College Football Odds 2017: Week 13 Betting Preview

With the arrival of rivalry week, the college football season officially enters its endgame.

Intrastate showdowns to settle old scores, clashes between conference leaders, and tough tests for the Associated Press (AP) Top-25 teams await.

The rivalry week festivities this Saturday start with top-ranked Alabama (11-0) visiting sixth-ranked Auburn (9-2) in the 82nd edition of the Iron Bowl.

The latest release of the College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings puts the Crimson Tide on top, while the Tigers are lurking just outside the final four in the sixth spot. Since losing to LSU (8-3) five weeks ago, Auburn has scored 40 points or more in four straight blowout wins – including a 42-27 shocker over then second-ranked Georgia (10-1).

As for Alabama, the juggernaut rolls on for head coach Nick Saban, whose team has only been tested a single time all year. The Tide needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to score a comeback win over 16th-ranked Mississippi State (8-3) two weeks ago, but aside from that near stumble, Alabama has ridden high scores and stingy defense to a spotless record.

It’s the last regular season game for both teams, and for the victor, a date with Georgia in the SEC Championship Game awaits.

Per the latest odds posted by online sportsbook Bovada, Alabama enters the Iron Bowl as 5-point road favorites.

Elsewhere, third-ranked Oklahoma (10-1) will be in action Saturday hosting West Virginia (7-4), as the Sooners cling to the fourth and final CFP postseason bid.

The Sooners’ only loss on the season came against Iowa State, but during Oklahoma’s current six-game win streak, they’ve beaten a pair of ranked teams in then 11th-ranked Oklahoma State and then sixth-ranked TCU (9-2).

The Mountaineers are an enigma, with a 28-14 loss to Texas last week representing their only defeat against an unranked opponent all year. West Virginia has gone 2-3 against the AP Top-25 this year, getting blasted 50-39 by then 11th-ranked Oklahoma State (8-3) one week, before showing signs of brilliance in a 20-16 win over then 15th-ranked Iowa State (7-4) the next.

One team has everything to play for, while the other is simply playing out the string. Accordingly, the heavy lean goes to Oklahoma as 23-point home favorites.

Fourth-ranked Clemson (10-1) has surprised most pigskin pundits, defending last year’s national championship despite losing star quarterback Deshaun Watson to the NFL. The Tigers are third in the most recent CFP rankings, but with a showdown with CFP No. 2 Miami looming next weekend, Clemson can’t afford to look past this Saturday’s road clash with South Carolina.

Fortunately for them, the Gamecocks represent the bitterest of rivals in the 115th meeting of the Palmetto State’s two top teams.

It could be a trap game for most teams, but with a national title to defend, Clemson is tabbed as 14-point favorites even on the road.

Fifth-ranked Wisconsin (11-0) hasn’t lost a game all year, but the Badgers are still boxed out of the CFP rankings at the moment. Last week’s win over then 24th-ranked Michigan (8-3) would’ve been enough to lift Wisconsin into a playoff spot in most years, but a down season for the Wolverines has reduced their résumé’s influence on the rankings.

The Badgers hit the road to take on a middling Minnesota (5-6) team, but ninth-ranked Ohio State (9-2) lies in wait to close out the regular season in the Big Ten title game. A win in that high-profile matchup to cap a perfect season may be enough to get Wisconsin over the CFP hump, but they’ve got to get through Minnesota first to make that possible.

In another potential trap game, Wisconsin holds a 17-point edge as road favorites.

MGM Announces Plans to Build $7 Million Sportsbook at Borgata in Atlantic City

As news trickled out of the Sports Betting USA Conference last week, bettors on the East Coast celebrated the imminent arrival of a fully functional sportsbook at the Borgata.

The crown jewel of the casino industry in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the Borgata was formerly owned and operated by Boyd Gaming, before MGM Resorts International acquired the property in August of last year.

During the Sports Betting USA Conference – held November 14-15 in New York City – MGM Resorts’ vice president of race and sportsbook operations Jay Rood spoke as part of a panel discussion on identifying “optimal routes” to legalized sports betting in the United States.

While addressing the panel, Rood announced that MGM Resorts is preparing to invest $7 million in the construction of a full-scale sportsbook at the Borgata.

Rood also told assembled industry stakeholders and media members that he would depart New York City directly for the Borgata, where he planned to “scout what we’re going to do down there” as it pertained to the sportsbook’s design and buildout.

