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NFL conference championships make for major betting weekend

Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.Gabriel Vartanian has either experienced extremely good fortune or knows a little something about how to handicap the NFC Championship race before the NFL season begins.

Vartanian, a 29-year old sports bettor from Los Angeles, says he has placed a future bet before each of the last three seasons on who will win the NFC.

In 2007, he took the Green Bay Packers, who lost to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game. Vartanian selected the Arizona Cardinals last year at 24-to-1 odds. Arizona, of course, made the Super Bowl.

This year, Vartanian picked the New Orleans Saints, who Sunday will face the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC Championship.

“I’ve had some success,” Vartanian said. “It’s something I really like to look at before the season and see if I can get a good number.”

Vartanian took the Saints at odds of 11-to-1 before the season. If the Saints win, his $30 wager will cash for $330.

That’s pretty good considering the Saints are -180 (risk $1.80 to win $1) favorites to beat the Vikings this weekend. Vartanian said he would place a bet on the Vikings +3.5 to hedge his wager on the Saints and ensure a profit.

“It’s a tough game,” Vartanian said. “The Saints are a great team, but they are inconsistent. I can’t really trust them.”

Oddsmakers didn’t trust the Saints to make it this far before the season. In addition to its 11-to-1 price to win the NFC, New Orleans’ over/under regular-season win total was set at nine in most sports books.

The Saints went 13-3, obliterating the number, and earning the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

“I think the Saints the past two or three years have been a sleeper team for everybody,” said Mike Colbert, race and sports book director at The M Resort. “I think they’ve finally gotten over the hump. We know they have a great offense. I think they shored up the defense and that was the difference.”

The M currently is one of the only sports books offering New Orleans at -3, although it’s at odds of -125 (risk $1.25 to win $1). The M’s board also lists the Colts a -7.5 favorite at odds of -105 (risking $1.05 to win $1) in their AFC Championship matchup against the New York Jets.

But it’s a different kind of bet that’s gaining attention at the M. Colbert has posted “Yes or no” odds to win the Super Bowl for every team.

The Colts, for example, are +110 (risk $1 to win $1.10) to win the Super Bowl and -130 (risk $1.30 to win $1) to not win it. The Jets are +800 (risk $1 to win $8) on the ‘yes’ side and -1100 (risk $1 to win $0.09) for ‘no’.

Colbert said the proposition has been popular.

“Quite frankly, we’ve gotten very positive feedback and a ton of action on them,” he said. “We’ve put out a fair price. Some of these places — I’m not going to name any names — are not giving fair prices.”

Colbert said there had been no surprises on where the early money is coming in for this weekend’s slate. The public is betting heavy on both of the favorites, especially the Colts.

“The Jets obviously started the season with a rookie quarterback and up to this week I still hear people say he’s going to mess it up,” Colbert said. “But up to now, he’s answered the bell. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he does it again.”

Colbert expects money on both sides to equal out by kickoff with a lot of late action coming in on the Jets on Sunday morning.

Although Vartanian wasn’t as fortunate to bet on the Jets before the season — they were as much as a 50-to-1 long shot to win the Super Bowl — he said he might side with them this weekend.

“I think Indianapolis is going to win, but I’m not sure if they’re going to cover,” Vartanian said. “Indianapolis has a tendency to let teams back into games. I could see a backdoor cover.”







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