Just as there are the proverbial three key factors in choosing real estate (location, location, location), similarly there are three keys to playoff baseball, according to Las Vegas oddsmaker Tony Sinisi.
"It's pitching, pitching, and pitching," said Sinisi, the odds director at Las Vegas Sports Consultants, a company that furnishes wagering odds to Vegas casinos.
At the moment, that would translate to Phillies pitchers Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, and it's why the Phils are the betting favorites to win the 2010 World Series.
At the Las Vegas Hilton, the Phils are 6-5 to win the World Series and at Caesars Palace, they're even money.
"I've even seen them at 5-6," said Todd Fuhrman, the sports analyst at Caesars Palace.
Consensus odds put the New York Yankees in the range of 6-5 (where the Phils are even) to 8-5 to win baseball's world championship; the Texas Rangers at about 4-1, and the San Francisco Giants are in the range of 41/2-1 to 6-1.
"It's that three-headed monster," said Jay Kornegay, vice president of sports and race book operations for the Las Vegas Hilton. "Even with that little letdown that Oswalt had in his last game [against Cincinnati], Halladay and Hamels have been just unbelievable. Plus, when you look at that team, they really have an American League lineup and maybe most importantly, they have experience in the postseason. . . . That experience the Yankees always used to their advantage, now the Phillies have it as well."
Taking a look at the National League Championship Series, the Phillies are what the bookmakers describe as a $2.50 favorite at the Las Vegas Hilton, meaning that to win $100 on the Phillies to capture the NL pennant, a bettor has to wager $250. Conversely, a $100 bet on the Giants would return $220. For a championship series, those are huge odds, and some bookmakers believe the Phillies could wind up being bet up to $3.00 favorites.
The Yankees are $1.65 favorites against Texas in the ALCS and on the flip side of that bet, the Rangers are $1.45 underdogs. The Yankees became more of a favorite against Texas after the Rangers had to use their pitching ace, Cliff Lee, in the AL division series deciding game against Tampa Bay.
Even in the much-anticipated NLCS Game 1 pitching matchup between Halladay and Giants ace Tim Lincecum - who threw a shutout against Atlanta the same day that Halladay pitched his no-hitter against Cincinnati last Thursday - the Phillies are a healthy wagering favorite. On Wednesday, the odds on the Phils had inched upward to minus-180, (again, that means a Phillies backer has to risk $180 to win $100). The Giants were plus-160 underdogs.
"Halladay just looks untouchable and although Lincecum has been pitching great, now he has to do it against the Phillies lineup in a pressure situation on the road," the Hilton's Kornegay said.
The betting target for total runs scored in the NLCS Game 1 is six runs and, not surprisingly, bettors who want the under have to pay a premium. Taking the low side of six runs requires giving odds of about minus-120.
Both Kornegay and Sinisi said that aside from the Phillies' pitching advantage, the Giants don't have the offensive firepower to stay with Philadelphia.
"If the Giants don't get the two- or three-run home run, they struggle," Sinisi said.
Wagering momentum on the Phillies' postseason prospects has been building for a while.
"Ever since the Phillies started putting it together [in September], we haven't been able to drop the number on them fast enough," Caesars Palace's Fuhrman said. "And it's been both sharp [professional sports gamblers] and public money."
However, as Phillies fans are aware, the Phils haven't been scoring a ton of runs themselves lately, and oddsmaker Sinisi sounded a cautionary note.
"The first game is very important for the Phillies," he said. "If the Giants manage to win that somehow, then Philadelphia is looking at getting Lincecum in Games 4 and 7, and then anything can happen."
Charity poker. A poker tournament to benefit the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Center for Fetal Diagnosis will be held Oct. 21 at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York with poker pro Phil Hellmuth acting as master of ceremonies.
Former Eagles star Mike Quick is also scheduled to attend. The tournament will be limited to 120 participants and the entry fee is $2,500. Trophies will be given to the top 10 finishers. Spectator admission is $750. Two previous tournaments have helped raise $1.8 million for Children's Hospital. There will be a poker tutorial at 6:30 p.m., and the tournament begins at 7 p.m. In addition to the poker, food and beverages will be served. For more information, see www.allinforkids.org.
The Smart Money: Prop Bets for NLCS
The Phillies are the betting favorite to win the National League Championship Series, but odds are also available on how the series will be decided and even on individual player performances. Here are a few:
Exact Series Result
Giants 4-0 . . . 25/1 (+2,500)
Giants 4-1. . . 9/1 (+900)
Giants 4-2. . . 8/1 (+800)
Giants 4-3 . . . 7/1 (+700)
Phillies 4-0 . . . 7/1 (+700)
Phillies 4-1 . . . 4/1 (+400)
Phillies 4-2 . . . 3/1 (+300)
Phillies 4-3 . . . 7/2 (+350)
Total Strikeouts in Game 1, Tim Lincecum (Giants): Over/Under 7.5
Total Strikeouts in Game 1, Roy Halladay (Phils): Over/Under 6.5
Will Ryan Howard hit a home run in the series? Yes: -135; No: +105
Will Chase Utley hit a home run in the Series? Yes -130; No EVEN.
Most Hits, Runs and RBIs in Series:
Pat Burrell (Giants) +120
Chase Utley (Phils) -150
Most hits, runs and RBIs in Series:
Aubrey Huff (Giants) +120
Ryan Howard (Phils) -150
Contact staff writer Bill Ordine at 215-854-2939 or email@example.com.