Sports betting is currently prohibited in all but four American states (Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana) under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 – a federal law which has come under intense scrutiny in recent years.

Led by New Jersey, several states have passed legislation to create regulated sports betting industries, provided PASPA is eventually repealed or amended. New Jersey voters approved a sports betting referendum in 2011, and one year later the legislature passed the Sports Wagering Act. Governor Chris Christie eventually signed the bill into law, prompting a spate of lawsuits by sports leagues including the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the “Big Four” professional leagues in North America (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL).

The United States Supreme Court is preparing to hear oral arguments in the case of Christie vs. NCAA et al on December 4, and according to Rood, MGM Resorts is optimistic that New Jersey will prevail:

“We’re in line with thinking that there’s going to be some sort of movement on this.

We’re preparing for all the different scenarios.

Everyone is going to have to explore how it’s going to fit into (the) business model of their existing operations.”

The Court’s ruling isn’t expected to be rendered until May of next year, but with industry experts like ESPN’s David Purdum reading the tea leaves and putting the odds of a New Jersey victory at even money, MGM Resorts and its competitors aren’t wasting any time.

Major U.K.-based sportsbook operator William Hill, which is also active throughout America’s gambling hotspots like Nevada and New Jersey, announced similar plans for its Monmouth Park horseracing track.

Located in Oceanport, New Jersey, the Monmouth Park track is already home to a $1 million William Hill sports bar facility, built in 2013 after Christie signed the sports betting bill into law. Per William Hill US’ chief executive officer Joe Asher, the sports bar was designed to be converted into a sportsbook “within weeks” of a change in federal law:

“One day, sports betting will be legal in New Jersey. When it is, William Hill will be there.”

Dennis Drazin – who serves as an advisor to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemens Association and Darby Development, the operator of Monmouth Park – also spoke at the Sports Betting USA Conference, where he signaled that a larger $5 million sports bar / sportsbook facility would soon be in the works.

These hopeful operators aren’t beholden to the Court’s ruling either.

To begin the legislative year, Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) introduced federal legislation which would fully repeal PASPA – casting the law’s future into further doubt.

NFL Odds 2017: Week 12 Thanksgiving Day Betting Preview

It’s finally turkey time, and as families across America break bread on Thanksgiving Day, the NFL offers three reasons to be grateful.

To kick off Thursday’s tripleheader, the Detroit Lions (6-4) host the Minnesota Vikings (8-2) in a de facto NFC North title game.

The Vikings are riding a six-game winning streak, and over that span, the defense has allowed a stingy 16 points per game. If they can make it seven straight, Minnesota will take a commanding three-game lead over Detroit in the divisional standings – putting the Vikings on the inside track to host a playoff game. And with Super Bowl 52 held in their hometown U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings have every incentive to pursue the Philadelphia Eagles (9-1) for the NFC’s top seed.

The Lions have won three in a row, but those wins were over a Green Bay Packers (5-5) team missing Aaron Rodgers, followed by the Cleveland Browns (0-10) and Chicago Bears (3-7). When faced with legitimate competition in their prior three contests, the Lions lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2), New Orleans Saints (8-2), and Carolina Panthers (7-3).

In fact, Detroit has beaten just a single winning team all season – the Vikings, in a 14-7 slugfest in Week 4.

Appropriately enough, online sportsbook Bovada has this one in the “too close to call” category, as the Lions are 3-point home underdogs against an elite divisional foe.

With the appetizer out of the way, the main course for Thursday’s slate pits a pair of enigmas against one another in a season-saving showdown.

The Dallas Cowboys (5-5) host the Los Angeles Chargers (4-6), and whichever team comes up short will likely see their postseason chances evaporate in kind.

Two weeks ago, Dallas was 5-3 and appeared likely to secure yet another playoff bid – but the reinstated suspension of running back Ezekiel Elliott threw a wrench in those plans. But while veteran Alfred Morris has backed Elliott up admirably – rushing for a gaudy 6.2 yards per carry average to 4.1 per for Elliott – it was the sudden loss of left tackle Tyron Smith that really derailed Dallas’ season.

Since losing Smith to injury two weeks ago, the Cowboys have scored just 16 points total in two blowout losses, falling to the Atlanta Falcons (6-4) and the Eagles. Smith “expects” to play on Thanksgiving, but even if he goes, Dallas is also down a defensive captain in linebacker Sean Lee.

