Writer's Note: And now for something completely different.....Taking a break from sports and gambling to write about one of my favorite subjects -- food. With the World Series of Poker fast approaching and many visitors destined to make a trip to Las Vegas this summer, here's an affordable food guide. By the way, you won't find many bargains on The Strip. Best to get away. If I ever get elected to anything important, and there’s no chance of me ever getting elected to anything important, my downfall won’t be because of sex or money — it will be due to my addiction to Reuben sandwiches. And steak. And pizza. And lasagna. And just about anything else containing the culinary holy trinity of sugar, salt, and fat. I do love my comfort food. Resistance is futile. I tried going on a diet once. The diet might have lasted more than a week and perhaps even succeeded. That’s if Maggiono’s Little Italy hadn’t fish-hooked me with a 2-for-1 free dinner mailer. My daily calorie count shot to hell by a heaping family-style portion of manicotti with extra cheese, it was off to the races. After devouring their housemade cheesecake for dessert, I felt like a bloated junkie. Ever poked an extra hole in your belt with a steak knife? Every guy reading this who carries a few extra pounds knows exactly what I’m talking about. Some guys dream of having a threesome. Yeah, me too. My three-way fantasy is a giant platter of beef brisket, smoked sausage, and a slab of ribs. I’m lucky, not in gambling, but when it comes to food and drink. Hell, I’m the Phil Ivey of local restaurants and cheap wine. Las Vegas is a fantastic city for comfort foods, which are both delicious and affordable. My favorite meals aren’t always the healthiest fare, but two out of three are certainly results I can
have a heart attack live with.
Just about every restaurant I frequent regularly is located off the Las Vegas Strip. Sure, more than a few casino restaurants in this city offer world-class food and service. But I don’t venture much anymore to Strip casinos to eat out. That’s because I’d rather not fork over half a day’s pay for a couple of sprigs of asparagus doused in peanut sauce invented by some “celebrity chef” pimping his name. Fuck overpriced snail food. Besides, who wants to pay $15 for parking and walk three miles to wait 45 minutes for a table? No one goes to The Strip anymore. It’s way too crowded.
Most of my favorite hangouts are on the west side of Las Vegas. That’s not meant to imply restaurants here on the west side of town are superior to what’s over on the east side. But hey, I do live over here for a reason. Certainly, Green Valley, Henderson, and the reinvented Downtown area have some really interesting places I enjoy. Since I reside in what’s known as “The Lakes” area of the city, I’m more familiar surroundings on the west side of Las Vegas, which includes ritzy Summerlin where just about everything has been built within the past 20 years. So, what you’re about to read is admittedly biased.
Hey, it’s an opinion. And, if you don’t like it be sure and hit the ATM machine before you order the fresh asparagus with the peanut sauce and pay 12 bucks for a bottle of tap water at the Cosmopolitan.
I’ve compiled a list of my ten favorite comfort meals here in Las Vegas with the caveat that they’re priced at less than $20. This was a tough list to compile because there are so many excellent options and it’s all a matter of personal taste. I could easily expand my list to 50 meals all over town which are great. However, this concise list should give readers some idea of what’s great versus merely good on a consistent basis.
In no particular order, here are my most highly-recommend lunches and dinners:
Chicken Tikka Masala at Curry Leaf (Flavors of India)
Here’s a short story. I’ve known 2004 world poker champion Greg Raymer for 25 years. Sometime around 2000 before he was rich and I was infamous, Raymer and his wife Cheryl dragged invited Marieta and me to an Indian restaurant for the very first time. I’d never tied Indian cuisine before and expected to hate it. But instantly, we became hooked. Since that eye-opening experience, we’ve probably visited close to 100 Indian restaurants in the U.S. and in Europe. Las Vegas has about 20 or so decent Indian places, and most are pretty good. However, Curry Leaf on Fort Apache and Tropicana stands out above the rest.
Curry Leaf opened about five years ago. The decor is spartan. One doesn’t come here for the atmosphere, or the service, which can be spotty. What makes Curry Leaf a stand out is the outstanding quality of the food, and especially one of Indian’s most popular international dishes (especially with non-natives) — Chicken Tikka.
