April 30, 2023; Sacramento, California, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates against the Sacramento Kings during the third quarter in game seven of the 2023 NBA playoffs first round at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

John P. Lopez: Just A Sprinkle: Post-draft Texans in play, getting exotic at the Derby and fateful hunches

You know all those monstrous, spectacular hotels in Las Vegas?

All those mind-blowing shows? Those spectacular fountains, events, and shimmering lights?

They were all built on feelings.

If Tilman Fertitta had a nickel for all the times someone placed a wager on a hunch, feeling, or intuition … well, actually, he does. Fertitta purchased another parcel of land in Las Vegas recently, and no doubt will erect yet another palatial Las Vegas wonder.

In fact, as the gambling boon has gone nuclear in recent years, numerous developers have cashed in to the tune of some 10 new hotels and casinos constructed or in the works since the 2020 pandemic. At last count, there were more than 150,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas and yet the glimmering city still cannot always keep up with demand.

Gambling – specifically sports gambling — has gone mainstream. And while nothing ever is guaranteed (unless you count me coming off a 5-0 week), bad weeks can be mitigated by staying true to one very important rule:

Don’t follow your gut. Use your brain, solid trends, and information rather than your heart.

Of course, fans want to see LeBron James make another run. Of course, everyone loves a long shot in the Derby. Of course, the Astros are beloved and the Texans seem to have a good thing going, finally.

Just don’t let what you want get in the way of what you know. And that’s the theme of today’s Just A Sprinkle. Starting with LeBron and the Lakers.

Friday: Warriors (odds pending) vs. Lakers

Patience, people. Patience. The Lakers and LeBron are incredibly hot and will pick up a lot of L.A./West Coast money – especially if they split at Golden State, where the series begins. Let the “feelings” people get you better moneyline odds. Right now, the value just isn’t there with the Warriors at minus-190 at most books.

But with the Lakers coming off a 40-point whooping of Memphis in the first round and LeBron feeling it, they could well split in San Francisco. Don’t panic. Use it. The Warriors are the superior, deeper team and when the moneyline odds tip more in your favor after Game 2, get the value. The Warriors will win this series no matter what happens in the first two games.

Tuesday: Astros (minus-159) vs. Giants

Yeah, it’s going to be a tough task, even with Hunter Brown on the mound. Giants starter Anthony DeSclafani is every bit the ace that Hunter Brown is, with tougher luck. And the Astros remain a team scrambling to find consistency – especially at home, most recently losing two of three to the Phillies and standing 7-9 for the year.

DeSclafani is an off-speed ace who gets a lot of batters to chase. It could serve him well at Minute Maid against the free-swinging Astros. It should be a terrific game. But when it comes to what ultimately could spell the difference, Brown has been a true ace no matter if he gets run support or not, spinning a 1-0 shutout in his most recent outing. Sure, I’d rather not be betting a minus moneyline, but sometimes you just take money when it’s there.

Wednesday: Texans (over-5.5 wins)

For some reason, the Texans win total has not moved after the draft. It should have, so take advantage.

The Texans picked up two potential game-changers in C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson and bolstered the lineup in particular at other positions of need – wide receiver and center.

Sure, every team feels confident after the draft, the difference with the Texans is it’s not just what they’ve added, but the risks their division rivals added. At Indianapolis, the Colts took a chance with raw quarterback Anthony Richardson, who figures to have as many growing pains as any rookie in the league. And at Tennessee, another quarterback in need of development, Will Levis, will be breathing down starter Ryan Tannehill’s neck every step of the way.

It’s not inconceivable, and probably likely there will be a lot of pressure both in-house and from fans that Richardson and Levis become starters sooner rather than later. With six games against division rivals and most seasons beginning with at least a couple of in-division games the first month, if you have confidence that Stroud is better and won’t be asked to do as much, bet the Texans. I do.

Saturday: Four-horse exacta and trifecta box

Here’s the thing about big 20-horse fields as is the case at the Kentucky Derby. Anything can happen and usually does.

While the favorite always seems to be in the money and has won six of the past 10 Derbys, even novice pari-mutuel bettors can take advantage.

Here’s what you do: Stick the favorite, Forte, into an exacta and a trifecta box with three other horses who draw good post positions and have the goods.

A $2 Exacta Box (two of your four horses finish 1-2), costs $12. A $1 Trifecta Box (three of your four horses finish 1-2-3) costs $24. So for $36 the payout could lead to a big hit.

The horses I will box, based on post position and recent outings (I won’t get into the muck of the details and why I like these horses): Forte, Tapit Trice, Skinner, and Practical Move.

The Trifecta Box clearly is a higher-risk wager, but hitting the Exacta, especially if a 10-1 shot like Practical Move or a 20-1 shot like Skinner hits the line first would more than pay for the wagers and more.

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