The World Series of Poker, televised by ESPN, is now running until July 14. The one-week Main Event starts July 5. One thousand players will receive $15K, or far more, in winnings during the Main Event. This doesn’t include the nearly 70 other events happening the whole month of June.

Poker playing has become a phenomenon in this country. It is estimated that there are 23 million regular poker players in the country, which is 10 percent of the adult population. Many players participate in on-line sites for real money. Whether poker is a sport or a game is debated, but the popularity of poker as another form of content and participation is remarkable.

The World Series of Poker began in 1970 with little fanfare. But in 1972 a colorful Texan named "Amarillo Slim” Preston won an upset victory and went on a national media tour. This led to CBS Sports televising the World Series of Poker in 1973. The players smoked cigars, had huge sideburns, and outlandish clothing. Televised poker primarily had a cult following. In 1998 the movie, Rounders, with Matt Damon, popularized the sport.

The poker I grew up with was mainly five- or seven-card draw, or stud poker. It was a game we played when we grew tired of Rummy. But it was soon replaced by Texas Hold'em with a "flop," a "turn" and a "river," dramatically increasing pot size and action.

Then came 2003 and everything changed. ESPN had the rights to televise poker by then, and the victory of Chris Moneymaker (perfect name, I might add) catapulted the tournament to new heights of exposure. Moneymaker won a $2.5 million purse, which sparked tremendous interest. Poker had hit the big time, and millions of young men and women were bringing poker into the house as a social activity.

The next year Greg Raymer won $5 million. The media turned Moneymaker and Raymer into celebrities. This spectacle invited a series of actors and the crossover effect built the game. Players like Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu attracted legions of fans. They had distinctive styles and dress.

By 2006, the World Series of Poker consisted of 45 tournaments. That year more than $100 million was won in prize money. Jamie Gold defeated 8,772 contestants to win a $12 million prize. WSOP topped other sporting events in prize money.

When television employed a "hole card" camera, it enabled viewers to easily follow the action. With increased interest, corporations started putting sponsorship and advertising dollars into the sport. The star players benefited with branding and marketing opportunities. Celebrities, like Ben Affleck and Jerry Buss of Lakers’ fame, were being broadcast playing celebrity poker on NBC. Buss, in particular, was an avid player and clearly a student of the game.

During this time, online poker exploded, albeit not without its stumbles. Indictments of fraud, offshore and domestic, landed many big names in prison. Today, however, through the use of engaging content both television and the Onternet, WSOP and its competitors enjoy a political foothold within Washington D.C., and in three state governments. Gambling, with real money, can be played on WSOP’s portal, legally, in the states of Nevada, New Jersey and now Delaware.

Part of the successes of many companies in the sporting world, is seizing advantages of momentum. In today's world of "social engagement" and "influence marketing" many get lost in the age old adage, "Good things come to those who wait."

Ben Oren, marketing director for WhiteWeb.com, agrees, "We work with several sports brands. I have seen far too many try to force their way into Google's good graces or spend far too much trying to get LeBron's blessing, when really, who could've predicted Chris Moneymaker? And who was betting on Steph Curry two years ago? Sometimes, you just need to let things happen organically, and prepare to execute when they unfold."

The evolution of the World Series of Poker is another example of television, technology and incredible timing, popularizing an American pastime. What once was played in saloons and gaming houses has now spread to become a global phenomenon, online, in casinos, on TV, and in the home.

Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who went to prison for participating in a gambling scandal, is finally out of the slammer and off probation -- and he's wasting no time with his new-found freedom.

After publishing a memoir of his refereeing career and the events that forever sullied his name, Donaghy has even more revelations in a fascinating feature by Pat Jordan in New York Magazine.

Few of them are flattering.

The most striking pieces of information is that Donaghy joined a white power gang in prison to protect himself from attack by other prisoners. Joining the gang became necessary after he had ratted on other prisoners for gambling, which was against the rules.

Now out of prison and off probation, Donaghy is hoping to clean up his image. He says he's a good Catholic boy who loves his four daughters. He runs a betting advice website, RefPicks.com, that recommends bets based not on the teams playing, but the refs involved in the game, and how those refs are likely to influence the outcome.

His ex-wife offers a different side of things. She insists he is obsessed with money -- that Donaghy only cares about growing his wealth and finding ways to keep it. She alleges he tried to get her to sign an agreement in which he would pay $100 a week for child support -- to cover the costs of raising four children.

Indeed, when Jordan tries to jot down the income figure in his notes during the interview, Donaghy intervenes. "Don't write that," he says. "My ex-wife and the IRS will come after me."

