LAS VEGAS -- Poker is famous for prop bets between players, but what about the rest of us?
While walking through the Rio Convention Center during Wednesday's Day 2AB of the Main Event at the World Series of Poker, I kept wishing I could make some prop bets, wondering why this kind of thing has failed to catch on here in Las Vegas.
Through 2010, the sports books here weren't allowed to take bets on the WSOP (there are legendary tales of legal and illegal bookies taking WSOP action in the past, but that's another story entirely), since it doesn't take place on an athletic field. In 2011, however, the Nevada Gaming Control Board took what was thought to be a major step at the time by lifting that restriction.
Most of the sports books in town began offering odds on that year's Main Event final table (aka the November Nine), while Caesars Entertainment, the parent company of the host Rio, offered a few props such as "Will the first flop have more red or black cards?" (-110 each way), "Who will finish in ninth place?", "What will the final winning hand be?" (pair was the 1-3 favorite) and "How many hands will be dealt at the final table?" (with segments ranging from "less than 180" to "301 or more").
In subsequent years, Caesars dropped the other props, offering only November Nine odds, like the other casinos. Howard Greenbaum, vice president of specialty gaming at Caesars Entertainment, told me that the props didn't generate enough interest, so they decided to just concentrate on the odds to win.
Looking back, I'm wondering if the props didn't attract betting handle because of several outside factors.
I don't think the casinos got the word out enough.
The period we're talking about was before the explosion of smartphone apps, which now allow Nevada bettors to wager from anywhere in the state; they now would have access to all the lines without having to physically be at the Rio or another book.
Maybe the props just weren’t interesting enough.
If I was running a sports book (which I don't), these are the prop bets I would have wanted to put up for this year's World Series of Poker.
Will there be over/under 25,000 players in Colossus II?
This prop would have been a huge winner for any casino willing to book it as EVERYONE was predicting that the event would shatter last year's record of 22,374, but it instead drew only 21,613.
Will the Main Event go over/under 6,240 players (the total amount of entries from the 2015 main event)?
This is a much-discussed prediction every year at the WSOP, and would certainly lead to a solid handle -- the over would have cashed, with 6,737 players this year.
Over/under the second break on Day 4 (Friday, July 15) for the money bubble to burst?
WSOP.com's update page projects it to "burst very early on Day 4," so I'll make it under -150/over +130
Will at least two players in Ben Keeline's "last longer" make the final table?
It sounds as if this would have to be a long-shot price on the "yes," but Keeline's contest has had two players at the final table at Colossus I and II, so you might get a few takers at the right price.
Will the Main Event champion be over/under 30 years of age?
The average age in this year's field is 40.08 years, but recent champs have all been much younger.
Which continent will the Main Event champion be from?
Eighty countries are represented at this year's Main Event, but that's too many to make odds for. North America would have to be less than even money here.
Which past Main Event champion will last longer?
This would be a great conversation starter, but I believe it would draw action, too -- including the former champs themselves, who might be willing to bet on themselves at decent odds. The former champs in this year's field: Tom McEvoy, Johnny Chan, Huck Seed, Phil Hellmuth, Chris Ferguson, Robert Varkonyi, Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer, Joe Cada, Greg Merson, Ryan Riess, Martin Jacobson and Joe McKeehen.
Of course, this opens the door to all sorts of head-to-head wagers, just like we see in golf and auto racing. See if you think any of these would attract wagers:
Howard Lederer vs. Chris Ferguson (former Full Tilt board members)
Phil Hellmuth vs. Phil Ivey (battle of the Phils, the top two players on the all-time WSOP bracelet list)
Ray Romano vs. Brad Garrett (sibling rivalry from "Everybody Loves Raymond")
Richard Seymour vs. Antoine Winfield (former NFL players)
Vanessa Selbst vs. Mario Ho (there could also be a "last woman standing" prop)
Again, if I was running a sports book (which I don't), I would welcome suggested wagers from customers. And if you do run a sportsbook, feel free to use any of these ideas during the rest of the main event, or next year, and hopefully we can turn the WSOP into the all-around bettor's event it's meant to be.
What prop bets or head-to-head matchups would you like to see on the board? Reply in the comments section below if you have some ideas.