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The UFC, Vegas, and gambling

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The Fertitta brothers, who together own about 80% of UFC’s parent company Zuffa, come from a line of casino managers and owners. According to some, they also come with mafia ties. Their Father, Frank Sr., died in 2009 and left Station Casinos and its mounting debt to his sons and shareholders. After significant reorganization, shareholders put control in the hands of Frank  and brother Lorenzo.

In 2001, then promoter and current UFC president Dana White  approached childhood friends Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta  with news that Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG) was selling the UFC. White thought that mixed martial arts needed a billionaire or two  to take it forward.

Fight sports---and sports like baseball, football and basketball---have a long association with Vegas and betting. Gamblers will bet not just who wins, but  when points will be scored, how many field goals will be kicked, and even who wins the coin toss. As with poker, there are subtleties to placing bets that the average person may not consider when making a wager.

The Score on the NFL break down NFL games each week during the season. The show looks at records, injuries, how the teams play at home and away, how they react to weather, how they play before or after the by-week, how they respond to losses, then pick the winners taking into consideration the spread. Frankly, if you had the gumption to bet those picks every week over the course of an entire year, you’d definitely make money, maybe even a living.

It’s easy to look at wealthy, successful gamblers on TV and assume you can do it too, but for every poker millionaire, there are ten thousand guys who lost their rent check or F-150 at the table. Betting odds  can get expensive if you don’t know what you’re doing. Casinos don’t have experts creating spreads to lose money. Casinos are happiest when people shuffle in, empty their pockets, and scuttle off.

The most common method of setting odds for MMA is the American or money line system. It’s like this: John Smyth at -350 vs. Ken Flaherty at +200. The -350 indicates that you’ll have to bet $350 to win $100; the +200 means with a bet of $100 you’ll win $200. Finding a winning formula on money lines will take a lot of study, practice, luck, and betting.

Office pools are more amenable to the average fan who just wants to pit his knowledge against others. Pools can come in many forms: dream teams where you score points as your players do; picking winners and losers straight up or against the spread; guessing score totals; picking winners and losers of a particular boxing or mixed martial arts card.

MMA Vacations is a new website I participated in for Calgary’s UFC 149. You pick the winner, the method of win, and the round, and score points for accordingly. Prizes are awarded to the winners. There is a modest entrance fee---although you can play for free for the August 4th card. For those who want to test their knowledge, have some fun, and perhaps win a prize (but not lose their shirt), this is the way to go.

Anyone who has watched the UFC with friends or at a pub knows arguments quickly arise: who’s going to win the title fight? Who’s the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet? Everone's an expert. The UFC is entertaining enough on its own, but for those who want to up the ante with a little (legal) action, there are options out there.

Till last weekend I’d have advised gamblers to watch for my picks and  bet the opposite. But last weekend I won an iPad for my efforts. Not bad for fifteen minutes of thought.

Follow me on Twitter @RenkoStyranka


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