Donaghy is also embroiled in a lawsuit to recoup the earnings of his refereeing memoir, which he claims were stolen by the publisher. The publisher's response? The book wasn't profitable, and what earnings Donaghy did make were sent to the U.S. attorney's office to cover restitution. But Donaghy sued and won in court, although he hasn't collected any of the $1.5 million that the jury awarded him because the publisher is now bankrupt.

So yes, Donaghy does sound like a money-hungry sociopath bent on wealth accumulation. But the premise of his very successful handicapping service does prove he at least knows something about the NBA game -- and how referees are influencing the results, whether they're involved on the gambling side or not.

Not that he needs any more money after earning a reported $180 million thanks to his megabout with Manny Pacquiao, but Floyd Mayweather appears to have made half a million dollars over the weekend without throwing a punch.

The undefeated boxer, famous for his rather large wagers, posted a photo to Instagram with four bets that he placed.

Mayweather went in on Houston Rockets-Los Angeles Clippers Game 6, the Gennady Golovkin-Willie Monroe Jr. bout, Atlanta Hawks-Washington Wizards Game 6 and Rockets-Clippers Game 7. And he won them all.


If Mayweather is to be believed that he bet $350,000 and won $827,272, his total earnings are around $477,000. Not bad for a weekend, but also not much by Mayweather's lofty standards.

Of course, we don't know whether Mayweather had some losing bets that he declined to share on social media.

The man who nicknamed himself "Money" was Forbes' highest earning athlete in 2014, earning $105 million. He nearly doubled that in his fight against Pacquiao, which had four million pay-per-view buys and lasted all of 36 minutes.

Mayweather has found creative ways to spend his money, like extravagant meals and luxurious mouthguards, but one thing he can't buy is love. Fans vociferously booed Mayweather when he was shown on the Jumbotron at Oracle Arena during Game 5 of the Warriors-Grizzlies series.

Mark Wahlberg is so confident that Manny Pacquiao will beat Floyd Mayweather that he has wagered Diddy $250,000 on the fight with the bet winner donating to the other's favorite charity. The amount is hardly chump change, but it is just a speck when compared to the amount of action Nevada sports books are expected to handle Saturday.

In addition to Mayweather-Pacquiao, the most anticipated championship bout in decades, Saturday is also the day of the Kentucky Derby, an NHL playoff game, a Red Sox-Yankees game and a Game 7 in the NBA playoffs. That could make it the biggest non-Super Bowl sports betting day ever.

Projections vary, depending on who is being asked, but the consensus is clear: There will be a ton of money flooding into the sports books Saturday, and the record for betting on a boxing match will be set.

MGM Resorts' race book director Jay Rood told Los Angeles Times reporter Lance Pugmire that he estimates the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight will produce around $80 million in betting.

But Jay Kornegay, sports book director of the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, told the Times that there is talk of the fight alone topping the state record of $119 million bet on the 2014 Super Bowl between the Seahawks and Broncos.

Terry Cox, director of the race and sports book at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino, wrote in the Reno Journal-Gazette that betting on horse racing has declined in recent years but $10 million is expected to be wagered on the sport in Nevada on Saturday.

Because the Derby and the fight are on the same day, the MGM plans to create some bets linking them as a way of generating additional interest.

"I think we'll get good crossover," Rood told the Washington Post. "We'll have a lot of Derby people who'll bet the fight, and the fight crowd, people who will come out a little early, and get their night started with an exciting Derby race."

In recent years with the Super Bowl, it has been an increasingly popular bet for a safety to occur in the game. A rough equivalent to that with the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight is for the result to be a draw. Reports are that the odds of a draw are down to 6-1 after opening at 22-1. If there is a draw, it will not be favorable for the casinos.

"We're very close to a seven-figure loss on the draw," Rood told the Post.

Odds may continue to shift based on money being bet in the last few days before the fight, but the general line has been Mayweather as the favorite at minus-200 and Pacquiao at plus-170. This means a bettor must put up $200 to win $100 with Mayweather or $100 to win $170 with Pacquiao.

The Eagles' decision to sign Tim Tebow to a one-year contract means only one thing: Chip Kelly has plans for the quarterback. Maybe it's a case of Kelly seeking a challenge, or maybe there's a genuine belief that Tebow -- after spending the year working with a passing guru to improve his accuracy -- is capable of making an impact on the football field.

The motive of Tebow's signing is irrelevant in the sense that you can't make a prop bet on it. Fortunately, there are several other prop bets you can make about Tebow's future with the Eagles, and some of them offer pretty tantalizing returns. Courtesy of Bovada, here are the three Tebow prop bets.

