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It's A Mug's Game!
by Shane LeRoy (Other)
Posted on May 10, 2007, 5:14 AM

Welcome to the first edition of It's a Mug's Game with Jamie Higgins, Paul Stone and Shane LeRoy. The premise of the column is as follows: Every week each columnist will be given £100 fantasy currency to place on a series of bets on upcoming sporting action, and any profit made each week will be totalled up to determine a points leader.If a bet is made one week but only becomes a winner two or three weeks later due to the length of a tournament, the profit will be carried forward the week after the bet becomes a winner.

If it all seems a little complicated to begin with, it will all become clear as we play the game. So without further delay lets move on to this weeks column and Shane will get us underway with his predictions.

Shane:I am going to start with Rugby Union this week, and specifically with the Super 14 Rugby from South Africa.

The Semi-finals take place this week and the draw pits the Sharks from Natal against the Auckland Blues from New Zealand, and the Bulls from Pretoria against the Canterbury Crusaders. The two South African franchises have home advantage following an incredible performance by the Bulls last week which saw them needing to win by over 70 points against the Queensland Reds to gain home advantage in the Semi-Finals. The rampant Bullsdefied the odds to post a Super Rugby record win 92-3; running in 13 tries in the process against the weakest Super 14 team in this year's competition.

In contrast, the Crusaders who were clear favourites for the title only 3 weeks ago have stumbled to two very bad defeats against the Brumbies and Highlanders over the last 2 weeks and face an uphill battle going to the hugely intimidating Loftus Versfeld Stadium without All-Black Second row Ali Williams for disciplinary reasons.

I am going with the Bulls to take to the win here against a jaded looking Crusaders outfit that will need Daniel Carter to play to his absolute best to be in with a shout of winning this one.

In the other Semi, I'm going with the other home team from South Africa, the Sharks to make it an all South African final by defeating another New Zealand team who have fallen away as the campaign has reached its final stages. The Blues in my opinion will struggle to match the kicking ability of the likes of Percy Montgomery, Butch James and in particular the brilliant young out-half Francois Steyn who can all kick the ball from one 22 to the other in the Pretoria altitude. The Blue's lack of a kicking back three could cost them vital territory, and the match.

The Bet: The Bulls to win
The Odds: 8/13 (Boyle Sports)

The Bet: The Sharks to win
The Odds: 4/11 (Boyle Sports)

The Stake: £20 Double
My Second event this week is the Players Championship Golf from the TPC at Sawgrass. Any discussion here has to begin with Tiger Woods who has won 9 of his previous 12 Tour starts and is the clear favourite again here.

However, a cautionary note is that Tiger has only won once and finished runner-up once in this tournament in his 10 attempts. This is largely due to the fact that the design of Sawgrass limits the big hitters from booming 350 yard drives and instead requires the field to play 5 woods or 3 irons off most of the tee boxes for position.

That said, he is still value at 3/1 with BetFred and is worth at least a saver punt along with your other bets.

The place market here is very interesting with plenty of value to be had for players who have had success at Sawgrass before. Stephen Ames, last years winner is widely available at 66/1,Retief Goosen, runner-up last year can be had at 31/1, Adam Scott a winner in 2004 is also available at 31/1 and Luke Donald, second two years ago, is available at 37/1.

I just canít ignore the value that Tiger gives you at 3/1 when simple maths tells us that a guy who has won 9 of his last 12 Tour starts probably has a much better chance than that, even on a less than favourable course for his game. I also think Luke Donaldís experience with playing the US Tour every week puts him a cut above the rest of the UK & Ireland players and that former winner Adam Scott,a winner on tour just before the Masters last month is too good to pass up at 25/1 in the betting that disregards Tiger Woods.

The Bet: Tiger Woods
The Odds: 3/1 (Bet Fred)
The Stake: £40

The Bet: Luke Donald to be top GB or Ireland player
The Odds: 12/5 (Paddy Power)
The Stake: £10

The Bet: Adam Scott (Betting Without Tiger Woods)
The Odds: 25/1 (Bet Direct)
The Stake: £5 E/W

This weekend also sees the return of Formula1 after a number of weeks absence from our screens. This weeks Grand Prix is the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona which traditionally has been a track which has led to predictable enough results and a high degree of likelihood that the big teams will negotiate the entire quota of laps without the engine blowing up.

This season has seen the Ferrari's and McLaren's racing in effectively their own championship way ahead of the other teams in each race.There is no reason to think this will change this week and I'm tipping World Champion Fernando Alonso to win on home soil in Barcelona at 9/4 with Ladbrokes. Alonso hasn't had the best season so far, even being overshadowed by Rookie team-mate Lewis Hamilton, but he is still at the top of the drivers championship and was a winner in Barcelona last year.

The Bet: Fernando Alonso
The Odds: 9/4 (Various)
The Stake: £20

That is my £100 budget spent for the week, and as you can see by the odds I am someone who tends to go for the shorter odds bet rather than take a punt on a 20/1 shot too many times. Im also not one who likes to throw too many bets into a double, treble or accumulator, but I know a man who does, and his name is Jamie Higgins.