Chicken Tikka is cubes of chicken in a spicy orange-colored paste which is unique. It’s poured over white rice, like a stroganoff. Buttered nan, the fresh in-house bread baked on the spot, comes as the ideal accompaniment. The Chicken Tikka at Curry Leaf is superior to any other recipe I have tasted, including some far more expensive places in Las Vegas and London (known for outstanding Indian cuisine because of the large immigrant community). Best of all, the price is ridiculously cheap. Marieta and I dine here frequently, and with double rice, extra nan, and two iced teas, the total bill (minus tip) rarely hits $30 at lunchtime. That’s for two portions. With tax and tip, we’re usually out the door for $37.
I’ve recommended Curry Leaf to at least a dozen people, and every one of them have become regulars. Note that lunch is the same quality, but cheaper. So, try to go before the menu changes over at 3 pm.
Here’s my more detailed review of Curry Leaf, published in 2015.
Cashew Chicken or Drunken Noodles with Ground Beef at Nittaya’s Secret Kitchen
Nittaya is a Thai-born chef and restaurateur who opened up her own place about ten years ago. From day one, it’s been my local “go to” destination for tasty Thai cuisine, in some respects surpassing the undisputed Las Vegas landmark institution for this type of fare, rival Lotus of Siam located much closer to The Strip. Nittaya gets everything right, down to the slightest detail. Many Thai places kinda’ taste the same. Nittaya’s has flavors all their own that I’ve never experienced anywhere else.
The best values are at lunch, every bit as amazing as dinners, but at a lesser price. A three-course salad, a small appetizer, and main dish will cost about $12. My two favorite dishes are Cashew Chicken and Drunken Noodles. The Cashew Chicken basks in an amazing brown sauce, which is mouth-watering enough to enjoy alone over white rice. The generous mix of fresh vegetables, chicken, and cashews transforms the merely satisfying into the spectacular. A wonderful alternative, Drunken Noodles are best enjoyed with minced ground beef (or minced ground chicken), which blends perfectly with the eye-watering chilis. I love spicy food, but not too hot. Go with a 2 on the 5 hot scale if you’re somewhere in the middle. Rice noodles are rolled together with a magical mix with beef, fried egg, carrots, and chilis — and makes for an extraordinary taste.
A special bonus at Nittaya’s if you want the total experience is her signature dish — the Fried Spinach appetizer. This is a stunning recipe, best shared by two. The dipping sauce is essential, consisting of a taste so unique, it defies description. It’s heavenly.
We’ve dined at Nittaya’s perhaps 75 times. The average lunch for two, with tax/tip rounds up to about $35. An amazing bargain. Nittaya’s is small and the tables are positioned closely together. The small restaurant became so popular that Nittaya took over next door, knocked out a wall, and installed 12 more tables. At dinner, that’s still not big enough to accommodate what’s become a devoted clientele of Nittaya lovers.
Here’s my list of Top Ten Thai Restaurants in Las Vegas, published in 2014.
Reuben Sandwich (with a bowl of Cincinnati Chili) at Egg Works
Las Vegas offers quite a few solid breakfast spots, which must be competitive to match what’s available at the casinos. The three best “egg” themed restaurants include — Egg and I, Egg Works, and Eggslut (yes, that’s really the name).
I’m partial to Egg Works, which has multiple locations. Just about everything on the menu is priced between $10-12. This diner/greasy spoon (not meant as an insult) is very informal. No one comes here for the atmosphere. Just the food, which is homestyle. Let me put it this way — Fox News is constantly on multiple televisions at Egg Works where I frequent, and I’m still willing to overlook the abomination. I do sometimes wear a wide-brimmed ballcap, which is akin to fitting a racehorse with blinders so as not to lose my lunch listening to Hannity.
The menu is pretty standard. As advertised, Egg Works is an omelet place, but they have a marvelous selection of sandwiches, as well. The portions are generous. The standout for me is the classic grilled Reuben Sandwich, on toasted rye. Sliced pastrami is infused with sauerkraut and melted cheese. This will become an addiction. Reubens can be hit or miss, and there are many marginal options just about everywhere. I didn’t expect a breakfast place to get this so right. Everything blends perfectly and is of top quality. Perhaps there’s a great $22 Reuben on The Strip somewhere, but for my money, this is the best in town (that I’ve experienced so far — I continue to explore).
