Hearing the stories about the outrageously large sports bets poker's elite get involved with is a part of what makes the world of poker, and especially the start of the World Series of Poker, so interesting.
The beginning of the largest and most prestigious event on the poker calendar coincides with the end of the NBA season, and with a marquee matchup like the Los Angeles Lakers versus the Boston Celtics in this year's final, it makes for a whole lot of fun here in Vegas.
It was also a good question considering I had watched the NCAA final with friends Erick Lindgren and Bill Edler back in April while covering a WPT tournament at Foxwoods. Back then the pair had bet heavily on Kansas and the over, both of which, by some act of God that would not allow Memphis to make a free throw, they cleaned up on.
Lindgren's answer was the Lakers in four, which we all know by now will not happen, because Boston won the first two games of the series at home.
Word is that Phil Ivey, who made another big stride toward legitimizing the poker world by virtue of getting a little face time on network TV while sitting in the front row at Staples Centre during the San Antonio/L.A. Western Final, has also bet heavily on Kobe Bryant and the boys. That suggests that the Ivey Death Matches and Lindgren-hosted FTOPS tournaments on Full Tilt may be even tougher after the series.
Ivey's interest in The Finals, along with that of a few other big-name pros, actually prompted the floor staff to turn off one of the tournament clocks during the $10,000 Stud World Championship the other night, just to get Game 2 on the large LCD screen for everyone to watch.
At times it seemed like the game held their attention more than the tournament itself, bringing to mind a story once relayed to me by PokerListings.com blogger, WSOP Guru and media godsend Nolan Dalla.
Apparently Doyle Brunson once donked off his chips in a poker tournament because he couldn't get a particular game on the tube. It seemed that Texas Dolly, who was once drafted by the Lakers back when they called Minneapolis home, had more money riding on the sporting event than the poker game itself, and was only too happy to bust out ASAP.
Speaking of Dalla, a notorious sports bettor himself, he was one of the few people I talked to following the Celtics wins who wasn't counting the Lakers out just yet. Nolan's keen intuition was telling him the Lakers would come out on fire in front of the home crowd in Game 3 - which they did earlier tonight.
The Celtics came back to take a lead, but Kobe's clutch shooting in the end helped book an L.A. win and send the series to Game 4 at two games to one.
As I did before the series, I still make Boston the favorite and with two more games to play on the left coast I would expect it to go six or seven - despite what Ivey and Lindgren think.
You might want to take my advice (or theirs) and bet on The Finals, but makes sure you find a trustworthy place to take your action.
Unfortunately for those of us here in the epicenter of the poker world right now it's getting kind of tough. The Rio is a Harrah's property and as any board in sports books at Harrah's properties all across America will tell you, they can't take your action. It seems there's yet another connection between big-time poker and big-time sports, as an executive with the corporation has an ownership stake in the Celtics, making any action a conflict of interest.