As for the Chargers, starting 0-4 seemed to leave the team for dead, but a 4-2 run since then has inspired a bit of hope in La La Land. And last Sunday’s 54-24 romp over the Buffalo Bills (5-5) certainly lends L.A. a sense of momentum heading into the short week.

This one opened with Dallas as 4-point home favorites, but being destroyed 37-9 by the Eagles on Sunday Night Football didn’t help the Cowboys’ cause in the eyes of linemakers. Throw in the Chargers’ own blowout win, and the line has shifted all the way to a pure pick’em.

To close out the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day trifecta, the Washington Redskins (4-6) host the New York Giants (2-8) in a clash of NFC East also-rans.

Despite the subpar record, the Redskins can hang their hat on the fact that they’ve competed against by far the toughest schedule in the league. Washington’s six losses have come against the division-leading Eagles (twice), the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs (6-4), the Cowboys with Elliott at running back and a full roster, the NFC North-leading Vikings, and the NFC South-leading Saints.

Last week’s loss against New Orleans was especially painful, as Washington somehow squandered a 31-16 lead with under six minutes left to fall 34-31 in overtime.

If the Redskins are to rebound from such an excruciating defeat, a home date against the hapless Giants may be just the ticket.

New York was a trendy Super Bowl pick in the preseason, before dropping five straight to sink their season before it ever really began. The loss of wideout Odell Beckham Jr. has garnered the headlines, but the Giants’ roster has been decimated by offseason mismanagement and in-season injuries.

A 12-9 overtime win last Sunday over the reeling Chiefs provided some solace, but the Giants are still big 7.5-point underdogs on the road.

FanDuel Founder and CEO Nigel Eccles Steps Down; Former CFO Matt King Returns as Replacement

Eight years after founding the daily fantasy sports (DFS) platform FanDuel, chief executive officer Nigel Eccles announced that he would depart that role effective immediately.

In a statement issued on Monday morning, the 42-year old Eccles – who also stepped down from the company’s Board of Directors – is said to be leaving “to focus on his next venture.”

In a message issued from Eccles’ personal Twitter account shortly after the news broke, he elaborated on those plans:

“Excited but a little bit sad to be leaving FanDuel today. It has been an amazing eight years.

For me, I’m building something awesome in eSports. Watch this space.”

In a recent interview with Recode, Eccles teased his interest with the emerging eSports industry:

“Just a thought in my head (right now). Traditional sports are in harvest mode. ESports are in growth mode.”

Eccles’ departure from FanDuel occurs nearly one year to the day after the original DFS leader announced its intention to merge with chief rival DraftKings. Those plans, which went public on November 18 of 2016, had Eccles set to become Chairman of the combined DraftKings / FanDuel operation, but he planned to exit day-to-day oversight of the company as CEO.

The merger agreement was eventually scuttled earlier this year, amidst antitrust objections raised by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

FanDuel’s executive leadership acted immediately to name a replacement, installing former chief financial officer Matt King into Eccles’ former position as chief executive. King served as FanDuel CFO from 2014 through last year, before becoming president of regional operations and corporate development for insurance firm ‎Cottingham & Butler.

In the company’s statement, Eccles praised King as the perfect replacement to ensure continuity during the transitional phase to come:

“With his strategic vision, range of experiences, and broad skillset, I cannot imagine a better individual to steer FanDuel forward.

With tremendous legislative strides in the past two years and the business moving into profitability in quarter four, FanDuel is in a great position.

I know Matt is the leader to capitalize on the momentum in the sports technology space to take FanDuel to the next level.”

King expressed excitement at taking the reins of the DFS industry’s second-largest operator:

“It’s an incredible honor to return to FanDuel at such an exciting time for the company.

Over the past eight years, Nigel has built one of the most disruptive companies in the sports world.

I look forward to working with our talented team to make FanDuel the place for fans to engage with sports they love in new and exciting ways.”

As part of the corporate shakeup, FanDuel also announced that Carl Vogel has assumed the position of Chairman of the Board, while David Nathanson has joined the board independent director.

Vogel is the former vice-chairman and president of the Dish Network, and Nathanson previously worked in an executive capacity at Fox Sports.

In their own statement, the FanDuel Board of Directors saluted Eccles for envisioning the DFS industry of today nearly a decade ago:

“Nigel achieved something remarkable – he completely redefined an existing industry. His passion, intelligence, and focus have been the bedrock of FanDuel’s success.

