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Smart Buying

Do You Feel Lucky?

If you're willing to bet on your favorite team making it to the championship, check out these futures markets for sports nuts.

Some sports promoters allot batches of tickets to the Ticket Reserve, an online futures market that in turn sells the tickets to the public. The site sells contracts for the right to buy tickets at face value, with the contract prices changing as demand varies over time.

In mid March, Tammy and Michael Hart of Wexford, Pa., bought four contracts from the Ticket Reserve. Each contract gave them the right to buy a ticket for both the semi-final and the championship games of the NCAA men's basketball tournament if the UCLA Bruins made it that far. Had the Bruins faltered, the Harts would've been out their money, which was $41 per contract. Pity the Duke and UConn fans who cut the same deal.

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But, of course, the Bruins made it to the championship game, so the Harts' gamble paid off. They paid the $170 face value for each ticket for both games (they also took their 6-year-old son and Tammy's father). Scalpers were hawking comparable seats for each game at about three times the price the Harts had paid.

The Ticket Reserve, launched in December 2003, and its upstart rival, YooNew.com, are the two ticket futures markets that sell contracts for major sporting events. Later this summer, the Ticket Reserve will introduce a futures market for concert tours. For a fee, you'll be able to guess which city a major musical act might visit, and if your guess is correct you'll be able to buy face-value tickets for concerts in that city.

That sounds like a sucker's bet to us, but give the Ticket Reserve credit for finding an ingenious way to capitalize on our blind devotion to our favorite groups and our hometowns -- and a fresh method to inflate ticket prices.