A nice accompaniment to the sandwich is the house-made Cincinnati Chili. It’s hard to find a good varietal with just the right mix of spices (cinnamon and nutmeg are often included in the recipe). They get this right, and for $3.95 a cup and $5.95 a bowl, you can’t go wrong. Diced onions and cheddar cheese are served on the side. The Reuben/Chil pairing is a carnivore’s delight and clocks in at about $17. Come with an appetite. You will leave stuffed.
Capellini Primavara at Roma Deli (Spring Mountain location)
When I first heard some poker pro friends — Todd Brunson (pictured above), Max Pescatori, and Fabio Coppola — had pooled their Lira together and bought out Roma Deli, I was both happy — and mortified. I was happy that Todd, Max, and Fabio were now restauranteurs. I was mortified that one of my favorite Italian “go to” spots was being hijacked by people who (I thought) had no clue on how to run a kitchen.
To my shock, No surprise, Todd & Company took over Roma and not only maintained both the high quality and Roman authenticity, they improved upon it — something I thought unimaginable. Roma is no bargain. You won’t find Heinz Tomato Paste-infested $7 spaghetti and cheap filler meatballs here. But you will get enjoy an extraordinary East-Coast style experience (tile floors, deli counter, rickety chairs, live music), with all the ingredients of what you’d expect to find in Palazzo Manfredi.
My favorite dish isn’t listed on the menu, but they always make it for me — al dente. That because I’m special. Well, not really. I just go there a lot. Always eager to please, I presume they will make it for you, too, upon request. Or anything else you want.
My favored dish is capellini (angel hair) tossed with extra virgin olive oil, punched with garlic, and topped with broccoli. It a vegetarian dish. The caveat is demanding the chef punches the hell out of the garlic. When I taste the dish, I want my tongue to fall off. That’s how much garlic I want. My tongue should burn like a match. This is my special entre, and they make it to perfection every time. Garlic lovers rejoice, we have discovered the promised land. Garlic hammers primavara dishes, and should be used generously (assuming you share my affection for the vampire-repellant).
Add a tasty house salad with their zesty house dressing, combined with a jumbo bottle of Pellegrino mineral water, and you are out the door for a $20 bill. This is a marvelous meal that has no meat whatsoever but still leaves me completely satisfied. Order it my way, because this recipe hammers the senses into submission without all the guilt of devouring animals.
Here’s a detailed write up of my fabulous dinner with Fabio Coppola last year, shortly after he took over Roma Deli I with his business partners. Note that Roma Deli II (on W. Sahara) is not the same ownership.
Make-Your-Pizza at Pieology Pizzaria or Blaze Pizza
I’m no fan of corporate chain restaurants, but the new make-your-own pizza kitchens popping up all over are amazingly tasty and a great bargain. The primary two pizzerias that do this here in Las Vegas are Pieology and Blaze. They are identical in concept and charge about the same price. Hence, my comments to follow are interchangeable.
You walk in and go to the counter. Select your own pizza dough, which is a 12-inch crust. Then, you can pile on as many fresh ingredients as you want, all done by the chef standing in front of you. Let me write that again — you can pile on as many fresh ingredients as you want.
The price is the same. $8.95 for a pizza that’s baked in a brick oven, on the spot, with everything you want on top (none of the 50-cents an extra topping bullshit). I have requested triple portions of garlic, olives, various cheeses, sausages, pepperoni, and just about everything except the kitchen sink, and they don’t blink an eye.
It’s still $8.95.
And, the pizzas are fantastic.
I usually opt for the white pizza, flooded with all the cheeses, then layered with meat and other toppings. The pie is an inch-and-a-half thick, despite the thin crust. It takes about five minutes and is sliced into six portions. You can be out the door in 25 minutes for less than $13 with a large drink.
Why anyone would ever eat fast food again, or order one of those miserable soggy pizzas from other places that nickel and dime you to death for every extra topping is baffling. These new places should put the old shitty mass-production pizzerias like Dominos and Papa Johns out of business. If you ever order from Papa Johns again after eating at either Pieology or Blaze, please unfriend me immediately.
Coming in Part 2: "More Great Comfort Meals in Las Vegas for Under $20"
Resident 5th Street Sports handicapper Frank Perez discuss the upcoming WNBA season, which begins on Friday. Perez's special guest is Oklahoma Brian, who also gives us his thoughts on some early NFL season win total movement. This is a half-hour overtime segment from Saturday's show which originally aired on May 12, 2018, called "The End Zone."