We would like to offer our sincere thanks as he leaves to pursue his next venture.

We are excited to work with Matt again. He is an exceptional executive who knows the business intimately, and has a clear vision for its next phase of growth.”

With the possibility of merging with DraftKings no longer legally viable, FanDuel has been forced back into a familiar role – competing for market share against a dominant rival.

Speaking to the New York Times shortly after the merger talks fell through, author Daniel Barbarisi – who wrote “Dueling With Kings” to investigate the DFS industry’s rise and fall – predicted that FanDuel would fail to keep up:

“If the two companies have to go back to war, I’d put my money on DraftKings. Through the merger process, DraftKings operated as if the merger was no guarantee. It raised money and continued to push the envelope and grow the brand.

FanDuel didn’t raise money, and its new initiatives weren’t as aggressive. That has left DraftKings in the stronger position now that the time to play nice is over, and they have to compete for market share again.” New Jersey Poker Classic Wraps up This Weekend with $100,000 Guaranteed Main Event

From Saturday, November 18 through Monday, November 20, the New Jersey Poker Classic online tournament series will come to a close.

The series began on November 10, offering 38 tournaments and $500,000 in guaranteed prize pools to players in New Jersey’s regulated iGaming market.

But the grand finale takes place Sunday at 5:00 p.m. local time, with a $500 buy-in Main Event sporting a $100,000 guarantee – ensuring the eventual winner will pocket a sizable five-figure score.

The New Jersey Poker Classic Main Event is a No Limit Hold’em (NLHE) tournament, and players are permitted to reenter for another $500 through the reentry period.

For folks working on a tighter bankroll, is also hosting several smaller events on Saturday evening to conclude the series.

Event #28 costs only $50 to enter, and players will be competing for their share of an $8,000 guaranteed prize pool. The format is NLHE with rebuys and an add-on, along with deeper starting stacks.

Event #29, the “Saturday Best” NLHE reentry tournament, ups the ante to $320 while guaranteeing a prize pool of $25,000.

And in Event #30, players will pay $150 to take part in NLHE six-handed reentry action, with a $10,000 guaranteed prize pool up for grabs.

Bill Rini, who serves as head of online poker for the World Series of Poker (WSOP), spoke to Online Poker Report about using a balanced approach when setting the New Jersey Poker Classic schedule:

“Every tournament schedule is part art and part science. We have data to go off of, but the wants and needs of players change over time. So, you have to go into it knowing that a spreadsheet is never going to give you everything.

From the beginning, our positioning has been to be the best place to play poker online. We offer a great experience for players, chances to win WSOP packages, and players know and trust the brand.”

Rini’s last shot at developing an online tournament series in the Garden State occurred last summer, when hosted the New Jersey Online Championships. The schedule for that one featured over twice as many events at 93, but the guaranteed prize pools were halved at $250,000.

Last month saw PokerStars.nj –’s chief rival in New Jersey – host the second annual New Jersey Championship of Online Poker (NJCOOP). That series spread 46 events and $1.2 million in guarantees over 17 days of action, but while overall attendance increased slightly over last year’s edition, seven tournaments failed to meet their guarantee.

The overlays were relatively minor, and tended to affect larger buy-in events, but as Rini told Online Poker Report, carefully observed PokerStars’ progress on the tournament series front:

“As far as the competition, I don’t want to say that we don’t pay attention but they’re often playing off other strengths and weaknesses, so what works for them might not be right for us.

We just try to be very good at what we set out to do.”

Player volume data tracked by the PokerScout site shows and PokerStars.nj are neck and neck in the race for market share supremacy. Both sites show a rolling seven-day average of 80 active players at any given time, good enough to beat out the PartyPoker.nj platform and its seven-day average of 70 active users.

Anybody who busts out of the Main Event can hop in one of seven side events scheduled for Sunday and Monday. The buy-ins for these NLHE events range from just $30 to $250, with guarantees between $4,000 and $25,000.

College Football Odds 2017: Week 12 Betting Preview

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Entering last Saturday’s slate of games, Georgia was undefeated at 9-0, while Notre Dame and TCU were both 8-1 squads. The trio ranked second, third, and eighth in the Associated Press (AP) Top-25 rankings, and the first College Football Playoff (CFP) ranking even had Georgia in the top spot.

