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Ticket brokers bankin’ on high-rollin’ fans

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If you've waited this long to buy tickets to Game 1 of the NBA Finals, you could spend a small fortune.

Or you might get lucky.Plenty of seats were still available Tuesday for Wednesday night's showdown between the Utah Jazz and the Chicago Bulls - not from the Delta Center ticket office, but from a dozen or so professional ticket brokers and nearly 100 other sellers in the newspaper classifieds.

Some are opportunists looking for a quick buck, others are Jazz fans trying to make money for next year's season tickets.

They have answering machines and they'll get right back to you - if you've got the money they're looking for.

The price range for tickets to both Game 1 and Game 2 remained widespread Tuesday with dozens of tickets still available - from a minimum of $150 for upper-bowl seats behind the basket to as much as $2,500 for premium lower-bowl tickets.

The mad rush to buy and sell could begin Wednesday afternoon, or could be over by the time you read this. Some fans may be left out of the market. Others may get real steals from sellers afraid they'll be stuck with expensive souvenirs.

"It's like trying to predict what the stock market is going to do tomorrow," said John Ward, spokesman for the Utah Ticket Brokers Association. "Everyone has their favorite strategy for purchasing tickets. Some people say lock 'em up early before the frenzy starts. Other people say wait until the last minute.

"What (buyers) need to do is invest in a lot of leg work. Check with a lot of brokers. Check in every day to see what they have."

Sellers, even those with Game 1 tickets still in hand, have been happy with the response.

Janet King of West Jordan placed her ad for the first time Monday. It was the last one listed in the classified section, but King sold six upper-bowl tickets - in rows 17 and 21 - for $300 apiece before the day ended.

Rick Trayner of Sandy found that selling Jazz tickets on his own was no more lucrative than selling directly to ticket brokers. Trayner and his wife put all their playoffs tickets for sale in the paper and, in each round, ended up selling to a broker, anyway.

"They have out-of-town connections," said Trayner, who sold four tickets in row 7 of the lower bowl for $1,000 apiece Monday. "Utah fans are just too cheap to part with $1,000 for a game."

Jeff and Terri Peterson of Riverdale were offering some of the least expensive Finals tickets around - $200 apiece for seats in row 13 of the Upper Bowl. Terri took 22 phone inquiries Monday but hadn't sold them by day's end.

"Mostly people are just asking questions about 'em. It gets on my nerves, but it's OK," she said. "I'm not too worried about it. I'm sure we'll sell them."

The Petersons aren't giving up their own seats but routinely sell playoff tickets each year to help finance their season-ticket renewal. One year, Terri got 47 calls in one day.

The couple already sold tickets in row 23 of the lower bowl for the first two games - the seats their children normally use - for $400 apiece.

Typically, Ward said, 10 percent of the tickets sold by the Jazz for any playoff game are then re-sold. That's about 2,000 tickets, per game, on the open market.

"The brokers I've talked to have been very, very happy. They seem to be getting really good action with a high quantity of sellers and a high quantity of buyers," Ward said, adding that selling prices are about double what they would be for a Pacers-Jazz series.

"A lot of people want tickets for what may be Michael Jordan's last series and the Jazz' best chance for their first championship."

A Game 7, of course, would produce the most sought-after tickets of them all. But Ward said, despite the potential income, most brokers are big Jazz fans and are rooting for Utah to win the series, no matter how many games it lasts.