Jamie: Gambling has been a real passion of mine for a number of years.It has brought me some incredible highs and some terrible lows during that time.

There have been times when I had to recognise I had real issues with the amounts I was staking but more recently following an extended break I have been able to be more in control and start to enjoy again the art of making shrewd and successful bets.

The majority of my gambling with real money is done on football. It is the sport I watch the most and I have opinions and views on nearly everything to do with the game. Therefore it seemed the logical place to start.

The English regular season is approaching itís end with the final round of Premiership matches taking place on Sunday afternoon.

Iím going to begin with Liverpool. Conventional betting wisdom would say to leave alone a team who has nothing really to play for in terms of the league and are potentially resting players for the Champions League Final. However I am going to scoff in the face of that wisdom and take them as my first bet of the week for a number of reasons. Their home form this season is as good as anybody elseís. They have conceded only a handful of goals (5) in 18 matches and are up against a Charlton team who suffered the heartbreak of being relegated on Monday night. It is also likely to be Anfield legend Robbie Fowlerís final game for the club and he will be busting his not inconsiderable gut to get a goal. I fancy them with the handicap at -1 at odds of 5/4.

First Bet: £20 @ 5/4 (Blue Square) for Liverpool to
beat Charlton starting -1 goals.

The one match of the weekend that has a major issue at stake for both competitors is Sheffield Utd vs Wigan. Wigan need to win to stay in the Premiership and Sheffield Utd only need a draw to do the same. Sheffield United are generally decent at home and Wigan have been dire recently. I always seem to go the wrong way in my bets with the Yorkshire team but I am going to give them one last chance and take them to win at odds of 11/10.

Second Bet: £20 @ 13/10 (Bet 365) for Sheffield
United to beat Wigan.

My final bet for the Premier League is going to be one at bigger odds. Tottenham Hotspur entertain Manchester City having been on fire recently and gunning for a place in next seasonís UEFA Cup. I see plenty of goals for Spurs in this game with the excellent Berbatov up front and plenty of drive from midfield. Added to their fine form is the fact that Manchester City are, for want of a better word, shit. You can get odds of 13/2 for Tottenham to score four times or more in the match and I am going to take that.

Third Bet: £10 @ 13/2 for Tottenham to score 4+
goals vs. Manchester City.

As well as English football I have started to follow European football more and more during the course of this season and I am going to put together a treble from matches on the continent for my final football bet.

Sevilla were a team that caught my eye in the UEFA Cup final last season when they demolished Middlesbrough. This season they have put together a very strong challenge for the Spanish League including a magnificent victory over Barcelona coming back from 1 nil down with 10 men for the majority of the match. This weekend they play Recreativo at home and are 4/7 to win.

The 2nd leg of my treble will also be from Spain with Racing Santander to win at home against Mallorca. Santander have been good at times this year and playing at home I think they will have too much for the Balearic side and I take them at odds of 5/6.

My final leg comes from the Russian League. This has been a league that has been increasing in strength over recent times as teams have had more money to invest in foreign players to compliment the skills of the homegrown players. This weekend sees one of the numerous Moscow derbys take place when CSKA take on Spartak. CSKA are the home side and are a very decent outfit who take some beating in their own division. Odds of 11/10 seem fair value to me.

Fourth Bet: £10 treble on Sevilla @ 4/7,
Racing Santander @ 5/6 and CSKA Moscow @ 11/10.
(Widely Available)

Next up I am switching to a totally different sport in Formula One. I know in some quarters people have been writing off Grand Prix as a spectacle and bemoaning the lack of overtaking and thrills. However as a betting medium there is quite a bit of enjoyment to be had. If you get your bets on early and then your guy has a good qualifying session you can watch the odds tumble and possibly look to lay the bet off in case of some disaster in the race.

Time to hold my hands up though and say I havenít correctly bet on the winner of a Grand Prix. Not just for a while, but ever! Somehow things always conspire against me or I just get it totally wrong from the start. So in front of the eyes of the world I am going to go into print and try and get it right for once.

The race itself comes from Spain and therefore Fernando Alonso will have his supporters but I will take the Flying Finn Kimi Raikonnen to build on his win in the first GP of the season at odds of 9/4. I still think Ferrari has the best overall package with their car and if they get the tactics right then Raikonnen can take the win.

Fifth Bet: £20 @ 9/4 for Raikonnen to win
Spanish Grand Prix.
My last bet is going to be on Golf. Iíve never quite got into golf as a sport to bet on. I have won a bit and lost a bit over time but my bets nearly always come down to whether I bet on Tiger Woods or I donít bet at all. Now I know Shane is going to have a bet on the Players Championship at Sawgrass this weekend and Iím thinking heís going to go with somebody at longer odds than Tiger is as the inevitable favourite (Shaneís Edit : Think Again, Jamie).
So I am going to counter that and take the great man at odds of 3/1 to re-confirm for the umpteenth time that he is the best by a distance.