But all three saw their postseason hopes take a major hit, suffering blowout losses at the hands of fellow AP Top-10 contenders. Georgia (9-1) lost 40-17 to then 10th-ranked Auburn (8-2), Notre Dame was demolished in a 41-8 rout by then seventh-ranked Miami (9-0), and TCU fell 38-20 to then fifth-ranked Oklahoma (9-1).

As a result, the Tigers, Hurricanes, and Sooners all solidified their own standing in the playoff chase. But before moving on to those teams, the top-ranked team in the land deserves its due.

No. 1 Alabama (9-0) nearly suffered the same sort of stinging upset, after falling behind 24-17 early in the fourth quarter against then 18th-ranked Mississippi State (7-3). But the Crimson Tide put up a touchdown to tie it shortly thereafter, and won on a last-minute TD toss to keep their perfect season intact.

Alabama won’t be sweating this Saturday, however, with FCS lightweights Mercer (5-5) heading to Tuscaloosa for a glorified scrimmage. The disparity is so great between these teams that online sportsbook Bovada doesn’t even have a spread posted yet, but look for a huge number to hit the board ahead of kickoff.

As for the nation’s new number two, second-ranked Miami has coped with Hurricane Irma-related postponements, and the Hurricanes bring a spotless record into their home date with Virginia (6-4).

The Cavaliers have lost three of their last four contests, and each defeat involved a margin of 17 points or more. Conversely, the Hurricanes have run up leads of 18 points or more in two straight – with both blowouts against ranked teams to boot.

The oddsmakers at Bovada like those trends to continue, with Miami installed as an 18.5-point home favorite.

Third-ranked Oklahoma is rolling, as the Sooners have dusted a pair of ranked teams in back to back weeks. They’ll be looking to avoid a letdown after last week’s rousing win over TCU, but with a woeful Kansas (1-9) team playing host, that shouldn’t be a chore.

The Jayhawks are riding a nine-game losing streak, and if it wasn’t for a season-opening win over FCS doormat Southeast Missouri State (2-8), Kansas would be staring down the barrel of a winless season.

Oklahoma, meanwhile, was ranked fifth in the first CFP rankings – but the untimely demise of both Georgia and Notre Dame should put the Sooners squarely in the postseason discussion. They can’t afford to take their eye off the ball here, even with a massive 38-point edge as road favorites.

Fourth-ranked Clemson hosts Citadel (5-5) of the FCS, and as is usually the case with FBS vs FCS matchups, the line should be released early Saturday morning.

Fifth-ranked Wisconsin (10-0) has the same pristine record as Alabama, but a lack of signature wins against strong opponents puts the Badgers behind the eight-ball. Their first win over a ranked team occurred just last week, in a 38-14 rout of then 20th-ranked Iowa (6-4) – but Wisconsin gets a chance to change the narrative this week.

They’ll host 24th-ranked Michigan (8-2), and even in a down year for Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines, a Wisconsin win over their Big 10 rival would go a long way in convincing the CFP committee.

Since suffering a drubbing at the hands of then second-ranked Penn State (8-2) a month ago, Michigan has put up three straight blowouts over outmatched opponents. Despite a lack of CFP potential in their own right, the Wolverines would love nothing more than to play spoiler for a conference rival, so this one should be heated from kickoff to the final whistle.

Accordingly, Wisconsin is only laying 7.5 points as home favorites.


PokerStars Pushing to be First Poker Operator in Pennsylvania’s Newly Legalized iGaming Market

It’s only been two weeks since Pennsylvania passed a comprehensive online gambling regulation package, but global industry leader PokerStars has its sights set on the emerging market.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 271 into law on October 30, and within 10 days’ time, executives for PokerStars parent company The Stars Group were openly discussing plans to apply for a license there.

During the company’s third quarter earnings call with investment analysts, The Stars Group chief executive officer Rafi Ashkenazi discussed the potential for PokerStars expansion into Pennsylvania:

“We are poised to take advantage of the positive momentum in the growth of online gaming globally and the continued march toward regulation, including in the United States, where we aim to be among the first operators to launch in Pennsylvania when that state opens its doors to online poker and casino.”

Even before Wolf signed the iGaming bill into law – making Pennsylvania the fourth state along with Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware to approve online gambling – The Stars Group celebrated HB-271’s long-awaited passage by the state legislature.

