Bowl season is upon us, the holidays are almost here and the NFL regular season is wrapping up. So, for the next few weeks, rather than get started on basketball columns, I will deviate from regular programming to provide a little larger peek behind the bookmaking curtain. I always considered this type of column a bit of a crutch (for those weeks where the creative juices aren’t exactly boiling over with fresh ideas), but the last few of this style that I wrote produced a lot of positive emails (in fact a couple of places asked me to send them such a summary every week) so perhaps resorting to a review format isn’t too bad after all. Today, I will discuss how this past weekend looked from the House’s perspective and next week I will look ahead to the major Bowl games and let you know how the wagering action is progressing.
Lately, I have received a lot of emails asking about how this college basketball season is progressing compared to last year or how does a college basketball Saturday compare to a college football Saturday. Let me answer both questions here. Handle on college basketball has been very strong; right now we are booking nearly double what we did per game on college hoops at this point last year. November had a light schedule but what games we did book were very profitable for us but December has been more of a grind so far. Conference play starts in just a couple of weeks and coincides with the end of Bowl season. That is the point where college basketball betting really takes off.
Last Saturday was the first Saturday without football (not counting CFL or AFL) since July, but it did have a full slate of college basketball (over 50 games). With college hoops, the action per game is much less than what you get with college football. In fact, some of the smaller college basketball games might only get a few dozen bets. With college football, we offer a lot more product (more totals, moneylines, first half lines, halftimes lines, props, etc) because of the larger handle so you have a lot more on your board on those days. However, with college basketball, there is a lot of work to be done on game day, as all the lines have to be posted. With football, you have done the bulk of the work earlier in the week and can just concentrate on running lines and balancing your action. In total for a season, because there are so many more teams and games 7 days a week, college basketball handle and college football handle end up in the same ballpark every year. College baskets take a little more work every day but never comes close to the rush and excitement of a full schedule of college football (with the exception of the opening day of March Madness of course).
Saturday was a break-even day on college baskets for us. Players won big with San Diego State and Illinois and had mid-sized wins on Oregon, Rutgers and Missouri. The House had revenge with mid-sized wins on Boise State (over Idaho), Mississippi State (over Xavier) and Purdue (over Indiana). Overall, we were slightly down on straight wagers but came out a little ahead thanks to a few upsets that helped us to profit on parlays and teasers.
Both Sunday and Monday were good days for the book and a couple of upsets led the way. For the early games, there was heavy action on the Jets, Steelers, Ravens, Falcons and Dolphins. The Jets were bet from -6.5 to -7 despite being on the road (this line seemed high to us, we had it pegged at -5) and their outright loss to the Bears was a tough hit for teaser players. Players were also playing the Over (went from 36.5 to 37.5, that takes heavy volume) so the game was doubly good for the House and doubly bad for parlay players. The Steelers line was -9 (hosting the Panthers) all week (our power ratings had it at -8 and so we didn’t move to -9.5) and they cruised to a 16-point win. We thought Baltimore should have been a 2.5-point favorite so we stayed at -3 despite heavy action (we just kept moving the attached moneyline up, all the way to -135). Players were in heavy on the Under (35) for this game so the 23-19 final score was good for us and really bad for books that moved up past -3.5. The Falcons game was the big winner for the books. The line of Falcons -9.5 made it a very popular choice for teasers so their missed Field Goal in Overtime and the subsequent Seattle touchdown made for some happy book managers. The line was bet from -9 to -9.5 and even -10 briefly before some professional bettor action brought it down. This was a clear case of the public liking one side and the pros liking the other. This one went against the public. We had this spread estimated at 8 to 8.5 so we took a little more Atlanta money than perhaps some other books did. We saw the Dolphins as 2-point favorites but traditionally see a lot of Raiders action so we lowered the opening line to -1.5. It was bet pretty evenly with us although we did see steam driving the play as high as Pick elsewhere. We closed at -1 and late public action on the Dolphins gave the public a little revenge over the pros. The other early games were much more balanced with players winning a little with Jacksonville (or were they betting against the Bengals) and the Vikings but the House cashing in on the Lions cover and the Chargers/Bills Under.
The late afternoon games were very balanced for the second week in a row. We did see players win with the Packers on the moneyline and the Broncos/Chargers Over but got our share with the Giants/Cowboys game going Over and the Broncos win and cover. In hindsight, we should have had the Giants at -6 (closer to our opinion) but the other two spreads were bang on with Denver -3.5 and SF -3. The biggest handle of any day game was definitely the SF/Green Bay game, although the Chiefs/Broncos and Dolphins/Raiders games were close behind.
The Sunday Night game saw players load up on the Rams (-11 vs. Arizona) and the Over (from 43 to 44). Action was light and very balanced until the end of the afternoon games but the last hour produced a flurry of betting activity. The 30-28 final score was good for the House on the side and good for players on the total. Straight bets were a wash but we did well on parlays and teasers (both the spread and total finished outside teaser range).
Monday Night was a tougher line to manage. We had the Titans pegged as a 2-point favorite and opened with that line. It was bet all the way to 3 during the week and then New England players jumped on board. We hate to move off 3 once we have moved there so we stuck it out at -3 (Even) and it worked in our favor when the Titans won easy. We also saw a lot of Patriot action on the moneyline as well as money on the Over (never moved from 43.5) so the 24-7 final score was good all the way around.
Overall, it was a good weekend for the book and we are looking forward to a successful Bowl season starting tonight. There will be no Line Move of the Week feature this week as they have been covered already but I would like to thank Kent (Bodog’s top bookmaker) for his help today and he will be back next week to discuss a key line move with us. I will be back next week with a Bowl game preview. Enjoy the early games and good luck with your holiday shopping.
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Rob Gillespie is President of Bodog Sportsbook & Casino