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The Smart Money: Ups, downs: The year in wagering

Just as the worlds of politics, sports, and entertainment have had their noteworthy moments in 2010, so has the universe of gambling.

Just as the worlds of politics, sports, and entertainment have had their noteworthy moments in 2010, so has the universe of gambling.

In fact, some of the more significant gambling events of the last 12 months have involved, well, politics, sports, and entertainment.

Here are a few:

1. Internet poker failure. Those pushing for federal oversight, including taxation, of online poker thought they had their best shot of seeing that happen this year since passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006. With an online gambling friend, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), chairing the key House Financial Services Committee, a bill that would have removed most obstacles from playing poker online came out of that committee by a 41-22 vote in July. But the legislation never went any further. With Republicans in control of the U.S. House for at least the next two years, online poker advocates are holding far weaker hands these days.

2. Pennsylvania sets the table. Table games arrived in Pennsylvania last summer, transforming the state's 10 gambling halls from slots parlors into full-scale casinos. In the early going, the introduction of tables games has caused a spike in Pennsylvania gambling revenues, but has put even more pressure on an already-foundering gaming industry in New Jersey.

3. Money-changing Temple. One of the most stunning point-spread turnarounds of the year occurred in a game between local college football teams when Temple and Villanova opened the season against each other with the Owls a 41/2-point favorite. The Wildcats, although trailing by 25-24, seemed to have the point spread beaten as they took the kickoff on the last play of the game. But Villanova's razzle-dazzle return attempt went awry and Temple returned a Wildcats fumble for a touchdown to cover the spread, 31-24.

4. Lions roar. Among NFL teams, surprising Detroit - despite a 5-10 record in the NFC North - is assured of at least tying for the best record in the league against the point spread. The Lions are 11-4 entering their final game against Minnesota on Sunday. Since at least the 2003 season, no NFL team with a losing record has beaten the spread as many times as the Lions have this year.

5. Grinding it out. As the World Series of Poker was about to start in late May, news stories broke describing the dire financial difficulties of poker pro Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, whose problems included foreclosures on several failed real estate investments and Internal Revenue Service inquiries into some of The Grinder's past tax returns. But Mizrachi set aside the distractions and won the first tournament of the 2010 WSOP, a $50,000 buy-in event that drew the world's best players, earning the Florida pro a $1.55 million payday. Later, Mizrachi went on to become a focus of ESPN's TV coverage of the Main Event when he advanced to the final table from among a field of 7,319 players and finished fifth for another $2.33 million.

Philly poker pro cashes big. Chris Klodnicki, who lives in Old City but grew up in Voorhees, finished second in the World Series of Poker Circuit Eastern Regional Championship last week at Harrah's Atlantic City, earning $221,452.

Klodnicki lost in heads-up play to Chris Bell, of Raleigh, N.C., who won more than $358,000. The $10,000 buy-in tournament had 136 starters.

Klodnicki, 25, a diehard Philadelphia sports fan, fought his way to the final table despite missing a good portion of the first day of the four-day event because he was watching the Eagles-Giants game when the Birds rallied to win with 28 points in the fourth quarter.

For Klodnicki, a Lehigh graduate, the high finish in the WSOP Circuit event is just one in a string of big paydays over the last few years in both live and online tournaments.

Last December, he won a WSOP Circuit Main Event, also at Harrah's Atlantic City, for nearly $216,000, and in the 2008 WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas, Klodnicki finished 12th for almost $592,000.