Eric Hollreiser, who serves as vice president of corporate communications for The Stars Group and PokerStars, took to Twitter and praised Pennsylvania for expanding America’s regulated iGaming industry:

“We applaud the Pennsylvania Legislature for taking decisive action to legalize online gaming.

This is commonsense legislation that will protect consumers, help close Pennsylvania’s budget gap, and make the state more competitive within the regional gaming industry.

The Stars Group looks forward to working with Pennsylvania and its gaming regulators and competing in the future marketplace.”

PokerStars currently operates in just one of the three legal zones, holding an interactive gaming license through the Resorts AC casino in New Jersey. Language included in the iGaming law passed by Nevada and Delaware includes so-called “bad actor” provisions, which prohibit PokerStars from participating based on the company’s previous decision to flout a federal iGaming ban between 2006 and 2011.

Pennsylvania declined to include similar bad actor restrictions in HB-271, freeing PokerStars to expand on its successful PokerStars.nj platform.

Brian Kyle, chief financial officer of The Stars Group, pointed to New Jersey as a template for PokerStars’ plans in Pennsylvania during the conference call:

“We received some promising news from the U.S. two weeks ago, as Pennsylvania became the fourth US state to authorize iGaming within its borders, including poker, casino and, if the US federal law changes, sports.

With a population almost twice the size of New Jersey, Pennsylvania is poised to become a significant marketplace for iGaming, and a potential boost to our US poker business as Pennsylvania is expected to share liquidity with NJ and other US states as they regulate.

We are optimistic that Pennsylvania will be a catalyst for other US states to continue the momentum of iGaming regulation in the US.”

As is the case in New Jersey, prospective iGaming operators must obtain a license in conjunction with one of the state’s existing brick and mortar casinos. PokerStars secured its New Jersey license through Resorts AC, a subsidiary of the Mohegan Sun casino ownership group.

Given the presence of Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania, it would appear likely that the venue would be a perfect fit to serve as PokerStars’ licensing partner – but chief legal officer Marlon Goldstein spoke with Online Poker Report to explain the company’s process:

“We’re still evaluating our options in terms of who we may want to partner with and the landscape in Pennsylvania generally.

But again, we are really excited to be competing in that market sequentially as soon as possible.”

NFL Odds 2017: Week 11 Betting Preview

Sometimes the NFL schedule-makers manage to strike gold, and that’s certainly the case in Week 11 with several division leaders and playoff hopefuls squaring off.

The best matchup on the docket involves a pair of upstarts looking to shake up the league’s usual hierarchy, as the Minnesota Vikings (7-2) host the Los Angeles Rams (7-2). Leading the NFC North and NFC West, respectively, the Vikings and Rams are each enjoying the benefits of surprisingly competent quarterback play.

In his second year under center for the Rams, Jared Goff is living up to his potential as the top overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. A sterling stat line of 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions has garnered Goff consideration in the MVP race, and his 8.5 yards per passing attempt rate is currently the best in all of football.

Under new head coach Sean McVay, the Rams are dismantling their competition in every phase of the game. After last week’s 33-7 dismissal of the Houston Texans (3-6), the Rams have outscored opponents 144-41 during their four-game winning streak.

That could change in a hurry heading to Minnesota, where quarterback Case Keenum has gone from the Vikings third option to the leader of a first-class offensive attack. Keenum tossed four touchdowns in last Sunday’s 38-30 shootout over the Washington Redskins (4-5), while leading the Vikings into the end zone on five of their first six possessions.

It was the fifth straight win for Minnesota, and despite the high score, the Vikings defense dominated for most of the game – as they have all season.

Something’s going to give in this one, and according to the linemakers at online sportsbook Bovada, the Vikings get a slim 2-point edge as home favorites.

Sunday Night Football is set for an NFC East showdown, but the Dallas Cowboys (5-4) will be limping into their first meeting when they host the Philadelphia Eagles (8-1).

Dallas lost star running back Ezekiel Elliott to suspension ahead of last Sunday’s dispiriting 27-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons (5-4), but his absence wasn’t the most meaningful. Instead, the sudden loss of beastly left tackle Tyron Smith – a six-foot, five-inch monster tasked with protecting quarterback Dak Prescott’s blind side – did Dallas in.