1. Will Tim Tebow make the Eagles' 53-man roster for first game of the 2015 regular season? (Yes, +200; No, -300)

Vegas isn't too confident that Tebow will make the regular-season roster, but optimistic fans can exploit that and get a nice return. Two-to-one odds are nothing to sniff at. Keep in mind, though, that the Eagles currently have five quarterbacks on their roster. There's no way all of them are making it through.

2. If Tim Tebow makes the Eagles' 53man roster for first game of the 2015 regular season, will he start a game at QB during the season? (Yes, +300, No, -500)

At first blush, this seems like a lunatic's bet -- how could Tebow go from out of the league to starting for a playoff contender? Unlikely as it is, there are two things to keep in mind here. First, the Eagles don't have any established pecking order. The best option seems to be Sam Bradford, who the team acquired via trade this offseason, and Bradford is a huge injury liability. None of the other guys have proven they can play worth a lick, so Tebow's got a puncher's chance among that crowd.

Second, Tebow only has to start one game for this bet to pay off. Between the injuries and a little bit of courage, this actually isn't a terrible bet -- if he makes the roster.

3. If Tim Tebow makes the Eagles' 53-man roster for first game of the 2015 regular season, what will happen first? (TD rush, +200; TD pass, +200; TD reception +2,000; gets cut, traded, released or retires; EVEN)

This is easily the most fun prop bet, because it inspires the imagination. Kelly could choose to use Tebow in any number of ways, so how he gets on the playing field is anyone's guess. 20-to-1 odds for a receiving touchdown sure are enticing. At the same time, Tebow's track record makes the cut/trade/release/retire option the more practical choice.

With one caveat, of course: He'll never retire. He'll never stop chasing his dream of being an NFL quarterback. That's a sure bet.

Most office betting pools are run without any legal incident. Then again, most of them fall well short of holding $800,000 in potential winnings, with participants involving high-profile sports agents and ties to organized crime.

John Bovery was well aware of how much money his office pool was managing, but he had no idea about some of the people involved. Most of them turned out to be people he didn't know. But, as Steve Politi details in The Star-Ledger, Bovery was more than happy to continue managing the pool until the federal authorities discovered the group in 2009.

As Bovery explains, it started small. While working as a Wall Street broker in the early 1990s, he started managing an NFL pool that ran the length of the regular season. The buy-in was $50, and 57 people ultimately took part.

In subsequent years, though, participation shot up -- as did the entry fee. Eight years after starting the pool, the participant list had grown to 2,000 -- and the buy-in was $100. In its last year, 2009, Bovery's pool featured more than 8,300 participants, including high-profile bettors like Tiger Wood's agent.

Federal investigators learned about the pool during an investigation of Joseph LaScala, a crime boss known as the "Godfather of New Jersey." Bovery's connection with LaScala -- a man he had never met -- brought down his office pool and now has him facing felony charges.

Bovery insists that he never made money off the pool, but that he did receive gifts from its participants for managing it year-to-year. Those gifts were apparently enough for Bovery to quit his Wall Street job and get a job as a teacher, which is enough to raise eyebrows.

But Bovery contends that he isn't doing anything that tens of millions of Americans already do, albeit his was on a larger scale. Meanwhile, he lost his teaching job and has had mental and physical suffering from the pre-trial process, which he hopes comes to an end soon -- and sees a jury of his peers give him a break for what he sees as a normal American pastime.

Phyllis Kahn is a practical person. She sees pull-tab machines in dimly lit bars throughout the state of Minnesota and wonders why this form of gambling is good while sports betting is a problem. She looks across the country and wonders why sportsbooks are perfectly legal in Las Vegas, while in Minneapolis -- which she serves in the Minnesota House of Representatives -- sports betting is pushed underground.

Kahn believes this uneven distribution of permission has cost her district certain opportunities. And those opportunities start and end in the same place.

"The benefits," says Kahn, "are money."

Although Kahn does enjoy baseball, she's not a sports fan -- she refers to NBA commissioner Adam Silver only as "the new head of the basketball league." Rather, her interest here is purely financial: She sees sports betting as a way to boost her district's economy, collect taxes on the gambling activity and defray some of the significant sports-related expenses her state has taken on in recent years.

Currently under construction in Minneapolis is a new football stadium that will be the home of the Minnesota Vikings. The $1 billion venue is projected to open in 2016, and it has already drawn big events for the city, including the 2018 Super Bowl and the 2019 NCAA men's Final Four.