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court struck down a federal law which prohibited most states from allowing legalized gambling on sporting events. By a 6-3 vote, the high court's ruling overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which was a 1992 law that banned state-authorized sports gambling (aside from Nevada). What does this ruling mean? Well, it's really good news for sports gamblers. It's even better news for many states and companies with the infrastructure to begin offering sports betting. And, it's fabulous news for the State of New Jersey, and especially Atlantic City, which has experienced a steady decline in popularity as a recreational gambling destination over the last 20 years. Here's my list of the winners and losers in today's historic decision which is expected to drastically alter the American sports gambling landscape. WINNERS: Recreational Sports Gamblers -- Amateur bettors will soon have the option of making a legal wager within a licensed and regulated environment. Recreational bettors who might previously have been skittish about placing a bet with an illegal bookie or depositing money into an offshore betting account, can now conveniently step up to the betting window at a local casino, place a wager, and expect to get paid quickly assuming the bet wins. For the first time, sports bettors will be respected as legitimate consumers. They will be entitled to the same protections as other citizens engaged in commercial transactions, rather than treated as outlaws. Professional Sports Gamblers -- There's serious concern that some states might impose a so-called 1-percent "integrity fee" atop all sports wagers. This is potentially quite problematic given the narrow margins of profit for even the most successful sports handicappers. That said, as some states begin to legalize sports wagering, expect an increase in the overall betting handle. In the long term (as more populous states come on board), expect a substantial increase in sports wagering, leading to what's known as "public money." This means more casual wagering inside the overall betting pool, which typically translates into pointspreads that reflect mainstream biases. Sharps tend to take advantage of inflated lines and inaccurate perceptions about teams and players. In short, the more uninformed bettors there are in any market, the greater the advantages for the most skilled and disciplined bettors. New Jersey/Atlantic City -- As more states have legalized casino gambling, especially in the heavy-populated Northeast, Atlantic City's market share of overall gaming revenues has declined substantially. One-third of Atlantic City's casinos have shut down. Some casinos even declared bankruptcy. Now, given the Supreme Court landmark decision which gives New Jersey a green light to offer sports betting, expect a flow of traffic back towards the Jersey Shore, especially this coming fall when NFL games kick-off. For the first time in history, citizens within the Garden State (and from nearby states including Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, and Virginia which are within driving distance) will be able to walk into casinos in New Jersey and legally bet on sporting events. The same holds true for Delaware, which will also get a boost from legalized sports gambling, particularly from heavily-populated surrounding states. States (Education and Other Programs) -- Most state budgets are desperate for tax revenue. This is why many states have legalized casino gambling over the past 25 years. Taxing gambling profits supports many vital state agencies and important programs, especially relating to education. Soon, states will reap additional revenues from taxes collected on profits from sports gambling. Accordingly, they won't be as pressed to raise taxes elsewhere to maintain essential services and protections. The NBA -- Credit NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for being the first head of a major sports league to see the future and face obvious realities connected to the public interest in major sporting events. A few years ago, Silver announced his support for legalized sports gambling, including fully licensed and regulated wagering on NBA games. Silver clearly understands what drives fan interest at many sporting events. Rather than deny realities as all the other leagues have done for many decades, Silver and the NBA embraced the proposal of fans being able to bet on their games. Look for an uptick in interest in daily/nightly sporting events (NBA, NHL, MLB) since more fans will watch sporting events because of a personal financial interest in the outcome. States'-Rights Advocates -- "States'-rights" has been a pillar of conservative political philosophy for more than a century. However, as federal powers have gradually increased, states have seen their responsibilities reduced in some matters of governance. The high court's decision reaffirms the rights of states to dictate their own policies on matters such as gambling, taxation, and morality. Instead of a blanket ban against sports betting (outside of Nevada), which had been the law of the land, each state now has the option to make their own laws, and establish their own regulatory and taxation framework. Fantasy Sports Companies -- Fantasy sports companies made a big splash a few years ago when they overreached and bombarded the networks with an annoying number of bad television commercials, initially leading to explosive growth, followed by a legal