Smith’s overmatched backups allowed six sacks to Falcons pass-rusher Adrian Clayborn alone, and eight sacks overall. Meanwhile, the Cowboys also lost their defensive captain in linebacker Sean Lee to a bum hamstring, which bodes well for the Eagles’ high-powered offense.

Lee sat out two other games earlier in the year, and in both cases Dallas allowed 35 points to lose a shootout.

With Philly on an absolute roll – winning seven straight while scoring 33.3 points per game over that span – it could be a long day for Dallas defenders.

The oddsmakers appear to agree, as the Cowboys have been made 3.5-point home underdogs – the first time they won’t be favored at home all year.

In a rematch of last year’s NFC Divisional Round, the Seattle Seahawks (6-3) take on the aforementioned Falcons, but this time the ‘Hawks will enjoy home field advantage.

And what an advantage it is. Playing in the loudest NFL venue, with the “12th Man” on hand to rattle opposing offenses, the Seahawks have compiled a brilliant 46-14 record at CenturyLink Field – including a 3-1 mark in 2017.

It’s been an up and down year for Seattle, as evidenced by last week’s results, when the Seahawks scored a badly needed divisional win – but lost shutdown corner Richard Sherman for the season.

Inconsistency has also plagued Atlanta, which seemed to be suffering from the dreaded “Super Bowl hangover” for much of the year after blowing the big game in heartbreaking fashion. A slate of four straight against the AFC East saw Atlanta go 1-3, including lackluster losses to the middling Miami Dolphins (4-5) and Buffalo Bills (5-4).

But the Falcons may have turned a corner while taking apart the Cowboys, so the line for this one is rather snug with Seattle favored by only 3 points at home.

888 Poker Qualifier Marti Rocca De Torres Wins WSOP-Europe Main Event

In a moment reminiscent of Chris Moneymaker’s historic victory 14 years ago, recreational player Marti Rocca de Torres turned an online qualifier into a million-dollar payday at the biannual World Series of Poker Europe (WSOP-E) Main Event.

A former economics teacher who recently left his profession to give poker a serious go, the Spaniard earned his entry into the €10,350 buy-in WSOP-E Main Event through a €220 satellite qualifier on

And after six grueling days against world-class competition – including a final table stacked with top-tier talent – Rocca de Torres held every last chip in play to claim his first WSOP gold bracelet, along with €1,115,207 in first-place prize money.

Rocca de Torres travelled from Spain to King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, where he found himself facing a 529-player field filled out by many of the best poker players on the planet. Former WSOP bracelet winners like Kristen Bicknell, Niall Farrell, Mike Leah, and Anthony Zinno all made deep runs in the event, as did Kevin MacPhee – winner of the last WSOP-E Main Event in 2015.

By the end of Day 4, the field had been whittled down to just 12 survivors, with superstar pro Maria Ho leading the chip counts in search of her first bracelet win. Farrell lurked with a second-place chip stack, while Rocca de Torres found himself in third on the leaderboard entering the pivotal fifth day of play. MacPhee sat in 11th chip position, but still harbored dreams of winning Europe’s most prestigious tournament in two consecutive outings.

Day 5 shed six players from the field, setting up a climactic Day 6 with Ho and Rocca de Torres as dual leaders. Ho held 7,830,000 chips to 7,260,000 for Rocca de Torres, and the pair held well over 50 percent of the chips in play.

But despite the similarity in stack size, Ho held a significant edge in terms of experience, with 93 previous cashes to her credit for over $2.1 million in career earnings. Conversely, Rocca de Torres had amassed just 10 tournament cashes for $30,000 and change entering the final day.

In the early hours of Day 6, Ho attempted to employ the same aggressive style that had earned her the chip lead, but she never did get anything going. After doubling up Farrell in a sizable pot, Ho was left as the final table’s short stack.

That stack was pushed into the middle a short time later, and after Rocca de Torres called, Farrell shoved his stack forward as well. The Spaniard snap-called and tabled his pocket aces, which crushed Farrell’s pocket kings and left Ho’s ace-jack in a terrible spot.

A clean runout sent a mountain of chips over to Rocca de Torres, who held 17.1 million chips with only 26.3 million on the table.

It appeared for all the world that Rocca de Torres had the bracelet in hand, but in a surreal scene, he wound up losing several all-in confrontations in succession – holding the best hand preflop each time. With the cards seemingly unwilling to cooperate, four-handed play lasted for over six hours, during which time Rocca de Torres surrendered what once appeared to be an insurmountable chip lead.

