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T.J. SIMERS

Carrot Top on the Super Bowl, seriously

King of the Props is so old school, he's expecting Jerome Bettis to score.

February 01, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

FROM LAS VEGAS — What's the first thing to come to mind when I mention Carrot Top, other than he might be Mr. Right for the Daughter Who Can't Get a Date?

He's King of the Props, all right, holding up the doorbell at the president's new house during his Friday act at the Luxor, pushing it and in return getting the theme music from "The Jeffersons": "We're moving on up."

So who better to tackle the 100 or so prop bets available here for the Super Bowl than the King of the Props?

"I like Pittsburgh to win by 11 on a late touchdown by Jerome Bettis," the Carrot said, keeping in mind that when he talks reverentially about the president of the United States during his routine, there's a huge picture of Tiger Woods displayed on the screen behind him.

It's Super Bowl weekend in Las Vegas, everyone down at the stadium in Tampa right now lining up to use a porta-potty, while here it's fine cuisine, spirits and whatever they can do to make you feel comfortable while taking your money.

"I've been doing this for 17 years," said Jay Rood, recently promoted to sports book manager for the 12 MGM Mirage properties, "and last year was the first year the books in Las Vegas lost on the Super Bowl."

Two years ago, folks wagered a little more than a record $96 million here. "This year we hope we hit $90 million," Rood said, for the first time in history maybe, a wager on the Super Bowl a safer gamble than anyone sitting on their 401(k).

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the city is expecting 280,000 visitors -- a 1% drop from last year's big weekend, which still doesn't sound as if the casinos are in danger of going into foreclosure.

"We took a $500,000 bet on the Cardinals last week," Rood said -- from someone who presumably knows they don't have to worry about the Bus.

The economy is a wreck and someone is betting half a million bucks on the worst sports franchise in history to win it all.

As a rule, the public likes to bet on favorites or the team that all the experts on TV are picking. But instead of going with Pittsburgh, "all the money is coming in on Arizona."

"In the next few hours," Rood said, "I've got a big decision to make. Right now Pittsburgh is favored by seven; do I drop it to 6 1/2 to lure in more money from Pittsburgh? The way it goes now, if Arizona wins or covers the seven-point spread, we lose big."

Twenty-five percent of all the wagers taken on the Super Bowl are propositions such as who will have more points today, LeBron James playing against Detroit, or the Steelers?

To complicate matters, you're required to deduct 1 1/2 points from James' total. James would argue the NBA has been doing that all season in not calling fouls and keeping him off the free-throw line.

Will Pittsburgh and Arizona combine for more sacks than Boston and Montreal score goals? This is known as the penthouse/outhouse prop -- the Super Bowl versus hockey.

High total wins: points scored by Rasheed Wallace vs. total points in the first quarter for both the Steelers and Cardinals; Dwight Howard rebounds or total penalties in the game for both Super Bowl teams; the number of yards for Kurt Warner's first completion or total punts for both teams.

The Carrot likes LeBron, the hockey score and Warner going long on his first completion, as well as Jessica Simpson.

"What do you think would be the higher number?" the Carrot wanted to know in making his own prop. "The number of field goals for both teams or the pounds gained by Jessica Simpson during the game?"

At the current time, MGM Mirage is not booking the Simpson bet, or for that matter whether the coin flip will be heads or tails, how long it might take to sing the national anthem, what will be the first song played by Bruce Springsteen, or who will be the game's MVP;

The state of Nevada wants wagering confined to what takes place on the field, which rules out winning a wager based on whom voters might select as MVP.

"I think Ben Roethlisberger will be MVP," the Carrot said, and it really doesn't matter what he thinks if Las Vegas won't take the bet. "I also think 50 Cent should be part of Barack's team. Talk about change, he is change."

While the Carrot sometimes resides in his own zany world, so do a number of gamblers. The No. 1 prop bet to date, Rood said, has the public betting that Warner will rush for less than a half-yard and Roethlisberger running for fewer than 5 1/2 yards.

"We have a lot of guys who bet on European soccer," said Rood, so almost nothing surprises him anymore.

As for the Carrot, he said he likes Larry Fitzgerald's first catch to be longer than 11 1/2 yards, Tim Hightower's first rush to be shorter than three yards and the Lions to be the first team to miss a field goal.

He's so sure about this, he promised to make a special visit a children's hospital in Los Angeles if wrong on the props.

There's already a room at the local Ronald McDonald House here funded and named after Scott Thompson, the Carrot's real name, so it doesn't appear as if losing is all that upsetting to him.

"I can do a 'G' act for kids; haven't done one in a while, but I can," said the Carrot, three years into his run here -- and signed to do 42 weeks a year at the Luxor through 2010. "I'm going to be here in Vegas as long as O.J."

Maybe longer -- if waiting for Bettis to score again.

FOR THE record, Pittsburgh wins by 17, Willie Parker is MVP, the Steelers outscore LeBron, Howard's rebound total rules, no one cares about hockey and Springsteen opens with "Glory Days."

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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