But locals have paid a steep price for this crown jewel: The city is putting up $150 million for the project, and the state of Minnesota is spending another $348 million.

That's a lot of money, and recent constructions of a new Major League Baseball stadium and college football stadium have only increased the state's sports-related expenditures. But legalized gambling on sports could go a long way toward covering some of the expenses communities take on in the name of their beloved teams.

"I just saw recently that it’s estimated that $3.8 billion is bet illegally on the Super Bowl, and only 100 million is bet legally," Kahn says. "That’s an awful lot of money. My theory is that people much prefer to do things legally than to do them illegally."

Today, sports gambling is accessible from every computer. And since it isn't condoned in America -- the online gambling outfits are based outside of the United States -- those funds aren't tracked or taxed. Considerable tax benefits could come from legalizing and regulating sports gambling, but a federal law prohibits this in Minnesota and almost every other state.

Kahn is hoping to change that. A bill she submitted last month to the Minnesota House of Representatives proposes to legalize sports betting in the state of Minnesota. This isn't the first time Kahn has made such a move, but she's hopeful that her peers are more receptive to the idea.

Kahn believes a shift in attitudes has taken place, spurred on in part by Adam Silver's candor in starting a national dialogue on sports gambling. Kahn is under the impression -- her contacts include a Las Vegas banker who deals primarily with casinos -- that the NHL, MLB and NFL will eventually follow suit. The NFL is particularly important to the equation, since the league has long opposed sports gambling -- even to the point of actively campaigning against legalization efforts.

Decreasing resistance to current practices stems from a growing recognition that a complete sports gambling ban is antiquated. The bill that expressly prohibits sports betting in most of the United States was signed into law in 1992.

Since then, the Internet has changed everything. Anyone who wants to make wagers on sporting events can do so online through any number of gaming sites. Illegal online betting is a multi-billion-dollar industry -- and neither the sports leagues nor the IRS are seeing a dime.

But there could be more incentive for leagues to embrace legal, regulated sports gambling. Gambling has the potential to positively impact the integrity of the game along with the fan experience -- even the experience of fans who do not actively gamble.

Silver's public comments on gambling have always seemed to center around the need for appropriate regulation. In November, he wrote: "Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards."

David Stern, who preceded Adam Silver as NBA commissioner for 30 years, was once a very vocal opponent of legal sports gambling. Now, he feels differently. "If it's going to happen ... you should make it legal and you should regulate it as tightly as you possibly can," he said on CNBC last month.

As it currently stands, sports betting -- the illegal kind -- is almost certainly altering the outcome of a small portion of games. In a 2006 research paper titled, "Exposing Cheating and Corruption," University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers examined more than 44,000 college basketball games during a 16-year span. He found an interesting trend: While the favored team in a given game beat the spread exactly 50.01 percent of the time, heavy favorites -- teams with more than a 12-point advantage, according to the spread -- "covered only 48.37 percent of the time, a statistically significant deviation."

The discrepancy isn't enough to conclusively state that point-shaving was altering the outcomes of games. But Wolfers -- a former bookie's apprentice -- does believe that as many as 1 percent of those games were fraudulently affected to alter their outcome.

Corruption is an inherent risk of sports, and both players and referees have long been tempted with financial compensation for deliberately affecting game outcomes. It would seem likely that gambling exacerbates that risk. But when gambling is legal and regulated, the opposite may be true.

Stefan Szymanski, who like Wolfers is an economist at the University of Michigan, believes that legalization actually makes cheating less likely. Legal, regulated bookies are far less likely to fix matches than illegal bookies, Szymanski explained recently to The New York Times Magazine. They face much greater consequences for doing so, and the reward simply isn't worth it, in many cases.

Legalizing bookies reduces the pool of illegal bookies. But it also gives those regulated parties a legal form of recourse if they do believe a game has been fixed -- and those bookies, ever vigilant of their bottom-line, would place even more trained eyes on each game.

Illegal bookies, meanwhile, have no such options when they believe they have been wronged by a fixed game. And such elements put the welfare of legal bookie operations at risk, because if customers believe the games are fixed, they won't be so eager to place a bet -- and bookie revenues will dwindle fast.

There are opponents who suggest that legalized gambling will only increase the market for corruption. Legal sports betting, they say, will invite corrupt parties to find new methods of cheating.

The criticism does seem fair. It's probably why Silver and other sports figures almost never mention gambling without discussing its need for regulation. They're making a bet themselves, that they can help construct a system of regulation that at least reduces the risk of game-fixing. They may not catch every instance, but that's the same situation they find themselves in now -- only in their current situation, there are far fewer leads to help them track down fraudsters.

