Friday, Sept. 1, 2006 | 7:18 a.m.
For more than a decade, the Stardust hosted a head-to-head football handicapping contest that drew a devoted congregation of fans and bettors to the north Strip each Friday night.
At its best, whether the contestants were deconstructing a big matchup, debating a fine point of the professional gambling racket or even lobbing bombs at each other, it transcended sports prognosticating and became riveting theater.
With the Stardust scheduled to close and its contest belly-up, the show will hit the road this season.
Enter the "Money Talks" invitational sponsored by the Leroy's chain of sports books.
A de facto - if not official - replacement for the Stardust contest, the Money Talks competition features 16 handicappers in a single-elimination bracket vying for a $100,000 prize pool. (Each contestant put up $5,000 to play, and Leroy's juiced the pot with another $20,000.)
It will take place at the Silverton, heretofore better known for its aquariums filled with jellyfish and other sea creatures than any sports betting tradition, and will air on KSHP 1400-AM.
The first matchup takes place Thursday night, but the show will move to Friday nights the following week.
Each contestant makes selections against the point spread, using Leroy's betting lines, from the weekend's slate of football games.
It's not enough that the 16 entrants risk money chasing a cash prize, or even that the entire contest is based on gambling on football games against the point spread.
No, this being Las Vegas, there has to be betting on the contestants themselves as well.
Sanctioned wagering on the outcome of handicapping contests is prohibited by state regulations. But offshore book Pinnacle has betting lines on each of the eight first-round matchups, and unofficial "underground" Las Vegas odds have emerged on each handicapper to win the event.
Following is a roundup of the 16-man field broken down by initial matchups:
Al McMordie vs. Bryan Leonard, Thursday - McMordie won the 2004 Stardust invitational, a $10,000 winner-take-all free-roll. Leonard is a veteran sports handicapper based in Las Vegas. Pinnacle odds have the pair evenly matched.
Steve MacLaughlin vs. Marc Lawrence, Sept. 15 - Last year's Stardust winner, Lawrence is a minus-112 (risk $1.12 to win $1) favorite at Pinnacle, with MacLaughlin, a local sports and horse racing handicapper, listed at plus-102.
Ken Weitzner vs. "Sooner Adam," Sept. 22 - Little is known about Adam, and that's reflected in the betting line. Weitzner, operator of betting Web site eog.com, is a minus-116 favorite at Pinnacle. He's also a 10-1 co-favorite to win the event on the underground line, while Adam is 15-1, tied for the longest shot on the board.
Tony Ricci vs. Andy Iskoe, Sept. 29 - A good matchup pitting Ricci, last year's Hilton "Super Contest" winner, against Iskoe, a well-known Las Vegas author and handicapper.
Bill "Krackman" Krackomberger vs. Stephen Nover, Oct. 6 - Krackman, an East Coast gambler and gaming writer, squares off against Nover, an online gaming columnist based in Las Vegas. I respect both handicappers but like Nover at Pinnacle's price of plus-108. Krackman is a 10-1 co-favorite to win the event.
"Doc" Moseman vs. Wayne Peters, Oct. 13 - The winner of a $5,000 entry-fee contest held at the Golden Nugget under that casino's previous ownership, Peters is 10-1 on the underground line. Moseman, based in Wisconsin, is a 15-1 long shot.
Jorge Gonzalez vs. Erin Rynning, Oct. 20 - I see this matchup between Las Vegas handicappers as a pick 'em and was surprised to see Rynning a sizable minus-113 favorite at Pinnacle.
Alf Musketa vs. Paul Sonner, Oct. 27 - A Reno sports bar and restaurant owner, Sonner is a 15-1 long shot. Canadian handicapper Musketa is 11 1/2-1.