But rather than let the bad beats fluster him, Rocca de Torres buckled down and played his game to perfection, rebuilding his stack before finally finishing off Gianluca Speranza of Italy in an epic heads-up duel.

As he told assembled media members from PokerNews and after the final card fell, Rocca de Torres rode the roller coaster along with the thousands of fans viewing the live stream from home:

“At this point I thought I’m going to win for sure because I’m in the perfect situation with a massive stack.

For a moment, I thought that it’s done. And for a moment, it looked like it’s impossible.

But finally, step-by-step, I won it.

I don’t know, I am more nervous now than before when I was playing. But for sure I am very happy and it is a dream come true, I don’t know what to say.”

WSOP-Europe Main Event Final Table Results

PLACE          PLAYER (NATION)                        PRIZE

1st                   Marti Roca de Torres (Spain)             €1,115,207

2nd                  Gianluca Speranza (Italy)                   €689,246

3rd                   Mathijs Jonkers (Netherlands)            €476,585

4th                   Robert Bickley (United Kingdom)     €335,089

5th                   Niall Farrell (United Kingdom)          €239,639

6th                   Maria Ho (United States)                  €174,365

7th                   Jack Salter (United Kingdom)            €129,121

8th                   Luis Rodriguez (Spain)                       €97,344

New Hampshire Lawmakers Forcefully Reject Online Poker Bill

Within days of conducting an executive session to study the merits of an online gambling decriminalization bill, members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted it down unanimously.

Following the October 25 executive session, House Bill 562 – also known as “An Act Allowing Online Gambling” – was rejected in a 23-0 vote. In technical terms, the bill was classified as “inexpedient to legislate,” but that status leaves HB-562 with no viable path forward.

As the New Hampshire Almanac explains, the vote classification renders the issue of online gambling legalization dead on arrival until the next legislative session at the earliest:

“A bill is considered killed when the House or Senate votes to adopt the committee report of ‘Inexpedient to legislate.’”

HB-562 was introduced in January of this year by Representatives Eric Schleien (R-37), Nick Zaricki (R-7), and Robert Fisher (R-9).

Designed as a “placeholder” bill, the full text of HB-562 provided a short and direct explanation of its intent:

“This bill exempts gambling done over the Internet from gambling offenses under RSA 647.

The Department of Justice to date has neither investigated nor prosecuted online gaming offenses and therefore does not expect this bill to have any impact on expenditures.

To the extent this bill legalizes a form of gambling, it may have an indeterminable impact on lottery and charitable gaming revenue. Lottery and charitable gaming revenue is credited to the lottery fund, with net revenues after Lottery Commission expenditures being credited to the state education trust fund.”

As the text makes clear, HB-562 would not have followed the model established by Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, the three states which have successfully created a regulatory framework for statewide online gambling industries. Instead, the bill simply removed language from existing laws which rendered online gambling as a criminal activity. If passed, HB-562 would have paved the way toward eventual regulation.

The bill was originally sent to the House Ways and Means Committee, where it sat idle until August when it was retained in subcommittee. At that point, industry experts viewed HB-562 as an extreme longshot to warrant further consideration, but New Hampshire’s decision to legalize online lottery ticket sales in June prompted further exploration of iGaming options.

On October 12, the subcommittee surprisingly sent HB-562 through to an executive session, but it failed to garner a single vote in support.

However, that lack of enthusiasm may have been based on the bill’s sponsors, rather than its intent.

Fisher, a 31-year old Republican, resigned from the House in disgrace back in May, after constituents exposed him as the ringleader of a misogynist internet forum known as “Red Pill.” Following a hearing which saw critics of Fisher read his comments about using “roofies” and “duct tape” to induce sexual encounters, the lawmaker was forced by party leaders to resign immediately.

Fisher offered the following explanation for his comment during a public hearing:

“Several years ago, I made some injudicious statements regarding women and my frustrations with dating.

Some of the views that have been alleged here are certainly not reflective of what I stand for and what I have done in my time here in Concord.”

Schleien, a 29-year old Republican, is facing a similarly sordid scandal after a 16-year old girl accused him of sexual misconduct. He pled not guilty to those charges, and a tentative trial date has been set for next spring.

Given the lack of legislative power now wielded by both Fisher and Schleien, the eventual failure of their online gambling bill was hardly a surprise to local political observers.