Bet on it: Covering all the bases

Not even a reluctant kiosk that balked at issuing a ticket on Croatia can keep this bettor from hedging.

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Argentina v Croatia: Semi Final - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

A ticket bought on Lionel Messi would pay off at 18-1 if Argentina’s superstar wins the Golden Boot award. Argentina and France will meet in the World Cup final Sunday.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — Before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, I sat in the sports department of the Las Vegas Sun and jousted with colleague Brett Okamoto.

He was bullish on the United States; I wasn’t. I’ve long believed this country is several generations behind the global powers, in Europe and South America, whose footballers possess tiny soccer balls in their DNA.

We hatched a long-term wager. Up to and including the 2030 World Cup, if the U.S. wins one, I owe him $300. If the U.S. goes 0-for-6, he owes me three Benjamins.

On Dec. 3, the Netherlands ousted the U.S. from Qatar 2022. Okamoto, now ESPN’s ace MMA reporter, is 0-for-4.

I tapped futebol oddsmen Jeff Sherman and John Murray, at the Westgate SuperBook, for outside perspective, and both agreed I had the edge.

“Practically a sure thing,” Murray wrote in a text. He did, however, give patriotism points to Okamoto. My flag is green.

After that defeat to the Dutch, I asked Okamoto in a text, Want a buyout figure? He wrote back, Doubling Down!!!

I rang him Monday to formally decline taking six C-notes from the proud papa of a handsome 2½-year-old son.

“It was one of those bets I thought that we’d never talk about after that day,” he said. “Here we are, 12 years later … hey, it’s action for two decades. Right now, when I think about it, I’d agree with you.”

And that buyout?

“Hell, no!” he laughed. “But, in 2030, we have to watch those matches -together.”


A year ago, I thought I had nabbed sweet futures tickets on Canada (300-to-1) and Denmark (60-1) for knockout-round hedging material.

Both, though, demanded group-stage hedges as I realized their flimsiness. In both sides’ second and third games, I scrambled to gain two-plus units of profit, factoring in those future-wagers principals, too.

Last Saturday, to extract dividends from the two semifinals and finale, I visited a William Hill shop.

I had already invested in Argentine striker Lionel Messi’s winning the Golden Boot, at 18-1 on Oct. 1, at the SuperBook. Should La Albiceleste soar, I figured, it would be -because of his success.

Regarding Croatia, a Russia 2018 finalist, I had obtained a 30-1 ticket on Dec. 2 at the South Point.

With Argentina and Croatia, I was covered.

Defending champion France and young superstar Kylian Mbappé have been thorns. Getting a plus price, I bought a hefty ticket on Les Bleus at the Bill Hill outlet.

Morocco remained. A ticket writer wasn’t enthused about searching for the exotic tickets, so I zipped to a kiosk, seeking Morocco over Argentina (at 20-1) and Morocco over Croatia (33-1), to cover all angles.

I punched the Argentina ticket. Easy. I punched Croatia. Nope. The little screen wheel spun around. The writer tapped his computer. “Again,” he said. Spinning wheel.

He called someone, the screen went black. Ten minutes later, it came online. “Again,” he barked. Spinning wheel. He chatted on the phone, strolled to the kiosk, back to his desk, waved me over.

“You picked the only wager, among more than 270,000 options on that kiosk, that it wouldn’t recognize,” he said. “The only one!” He handed me the ticket from his computer.


The kiosk tried mightily to warn me about the ill-fated ticket. France zapped Morocco 2-0. Like Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo in “The Godfather,” though, I’m not that clever.


Sunday’s finale pits Argentina against France, with a 9 a.m. kickoff on Fox-32.

Early DraftKings three-way odds, on the score after 90 minutes plus added time, had +180 on both sides, +205 on Draw. A 2 total cost -120 on Over, Even on Under.

To advance, both were -110, or risk $110 to win $100.

Before the tournament, in this column, Rex Beyers, the Vegas-based head of PlayUp USA, had tapped Lionel Messi and Argentina to win it all. On Jan. 31, at the SuperBook, Argentina could have been nabbed at 10-1 odds, 6-1 for the French.

Wednesday afternoon, I asked Beyers for his finale best bet.

“I’m not backing down now,” he wrote in a DM. Winning outright is only -110, he said, but with that total favored to Over, “the slightly better bet, math-wise, is for Argentina to do it in 90 [minutes], not 120 and/or plus penalties.

“Argentina plus-180 would be my wager.”


Nebraska farmhand Casey Witt remains in the $6.133 million Circa Survivor contest.

That’s 6,133 entries, at a grand per entry. The game entails picking one NFL team to win outright per week. If it triumphs, the contestant advances but can’t use that squad again.

After Week 8, when he picked the -Cowboys to beat the Bears (the Cowboys won 49-29), we profiled the 35-year-old Witt, who works at a farm in Falls City, -Nebraska.

Last week, Witt picked the Chiefs. His deft selecting allowed him to delay employing the Chiefs until Week 14; they won 34-28 in Denver.

Fifteen people had picked the Seahawks, 12 went with the Titans, 11 were on the Raiders and one tapped the Steelers last week. All lost. Witt and 30 other entries remain.

All who last 20 weeks — the two additional weeks are the three Thanksgiving games and three on Christmas day — split the prize pool.

We hope to speak with Witt when he’s a millionaire.

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