Sixth Bet: £20 @ 3/1(Bet Fred) for Tiger Woods to
win Players Championship.

And now onto a man who eats Paddy Power and shits
Victor Chandler, Paul "Stoney" Stone.


Paul: 3 people. 100 pounds a week. No questions, except one. Who will end up bankrupt first?!

Unfortunately, like Deal or No Deal, my gambling on sports tendsí to be a bit of a mixed bag. My patience to win at smaller odds is minimal, and whilst I have a great sense of what to bet on for football/soccer, my dabbling in other sports remains fairly limited.

For the purposes of this column, Iíll stick to what I know best, which as an Englishman is of course football/soccer. My best site for betting tends to be Ladbrokes, where the grand majority of my betting will come from.

My attention immediately turns to the free flowing Tottenham Hotspur, and the constantly entertaining Blackburn Rovers. These 2 sides have undoubtedly been the most entertaining sides to watch outside of the top 4 all season, both playing a terrific brand of football, combining decent attacking play with dodgy defending, which leads to not many goalless games!

With this match being so vital as to which side plays European Football next season, it would be easy to bet on the Tottenham victory at 8/11, but in my opinion that doesnít offer very good value.

Blackburn Rovers on the other hand are available at 10/3 on skybet, and whilst that looks good value as well, the Rovers have been about as durable as a used condom away from home this season. This game was one of the best games of last season which then ended 3-2 to Spurs, but this time expect the electrifying pace of the game against Charlton on Monday night to catch up to them, and a score draw to be on the cards here. The chances of a clean sheet for either of these sides is about as likely as a 15 year old with a Britney Spears poster on his wall, so take the 1-1 or the 2-2 draw at 6/1 or 12/1 respectively. Iím going to have a pop on both with 20 quid at stake, giving me some very good odds if this one comes off!

1st Bet: 20 pounds on 1-1 at 6/1, 20 pounds on 2-2 at 12/1. (Ladbrokes)Potential Return: 140 pounds on 1-1, 260 pounds on 2-2.

With the Players Championship of golf commencing this week, it would be quite simple to bet the house on Tiger Woods at odds of 3/1 on Betfred and just happily take the risk of such an unpredictable tournament going the way of the Tiger. So thatís simply what Iím going to do! Tiger has been unstoppable at the top of the rankings for some time now, and is simply streets ahead of everyone else. 3/1 doesnít necessarily offer great value, but looking at the rest of the field Iím not entirely convinced either.

Either way, look for Mickleson Vs Singh on Thursday to be an absolute peach of a match, and Singh at evens looks pretty damn good value too. For this one however, Iím going to stick a precious 20 pounds of my money on Woodsy (we English like sticking ďyĒ at the end of surnames) to take home the bacon!

2nd Bet: 20 pounds on Tiger Woods to win at odds of 3/1 (Betfred)Potential return: 80 pounds

Next we come to the Spanish Grand prix, the home grand prix of current double World Champion Fernando Alonso. Alonso has so far almost been put in the shade by the blistering pace of the rookie Lewis Hamilton, but expect things to be different here in Spain, where Alonso dominated last year, winning the race having been the fastest all weekend.

Whilst itís true to say that Alonso may be still getting to grips with his new McClaren, no driver has had any success in Spain apart from Raikonnen and Schumacher over the past 6 years, so look for Alonso to get back on track here.

3rd bet: 20 pounds on Fernando Alonso to win at odds of 5/2 (Ladbrokes) Potential Return: 70 pounds

So with my final 20 pounds, my attention turns back to the final weekend of the Premiership season and a nice easy treble for the weekend. Expect Liverpoolís fringe players to batter a demoralized Charlton, a full strength Manchester United to defeat West Ham, and a typically bullish Sheffield United at home to relegate the pathetic Wigan, as well as their management team of Tweedledum and Tweedletwat.

4th bet: 20 pounds on Liverpool at 4/11,
Manchester United 8/13, and Sheff Utd at evens.
Odds of 3.4/1. (Ladbrokes)
Potential Return: 89.60


Jamie:Iím confident of at least getting 2 out of 6 right which wouldnít leave me too far from break even. As long as I avoid a total whitewash I will be back next week to put my neck on the line again. Obviously any comments are welcome and I am happy to discuss anything gambling orientated with anybody anytime.

Paul:Should be a fantastic weekend of sporting action, enjoy it people, and Iíll see you again this time next week!

Shane: And that is it for this week. Looks like we all like Tiger Woods this week and we all reckon we can easily predict who is going to win the Grand Prix. Do great minds think alike, or has the bookie seen us coming?

With a bit of luck we won't all lose the shirts from our backs and we will be back to do it all again next week. Until then, any feedback is appreciated and remember, if gambling is illegal in your state, you never read this column. If you bet on one of our tips and lose your house to a bookie named Sal, you never read this column.

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