crackdown on their quasi-legal activities within some jurisdictions. With sports gambling soon becoming legal, fantasy sports companies -- namely DraftKings/FanDuel -- are perfectly positioned to transition into legal full-service sportsbooks. These companies also have existing deals with many professional sports teams. It remains to be seen exactly how they will shift operations into key states where the competition to run sports gambling operations will be intense. However, fantasy sports companies already have millions of customers in their databases and some measure of brand loyalty, which provides obvious strategic advantages. Professional Sports Franchises -- Let's face it. There's not much mainstream interest in a game between two losing teams with lots of bad players. But add the sizzle of gambling on the game, and suddenly, the matchup becomes exciting to watch for most viewers. Since team sports began, franchises have relied solely on their local fan bases for financial sustenance -- in terms of ticket sales, merchandising, and revenues from television rights. Accordingly, many franchises have struggled. Some teams have moved to other cities hoping for greener pastures. Sports gambling is the great equalizer. It gives bad teams the potential to be watched and enjoyed with just as much enthusiasm as premier games. Television ratings will increase across the board on all sporting events connected to gambling. This means more revenues going to the teams and higher franchise values. Sports Networks/News Sites/Media -- Sports betting is largely predicated on access to reliable and up-to-date information. A broader sports gambling landscape means an increasing flow of traffic to networks, programs, news sites, and periodicals which provide subject matter primarily of interest to gamblers. Many sports fans won't be content any longer with simple sports coverage or mundane personality-driven talk shows. Instead, they'll be seeking out more hard data and breaking news which could impact the outcome of a game. Look for sports broadcasts to openly refer to spreads and totals for the first time, since a substantial percentage of viewers and listeners are focused on that element of coverage. Since a rising tide lifts all boats, more viewers watching games on television and clicking various websites translates into an increase in traffic and advertising revenues. LOSERS: Offshore Sportsbooks -- Sportsbooks located outside the United States, particularly those based in Central America and the Caribbean, have filled the void of the vast sports gambling appetite. Since most Americans can't wager legally on sporting events, millions were forced to bet through illegal bookies and/or offshore. Now, as an increasing number of states are destined to offer their own legal sports betting markets, the demand for offshore sportsbooks will slowly decrease. Most offshore sportsbooks won't able to compete with the convenience of local casinos and quick, reliable payouts much closer to home. Expect several smaller sportsbooks which rely heavily on the American market to go out of business, unless they offer reduced vig and other perks which appeal to most sports gamblers. By contrast, increased competition translates into more options and better value for most gamblers/consumers. Anti-Gambling Crusaders (Religious Fundamentalists) -- The religious right and behavioral moralists have been proven dead wrong on just about every gambling issue since casinos began sprouting up all over the country. Their dire warnings of increased crime and other ills supposedly associated with greater access to gambling were unfounded. Thoroughly discredited on the gambling issue (and just about every moral issue), anti-gambling crusaders have been debunked and defanged to the point of political and cultural irrelevance. As tens of millions of Americans wake up every Sunday morning, they won't be attending church. They'll be far more interested in wagering on the day's football games. Stike another blow to the 19th Century puritans who have run out of arguments against legalized gambling and are being tossed onto the ash heap of history. Bury them. They're done. The NFL -- The NFL remains the undisputed king when it comes to American sports gambling. Anticipated legalization in many states will come despite their vigorous objections, kicking and screaming against legalized gambling for decades. Over and over again, the NFL has repeatedly handled its public relations crisis horribly -- whether it's been player misbehavior/reinstatement, the CTE scandal, the National Anthem controversy, ripping off taxpayers to build new stadiums, and so forth. Here's yet another black eye and kick in the ass to a league that remains absurdly popular despite gross mismanagement and outright hypocrisy. The NCAA -- The NCAA is the most corrupt organization in sports. It reaps obscene profits solely at the expense of student-athletes. It pays its fatcat commissioners, athletic directors, and shady bowl presidents absurd salaries while all the risks are taken by an uncompensated and often exploited labor force. It's criminal what's happening. Fortunately, the NCAA was dealt an embarrassing defeat and now must face the reality that millions of Americans will soon be betting on their games, whether they like it, or not. Hooray! Winners and Losers? Other Casino Games -- Who wants to play keno or roulette when pretty soon you can walk into a casino and bet $20 on a ballgame, instead? Studies find that most