entertaining futures bet around is the MGM-Mirage’s "Big Three" to win the World Series prop where you can get the world champ Red Sox, Yankees and Mets together at +170 against the rest of the field (-210) on the diamond. Serious hardball fans loved it and bet those three down from a +190 opening line.
And if all the items on this buffet aren’t enough to stuff your sports stomach know that another sport that’s growing in popularity in the US due to television coverage and gambling, soccer, will be holding Euro 2008 from June 7-29 with all games being televised (ABC, ESPN) here.
Germany (7-2, Palms), Spain (5-1), Italy (9-2), France (13-2) and Portugal (7-1) are the favorites but Croatia (10-1), Holland (10-1), the Czech Republic (12-1) and Sweden (25-1) may be worth a shot in this tourney which will be held in Austria and Switzerland.
May your next trip to the sports book be profitable. And bet a couple of futures while you’re there.