In Vegas, Vegas is the favorite

The WNBA defending champion Aces got even stronger with the addition of future Hall of Famer Candace Parker.

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Candace Parker left the Sky in free agency to join the Las Vegas Aces, who won the 2022 WNBA Finals over the Connecticut Sun.

Candace Parker left the Sky in free agency to join the Las Vegas Aces, who won the 2022 WNBA Finals over the Connecticut Sun.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

LAS VEGAS — Tim Unglesbee welcomed the WNBA’s launch in 1997. A host of the Vegas weekend late-night radio show ‘‘Heatwave Sports,’’ he prefers betting on under-the-radar games and leagues.

He watched the tilts, kept notes. In 2006, the Westgate SuperBook set its first WNBA game lines. Unglesbee capitalized on his knowledge.

“Oh, my, buckets of money,” he says. “To me, back then, the talent discrepancy was so wide. You had good teams, then the rest. Just bad. So it was easy to just bet on the favorite all the time.

“That isn’t so easy anymore.”

SuperBook executive vice president Jay Kornegay says it became more popular as a wagering option as TV coverage increased, and it has received more attention from bettors in recent years.

But, he adds, “not enough to move the needle.” So it remains in the sportsbook shadows, which is fine with Unglesbee.

The San Antonio franchise relocated to Las Vegas, becoming the Aces, for the 2018 season. As a credentialed media member, he sits courtside inside Michelob Ultra Arena at Mandalay Bay. And he continues reaping WNBA profits.

Ditto for Majid Hamid, the professional bettor whom we profiled in February 2022. For him, the WNBA, like every league or sport, is about situations.

“I normally look for big WNBA underdogs that have been undervalued,” Hamid says. “It’s been profitable to bet those big dogs in certain situations.”

HIGH ON ACES

His sportsbook pals call the 66-year-old Hamid “Magic.” The Iraq native spent 20 years working in Chicago, where he keeps a $425,000 Italian 24-foot cruiser docked, and he retired to Vegas in 2018.

Flat TVs and computer screens dominate his home office.

In January, Magic earmarked three NFL playoff games, wagering several $10,000 parlays. He netted more than $200,000. M Resort keeps a complimentary suite for him.

He’s generous, too. Two weekends ago, he recommended the DC Defenders -3 against Seattle in the XFL playoffs. DC won 37-21.

Magic follows the WNBA diligently.

“I usually gauge moneyline values, and I follow reverse-line movements on the apps.”

He keeps meticulous records that fuel his action. He details player performances, home and away, for three- to five-game stretches. In the proper situation, Hamid seeks under positions:

“For example, if a team’s game goes over the total, the oddsmakers anticipate that the public is more likely to wager on over in its next game, as [the public] assumes the high-scoring ways will continue.”

Candace Parker provided offseason headlines when she left the Sky for the defending champion Aces. At William Hill, Hamid grabbed a +120 futures ticket on the Aces to win it all.

DraftKings lists the Aces’ title odds at +125, with the New York Liberty at +140, followed by a precipitous drop for the other 10 teams.

Hamid believes Aces lines won’t be set high enough, so he’s betting on them out of the gate this season, which starts Friday. He says, “I’ll stick to Vegas covering the spread. I did last year and made money.”

DEDICATED

Unglesbee, 46, suggests caution — his typical approach, anyway. He doesn’t make huge wagers, ogle magnificent parlay payoffs or dabble with big underdogs to win outright.

“Just grinding away,” he says. “At the end of the season, as long as you’re positive, you’ve done OK. But that’s any sport.”

New York handicapper Tom Barton has watched his ‘‘Heatwave’’ co-host profit annually on his WNBA action over the 12 years he has known Unglesbee.

“He truly enjoys it,” Barton says. “I think there are a lot of casual fans, but he’s more dedicated.”

Unglesbee is eager to see Parker and A’ja Wilson, a +290 MVP shot at DraftKings, anchor the Aces’ post.

“A huge upgrade to the defending champs,’’ Unglesbee says. ‘‘Parker is a Hall of Famer who brings veteran experience and a championship, too, to the table. They will be fun to watch.”

The Liberty boast of a dynamic backcourt after Courtney Vandersloot left the Sky to join Sabrina Ionescu (10-1 DK MVP odds).

“Vandersloot is probably the best point guard in WNBA history,” Unglesbee says. “That’s your John Stockton right there, and Sabrina will play [shooting guard].”

New York also added former WNBA MVPs Breanna Stewart (+270 MVP odds) and Jonquel Jones (30-1).

“Plus, they have a very good coach,” Unglesbee says of second-year Liberty floor boss Sandy Brondello, a famous Aussie shooting guard who guided the Phoenix Mercury to the 2014 WNBA title.

Today’s Phoenix roster, featuring a Brittney Griner (15-1 MVP odds) who spent most of 2022 incarcerated in Russia, doesn’t impress him.

“A franchise that’s on the verge of collapse,” Unglesbee says. “What will Griner’s mindset be? We have no idea until we see her play, with good reason.

“I will also look to play against Indiana, which is the worst team in the WNBA. The franchise is messed up, from the front office all the way down. There will be value betting against Indiana all season.”

To fans of the Sky, who open Friday night at Minnesota, Unglesbee knows the Parker departure will sting. But he has immense faith in fifth-year coach/GM James Wade.

“A hell of a coach,’’ he says. ‘‘If anyone can rebuild it, it’ll be him. He built it to begin with, and they won a title [in 2021]. He’s the right guy to do it. It’s just, will they give him time to do it?”

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