gamblers, especially millennials, like to feel as though they have some measure of control over the outcome of a bet. Unlike most casino games where the action/results are random, sports betting will become an increasing attraction since the gambler's decision matters. New sportsbooks could divert traffic flow from the casino floor. However, a strong case can be made that since sports betting will attract new customers to casinos, some gamblers will gravitate to games like keno, roulette, craps, blackjack, and the slots. Hence, legalized sports gambling appears to be an uncertain win-lose proposition for other casino games. Illegal Bookmakers -- At first glance, bookies might seem to be the biggest losers when sports gambling becomes legal. The reasons are obvious. Bettors won't have to rely on the illegal gambling market if a viable legal option is accessible. Moreover, expect the heat to be turned up on illegal bookies since local law enforcement will be tasked with reducing the competition for gambling dollars. In the long run, however, bookies might actually enjoy a boost. Since most bookies extend credit to their customers, this presents a huge advantage. If the sports gambling market increases (and it will), gradually many new bettors will become enticed by betting on credit rather than fronting money. Hence, bookies might gain more customers. Bookies might also be able to take advantage of significant pointspread differences in various betting markets. Online Gambling/Online Poker -- Good News: Given that PASPA was declared unconstitutional, it's now going to be next to impossible for the federal government to impose similar prohibitions against casino games and poker played online. This should finally once and for all kill various bills proposed in Congress which might have outlawed online poker (and gambling games). Bad News: Don't expect online poker or gambling games to get any boost in traffic, however. In fact, interest and traffic could decline since gambling dollars will increasingly find their way into casino sportsbooks instead of in online poker accounts. There's only so many gambling dollars in the market available and if New Jersey and other states open up their betting windows, some percentage of the money used to buy sports tickets will come from other gambling ventures -- probably, online poker and casino games.
_____Writer's Note: This article reflects the views of the author only. It appeared yesterday at: www.nolandalla.com
On Monday, May 14th, 2018, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State of New Jersey in a federal lawsuit which ultimately will allow all states to legalize sports wagering. This is terrific news for American sports bettors, who will be able to wager legally on all major sporting events, probably within a few weeks in some states. Here are a few links to breaking news stories on this historic decision:
Nolan Dalla hosts a lively discussion with 5th Street Sports resident sports handicappers -- Frank Perez and Charles Jay. All 32 NFL teams are analyzed according to the opening season win totals. Opinions reflect initial reactions to projected wins and are subject to change as the season nears. 5th Street Sports expects to air another "All NFL" show sometime in late August, just prior to the start of the 2018 regular season. This two-hour show aired live on Saturday, May 12, 2018.
5th Street Sports' resident Euro-sports handicapping experts, Nick Geber and Nick Webster (no relation) provide unique insight and in-depth analysis on the final week of English Premier League and Champions League games, along with other soccer news from around the world. Each show features weekly picks from Geber and Webster as they handicap the most anticipated upcoming matchups. This show originally aired on Friday afternoon, May 11, 2018. This video is a full-length re-broadcast. Tune-in to watch 5th Street Sports' weekly show live every Friday, starting at 1 pm PST.
World-renowned sports handicapper Steve Fezzik reveals what it's like to gamble for a living. This is a short promo of a full hour sit-down interview with Fezzik, who was interviewed by Nolan Dalla on a new series soon to debut called "The Basement Tapes."
Full-length re-broadcast of 5th Street Sports live weekly Saturday afternoon show from May 4, 2018. Hosted by Nick Geber, along with regular in-studio co-hosts Frank Perez and Nolan Dalla, special guests include professional sports handicappers Charles Jay and "Oklahoma Brian." 1st Hour: Charles Jay gives his expertise on the Kentucky Derby and NFL season win totals. Next, our lively discussion continues on the ramifications of the upcoming Supreme Court decision which may legalize sports betting across many parts of the United States. 2nd Hour: More debate on what legalized sports betting will mean for American gamblers. Then, Nick Geber analyzes next week's Champions League matchup. Finally, Oklahoma Brian joins a brief discussion about what the #MeToo movement means for Las Vegas. Overtime [A Free-for-All Shootout]: The debate heats up as we ask -- Does Sin City Face a Crisis in an Era Reshaped by #MeToo? Watch the original broadcast live with a new show Saturday afternoon from 2-4 pm PST. About 5th Street Sports Funny, irreverent, compelling....5th Street Sports is the sports talk you've been waiting for. Hosted by some of the most respected handicappers and sports journalists in the business, 5th Street takes you through the week in sports, the gambling scene, and those living the good life.