The other chief criticism, and one currently deployed against Kahn's efforts in Minnesota, has to do with the type of people that gambling draws its profits from. One outspoken critic from the Minnesota Freedom Foundation likened Kahn's proposal to a "tax on the poor" -- in other words, sports gambling would draw its revenues from low-income individuals and families, further impoverishing them.

Kahn doesn't say the criticism is wrong, but she is quick to point out a double-standard: Certain forms of gambling are legal in Minnesota and have been for years, and they are accessible to individuals of all income levels. Pull-tab gaming is an important source of tax revenue for the state, and it functions in the same way sports gambling would among the public -- except that pull tabs are legal and largely uncontested.

In fact, pull-tab gaming isn't only legal -- it's being used as a way to cover spending gaps. The state of Minnesota has already voted to expand the presence of pull-tab gaming in the state as a way of funding the new football stadium construction -- and that, Kahn argues, is the same kind of "tax on the poor" that has her opponents so riled up.

"They're already drawing taxes from pull-tab machines in cheap bars," she says. "If they're worried (about taking money from the poor), and they should remove those machines."

Adam Silver doesn't want to lead the crusade toward legalized sports betting. He just wants to be involved in the conversation. And that, one expert, Rick Horrow, tells ThePostGame, is what makes his strategy so brilliant: Instead of branding himself as the face of sports gambling, he simply wants to usher it in the right direction. But thanks to Silver's open dialogue, it seems likely that legalized betting will soon become a part of the American sports landscape.

Don't worry, Seahawks fans, you weren't the only ones driven mad by Russell Wilson's fourth-quarter interception.

Las Vegas bookies were also irate to see Malcolm Butler become an instant hero in the Boston area.

While the Super Bowl was a pick 'em at many casinos, heavy money flowed in to the Patriots' side in the hours leading up to the game. And, as has become custom, many bettors were favoring the over on the 47.5 final score figure.

The teams were at 52 points following Julian Edelman's touchdown reception from Tom Brady with 2:02 left. So as Seattle got the ball back, the bookies' last hope to avoid paying out a parlay on the over and a Patriots win was for a Seahawks' touchdown.

As we all know, that didn't happen. New England won and the teams were already over 47.5.

"That was our one losing scenario," Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill sports books’ director of trading, told the Las Vegas Sun. "We had a big start with the futures, so it’s going to be close but the game couldn’t have been worse."

So while the house still won, a Seattle victory could have been extremely fruitful for casinos. Jay Rood, vice president of Race & Sports for MGM Resorts International, told Bloomberg that Seattle's failure to score created a "significant seven-figure swing."

"It’s the biggest missed opportunity I've ever had,” Rood said. "It was real tough, when it looks like you’ve got it locked up and then you have it snatched away from you because of a really weird decision."

As if Butler's interception wasn't bad enough for casinos, bookies still had another potential problem because the pick left the Patriots in a precarious position on their own 1. Deep in their own territory and with the game on the line, a safety was a possibility. Because the past three Super Bowls have featured safeties, casinos were taking prop bets at 50-to-1 that the game's final score would be a safety.

Alas, bookies' concerns were allayed when Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett was flagged for jumping early. That allowed the Patriots to start at their own 6-yard line rather than just outside the goal line.

"That was probably the best encroachment in the history of football," Jay Kornegay, executive director of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, told Bloomberg. "That would have cost the books millions."

Also of note from Bloomberg's report: There was $116 million in wagers in Nevada's 191 sports books, according a release by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, with the casinos winning more than $3.2 million. Last year there was more wagered overall, a record $119.4 million, and the sports books won $19.7 million.

One of the most popular prop bets, on the length of the national anthem, was suspended after insider information was leaked regarding the length of Idina Menzel rehearsals. Menzel went over 122.5 seconds, rewarding those gamblers who placed bets before the suspension.

More than a week before we will even know who's playing in this year's Super Bowl, at least one Las Vegas sports book is taking action on the winner of the Super Bowl to be played in 2016.

The Westgate has installed the Seahawks as the favorite at 5-1 to win Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, 2016, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The 49ers, who are the hosts, were listed at 25-1. (But of course, that was before they hired Jim Tomsula to replace Jim Harbaugh as coach.)

So without accounting for coaching hires, the draft, free-agent shuffles and trades, here's how the odds stack up, with the Patriots (6-1), Packers (7-1) and Broncos (8-1) joining the Seahawks as frontrunners. The longest shots are the Titans, Jaguars and Raiders, all at 300-1.

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