Books dominate weekend
September 24, 2012
By Micah Roberts
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The Las Vegas sports books had one of those epic type of weekends, where three or four years down the road when discussing some of their biggest winning weeks, they’ll always refer back to Week 3 of the 2012 season. Between Saturday’s college football action and Sunday’s NFL slate, the recreational bettor -- the type that comprises the majority of the handle -- never had a chance.
There were some instances of bettors changing their habits a little by siding with a few underdogs, but for the most part, it’s not easy for them to bet against the favorites they all know and love. Saturday’s college action saw the favorites go 17-28-2 against-the-spread, and it got even worse Sunday when almost every elite favorite went down for the count, going 4-10 ATS.
The underdogs didn’t just cover the spread, a large portion of them also won outright, which not only rakes in a ton of win through parlays, but also wipes out the bulk of all teaser and money-line plays. Fourteen of the 28 underdogs that covered in college won outright. Eight of the 10 ’dogs that covered in the pros won straight-up, an obscene amount that is nearly comparable to an eclipse occurring.
Saturday’s college action was helped by some of the top-ranked college teams not covering, such as Alabama, LSU, Florida State, and Oklahoma. Bettors also took it on the chin when they surprisingly sided No. 23 Arizona at No. 3 Oregon, taking the 23 points, only to watch their attempt at adapting to recent trends blow up in their face when Oregon rolled, 49-0 for their first cover of the season.
One of the sports books' biggest wins on Saturday was when No. 19 UCLA lost at home as a seven-point favorite to Oregon State, 27-20. The Bruins had covered all three of their games this season, and looked to be a changed team under Jim Mora Jr., putting all kinds of points of the board and covering easily, traits bettors love to see. It didn’t matter that sharp money had backed the Beavers, pushing the line from 9 ½ to 7 early in the week, because the bettors were enamored with what UCLA did the first three weeks.
When the bettors regrouped their thought process and went to the ATM to reload funds, they came into Sunday’s action full of confidence. Many reports around town say that Sunday’s handle was above Week 3 last season, continuing an upswing through the first three weeks.
In Week 2, the NFL teams showed a glimpse of how anything can happen on any given day with six underdogs winning outright. That should have been a nice introductory course on how to handle Week 3, but instead, their process went like this: the 49ers look indestructible, the Saints can’t start off 0-3, the Jaguars might be one of the worst teams in football and if they’re not, the Titans are.
The 49ers were the most lopsided one-way action of the day, laying seven points on the road at Minnesota. The majority of the betting public had the 49ers on at least one of their tickets, if not all of them, as one of the gimmes of the day. The public likes to bet what they saw last, and wiping out two playoff teams -- the Packers and Lions -- was a pretty impressive resume. The Vikings controlled the game from the outset, winning 24-13 in a game that was probably one of the least competitive on the day.
The Saints are one of the biggest mysteries of all, and this last of act of theirs, may have finally had the last bettor jumping off their wagon. Last season they covered all nine of their home games, a hard habit to break for bettors that had been cashing in on them. On Sunday, beyond not covering, they also lost in overtime, at home, 27-24 to the Chiefs, one of the least respected teams in the bettors’ mind.
Those two games alone would have been enough for the sports books to salvage a winning day. The 49ers were the root of most every parlay and the Saints were the second. But things got even better for the books. The Titans, who have looked uncompetitive in their first two games, played inspired and beat the Lions, 44-41 as 4-point ‘dogs. The Bengals were getting three points in Robert Griffin III’s home debut at Washington and won, 38-31. The Jaguars beat the Colts, 22-17 as a three-point dog with some more impressive late game heroics by Blaine Gabbert.
If a bettor had bet a five-team money-line parlay with those underdogs, $10 would have fetched $3,034, or at least got them to the books’ cap price on off-the-board parlays. It’s hard for people to change their patterns, but we have witnessed almost the same thing happen the past two weeks.
Is it likely to continue? Probably not, it could just be one of those things the sports books loves that keeps bettors guessing. What is likely to happen is as soon as bettors start sided with the dogs more, the cycle will shift, lines won’t be as inflated, and the favorites begin to go on a run. When that happens, the books won’t be as hurt as much in the past because a portion of their patrons will have come up with new strategies to try and beat the number.
During the afternoon games, we started to see a shift in the public betting patterns as they sided with two underdogs, the Cardinals and Falcons. Granted, both aren’t your average underdog, but both were getting three points and found lots of support. Even though those wins were small consolations on the day, the bettors didn’t have anything live going into them so instead of paying 20-to-1 on a five-team parlay, they maybe only paid out 10/11 on a straight bet or 13-to-5 on a two-teamer.
By the time the big Sunday night came out between the Patriots and Ravens, bettors were either busted or had to run to the ATM again. Wouldn’t you know it, the majority sided with the Ravens laying 2 ½ points. The Ravens won 31-30, but didn’t cover. The books win again and it was the ultimate cherry on top of the days‘ sundae, a weekend that will be hard to top for the remaining 14 weeks.
Hang in there folks, it will get better.