"The Basement Tapes" is an upcoming series featured exclusively at 5th Street Sports. Longtime Las Vegas gambler Nolan Dalla hosts a sit-down one-on-one interview with movers and shakers from the worlds of sports, gambling, and entertainment in this up-close-and-personal format. This short promo features one of Las Vegas' most interesting personalities, the legendary Duke of Fremont Street.
5th Street Sports' resident sports experts, Nick Geber and Nick Webster (no relation) provide unique insight and in-depth analysis on English Premier League and Champions League games, along with other soccer news from around the world. Each show features weekly picks from Geber and Webster as they handicap the most anticipated upcoming matchups. This show originally aired on Friday afternoon, May 3, 2018. This video is a full-length re-broadcast. Tune-in to watch 5th Street Sports' weekly show live every Friday, starting at 1 pm PST.
Betting Major League Baseball totals is one of the best opportunities to make money in sports gambling. Baseball totals continue to be one area of sports betting where public perceptions are wrong, despite plentiful contrary information being available. This contrarian approach creates an edge for those who are willing to deviate from common thought patterns and go against initial betting instincts. The multitude of (165) regular season games played each year, plus the postseason, often with a dozen or more matchups per day, also creates more wagering opportunities to make smart bets than other sports which have far fewer contests. This column is designed to make you aware of some of the factors you should be considering when wagering on baseball totals.
_WHAT’S A BASEBALL TOTAL? A baseball total is the combined number of runs scored in a game by both teams, which includes extra innings. Totals posted by sportsbooks are heavily influenced by the two starting pitchers (and more specifically, the ERA and WHIP of the two starters). However, starting pitchers are but one of many factors that influence how many runs are predicted to be scored in a game. Fortunately for us, the betting public seems to ignore many other important aspects of totals betting which I'm about to discuss.
_WHY BET UNDERS? It’s generally advisable to look for UNDER opportunities, rather than OVER opportunities. Why? Most novice sports bettors like to bet OVERs (this is true for all sports) because they seek excitement in the viewing experience. Simply put, it’s more fun to watch a baseball game when you’ve got money riding on it. So, higher-scoring games are usually more appealing to those casual fans. This doesn’t mean that there are more UNDERs than OVERs during the course of a complete season. In fact, most seasons end with about an equal split on totals. But think of it this way: For an OVER to occur, the pitching for both teams must break down at some point and/or hitting must come to life. In the event that just one of the teams has either a good pitching outing or a very bad night hitting, the game will more often than not go UNDER the total. I tend to look for situations where one pitcher is capable of throwing a solid game backed by a rested bullpen, and/or one of the teams is currently in a hitting slump.
_WHY IS THE STRIKE ZONE SO IMPORTANT IN TOTALS BETTING? Rule changes over the years, including varying parameters of the strike zone, created a fluctuation in totals. For instance, 15 years ago the strike zone became larger. That meant there were more called strikes (which is very good for pitchers, and bad for hitters). Predictably, there was an increase in the number of lower scoring games in 2001 versus they years before. In fact, statistics from year to year showed that scoring went down an average of about half a run per game. That might not seem like a big number, but a half a run is monstrous when the typical total is 7 or 8 runs. All other factors being equal, that’s like picking up a 12 percent edge.
_WHO’S THE UMPIRE AND WHY DOES IT MATTER? Since strike zones are a huge factor, another thing to look at is the home-plate umpire and trends. Baseball is officiated by humans, and while the league tries to implement universal rules and field decisions, some umpires tend to see the strike zone differently. There are clearly two camps -- UNDER umpires and OVER umpires. You can find this information as to who is who online at several sports gambling websites. They tend to be consistent from year-to-year. Trouble is, many wise bettors have caught on to this critical information.
_ARE THERE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AMERICAN AND NATIONAL LEAGUE TOTALS? National League games are more inclined to go under the number, versus the American League. This is because the pitchers come to bat in National League games. Think of it this way -- 12 percent of the hitting lineup is essentially “dead” in the National League (since pitchers hit and their batting averages are much lower than the rest of the team). Since there is a 12 percent disparity in the NL (3/27th to be exact, assuming that no pitcher gets a base hit), this means totals should be about a run less on average for each NL game. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little to make a point -- since the typical pitcher hits about .150 lower than the average hitter. However, pitchers are terrible run producers. So, National League games are usually lower scoring.
