In their astonishing run to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Flyers not only have written themselves into the sports record books but they also are making history in Las Vegas.
When the Orange & Black came back from a three-games-to-none hole against the Boston Bruins to win that seven-game second-round series, they became only the fourth team in any sport to accomplish such a feat. In Vegas, a team's odds of winning a championship are adjusted after every game. And on May 6-7, when the Flyers were peering into the playoff abyss against Boston, their odds to win the Cup soared to 100-1 at the Las Vegas Hilton and were 75-1 elsewhere.
Now, on the eve of the Cup Finals against Chicago, the Flyers are a mere 2-1 underdog.
Jay Kornegay, vice president of sports and race-book operations at the Las Vegas Hilton, said he had no takers on the Flyers at 100-1. In Kornegay's long Las Vegas experience, the only odds reversal he could recall that came close to matching the current Flyers was for the 1994-95 Houston Rockets, who went from 150-1 at one point to winning the NBA title.
Actually, a Flyers backer didn't have to be so clairvoyant as to place a wager when the team was in that deep hole against Boston to be holding a hot betting slip. At the beginning of the NHL season, the Flyers were 15-1 to win the Cup. And when the playoffs opened with the Flyers barely qualifying after a shoot-out win over the New York Rangers in the final regular-season game, Philly was as much as a 45-1 longshot as a seventh seed, according to Andrew Patterson, the hockey oddsmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which sets the lines for many casinos.
Now that Philly has made it this far, Patterson likes the Flyers' chances - at least more than the betting public does.
"I thought Chicago was about 60 cents better than Philadelphia, and I gave them another 20 cents for the home ice," Patterson said.
Translating into wagering odds, that means Patterson had the Flyers as a plus-180 underdog, meaning that a $100 wager on the Flyers would earn $180 if they won the Cup. Conversely, Patterson had the Blackhawks as a minus-230 favorite (a $230 bet on Chicago would win $100). But the public seems to like the Blackhawks, now a 2-5 favorite, at least enough to generally push the odds to plus-200 for Philly and minus-250 for Chicago. That happens to be a good thing if you like the Flyers.
"I think the Flyers have a great shot," Patterson said.
"There are two things you need in the Stanley Cup playoffs," the oddsmaker continued. "You need a hot goaltender and you need some sandpaper players - guys who can rough up the other team. And the Flyers have both. . . . you can't say enough about [Flyers goalie] Michael Leighton."
Plus, the Flyers match up well with the Blackhawks, Patterson said, particularly because Philadelphia isn't reluctant to get in the other team's face. The oddsmaker said that the key playoff moment for him occurred not against Boston but in the Flyers' Game 3 loss to Montreal in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Flyers took a 5-1 shellacking, but the game ended with the teams scrapping and Philly getting the better of the skirmishing.
"I think when they did that, they got into Montreal's heads a little bit," Patterson said. "The Flyers were saying, 'This is just one game, and we're going to be back.' "
That hardnosed attitude should serve the Flyers well against Chicago, Patterson said.
"You do have to factor in the intangibles," Patterson said. "And in this case, the Flyers could simply be one of those teams of destiny."
Shuffle up and deal. The World Series of Poker starts its seven-week run Friday with one of the more prestigious events, the Poker Player's Championship. The event requires the largest buy-in of the WSOP's 57 tournaments - $50,000.
The huge buy-in isn't all that ensures only poker's elite will sit down for this one. The Poker Player's Championship is a mixed tournament, which means the competitors will be playing through a rotation of eight poker variants. In addition to the familiar no-limit hold 'em, there's the old standard, seven-card stud, plus Omaha hi-low split, Razz (a lowball game) and even a draw game, deuce-to-the seven triple draw. In contrast, Saturday marks the first no-limit hold 'em tournament with a relatively low $1,000 buy-in. Last year, the corresponding tournament drew more than 6,000 players.
The Main Event (the No-limit Texas Hold 'em World Championship) is July 5-12, and the final table of nine players convenes in November.
Eagles' win total. The Las Vegas Hilton recently posted its over-under win totals for the NFL regular season. The Eagles are 81/2. If you want the over, you have to lay $120 to win $100. For the under, it's an even bet.