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In fantasy sports pari-mutuel wagering, just substitute horses with football players

It takes a certain type of statistics geek to get into fantasy sports and if you’re one of them, you know exactly what I mean.

In fantasy sports, you compete with others by tallying points accumulated by statistics generated by actual players you select. Over a given period of time, the statistics generated by those players produce points that are compared with totals of an opponent who has his or her own team of players and points.

In football, it’s points accumulated by quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers and a cumulative total gathered by a defensive team. Points usually are awarded for scoring and yardage accumulations with deductions for turnovers. For the defense, the standard generally incorporates the number of points allowed with defensive scoring plays included in the total.

On Sunday afternoons, fantasy sports players keep an eye on their favorite National Football League teams, but their hearts and souls are invested in the individual players on their fantasy teams.

Meanwhile in Las Vegas, Vic Salerno, a former William Hill sports book executive who founded USFantasy Sports and became its president, developed a fantasy sports model he said “is so simple, I can’t believe somebody else didn’t come up with it first.”

Salerno went to state gaming regulators in June with a pari-mutuel model of fantasy sports that he plans to launch by the beginning of the NFL season.

Pari-mutuel, which translates to “wagering amongst ourselves” in French, is how people bet horse and dog races and, for longtime Las Vegans, how gamblers used to bet jai alai here.

To understand the pari-mutuel system, it helps to have basic knowledge of how to bet horse racing.

The basic horse bets are win, place and show for a horse to finish first, second or third. If you bet a horse to win, it has to finish first; if you bet a horse to place, it has to finish first or second; if you bet a horse to show, it has to finish first, second or third to collect. If a horse wins a race in which you have a show ticket, you win something, but not as much as you would have won if you had a “win” ticket.

How much you win depends on how many people are betting on a certain horse. The prize pool is divided up based on how many bettors are backing each horse and the house collects 7 percent off the top, which is how books make their money.

To understand USFantasy’s fantasy sports pari-mutuel wagering, simply substitute horses with football players.

On opening day, there will be 32 starting quarterbacks in the field. Which one will have the best day on the field, maybe Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers looking for redemption against the Denver Bronco defense, or Derek Carr of the Las Vegas, er, Oakland Raiders, against one of the worst defenses in the NFL last year, New Orleans?

Or maybe you’re interested in taking a chance with Robert Griffin III in his Cleveland Browns debut? (Free betting advice: Don’t take New England’s Tom Brady in Week 1.)

All those quarterbacks (except Brady) will be accumulating points in Week 1, one point for each positive passing, rushing or receiving yard, with five bonus points for each touchdown and two bonus points for each conversion. Salerno noted that in the 2015 season, 14 different quarterbacks had the best statistical week during the 17-week season.

There will be other “races” featuring running backs, tight ends, kickers, defenses and two fields of wide receivers. In each of those races, bettors can choose players to win, place or show. Odds will be updated every 45 seconds as bettors add to the wagering pool.

Will USFantasy’s new games be accepted by traditional fantasy players? It’s too early to tell.

Salerno, who has been in the bookmaking business for 40 years, thinks it has a good chance for it to catch fire if he can corner a slice of the $150 billion that’s wagered illegally on sports every year.

He’ll have a lot going for him.

Eventually, Salerno hopes to network race tracks and off-track parlors that already take horse racing wagers into the fantasy game that could produce some colossal payouts for the Pick Six and Pick Seven players. Pari-mutuel wagering already exists in 43 states.

Salerno notes that players will wise up to the reality that they’re not going to win much through the FanDuel and DraftKings models, where 1.5 percent of the players collect 90 percent of the winnings.

Salerno has had to push hard to be ready for the start of the NFL season, but now that it’s just about time for kickoff, he can get ready for fantasy basketball, baseball, golf or any other sports where he can adopt “wagering amongst ourselves” as the new way to play.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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