_WHAT TIME OF YEAR IS IT? Time of year is also something to consider. Pitching in early to mid-season games is generally stronger (and often more predictable) than pitching in late season games. This is because by mid-August and September, many pitchers’ arms are worn out. Most teams are out of playoff contention. Novice pitchers are brought up from the minor leagues to face contending teams. I tend to do a flip-flop in totals betting when considering games before and after the All-Star break. I always bet more UNDERs the first half of the season. Then, I start looking for OVER plays in late July. Of course, much depends on the lineups and what is happening around the league. But my view is that games become slightly higher scoring as the season progresses (albeit by a small margin -- but we are looking for every possible edge).
_STRETCHED TO THE LIMIT? When researching games, look for situations where one team’s bullpen has been stretched to the limits in a previous couple of games or series. Games where atv least one of the teams has given up double digits in recent games are prime candidates to go over the total in the next game (especially with a shaky starter on the mound). Since these teams are desperate to give their middle and late relief pitching a rest, they will often leave an unreliable starter in longer than is warranted (meaning they are more likely to get hammered). If the starter gets knocked out early, the bullpen is in serious trouble. This points to an OVER.
_ARE STRONG HOME TEAMS GOOD UNDER PLAYS? When betting UNDERs, look for strong home teams, since that potentially eliminates three additional batters coming up in the bottom of the ninth inning if the home team is winning. Eliminating a half-inning means close to 5 percent less a chance of scoring will take place. Sure, a home team winning the game and not batting in the bottom of the ninth inning is worth “only” 3/54 to a baseball total, but everything should matter in sports betting. By contrast, look for OVERs to occur when the road team has a definite advantage in overall talent or with their starting pitcher.
_WHAT’S A “KEY NUMBER” IN BASEBALL TOTALS? Another consideration: Look for key numbers, such as OVER 8 and 8.5, versus UNDER 9 and 9.5. Games which are tied 4-4 will always go OVER the total when the posted number is 8/8.5. By contrast, games that are tied 4-4 in extra innings will usually go UNDER the total when the number is 9.5. A total of 10 is often a wise UNDER bet, since it takes 11 runs to lose the wager. Unless the game is in Colorado (one park where more runs are scored largely because of air density and altitude), 11 runs is a lot of scoring in a baseball game. One more hint: Beware of laying more than -115 on any total, unless you have a decided edge (such as a key starter, an NL game, and a home team that’s favored). Laying -120 or -125 on total is rarely a wise play. Also, almost never go UNDER in a game where the total is 6.5 or 7 runs. Back in the era when starting pitching was dominant (up until the mid-’80s), two starters would duel for nine innings and produce many 2-1 final scores. But complete games for pitchers are now extremely rare occurrences. There’s lots of volatility when bullpens are called into play.
_DO RIVALRIES MATTER? In intense rivalries (San Francisco vs. Los Angeles and Boston vs. New York, for example) be more inclined to bet UNDER the total. Teams get fired up playing against their rivals and often hitters are not as relaxed in the batter’s box. Managers tend to exert more control over their teams and are not as willing to take chances. It’s a small consideration, but something to think about.
_IS A HALF RUN REALLY A BIG DEAL? Finally, never underestimate the power of a half-run on a baseball total. The difference between 8 versus 8.5 and 9 versus 9.5 is monumental. I can’t even begin to count the number of totals I’ve won or lost by a run, or half a run. Just as pro football produces “key” numbers such as 3 versus 3.5 (indicating a huge line move in a game expected to be close), baseball games often land on the fringes of a total. The point is, it’s a very good idea to shop around and find the best number possible.
_ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nolan Dalla has spent the last 25 years wagering on sports, playing poker, enjoying gourmet meals, and drinking fine wine, usually from the sale rack. He pretty much wasted away the rest. Dalla also pens a popular daily blog, filled with controversial political commentary, vile rants, stories (mostly true), and blistering reviews which can be read at: www.nolandalla.com. Dalla resides in The Lakes section of Las Vegas with his wife and two cats. He was recently bitten on the ass by a black widow spider.
Nick Geber, Frank Perez, Nolan Dalla, and Oklahoma Brian discuss the hottest topic circulating within the sports betting community, which is -- should sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NCAA) be entitled to a share of the profits from legalized sports gambling? That's what's being debated now as the leagues want to rake 1 percent from all wagers in the form of a so-called "integrity fee."