With this week’s busy Bowl schedule, my time available for writing is a little short so this week’s column is a little smaller than most. The NFL regular season has just wrapped up and for the most part I think it was pretty good for books, especially the last couple of months. I’ll save the complete season recap for later and for this week, let me just review very quickly how the last 7 days fared for the House.
Christmas Eve was strange in that there were no events for the second straight year. Book Managers have quickly adapted to celebrating the holiday the night before as the 25th brings bowl games and big action NBA games.
Christmas Day saw both the books and bettors get to open a couple of presents. Orlando was bet heavily at -4.5 and their 5-point win put a little extra cash in bettors’ stockings. Some of those winnings were put into play on both the Celtics (at New Jersey) and New Mexico (in the Las Vegas Bowl). Both of these were dogs and the favorites won big so it was the House’s turn for a stocking stuffer. The late games were a mix. Players won a moderate decision with Sacramento over the Lakers (it seems so strange for the books to be cheering for the Lakers more-and-more this season after a couple of years of cheering against them every night) but got hammered when Tulane upset Hawaii. The Green Wave certainly did not look like the same team that lost 49-0 to Texas. Christmas Day is a big day in this business as there are lots of new computers under trees and lots of people getting together. Word-of-mouth during the holidays and big sports events always bring more sign-ups than any of our marketing campaigns.
The 26th was our turn to give a gift to the players when Pittsburgh beat up Oregon State 38-13 as a 3-point dog. That game opened Beavers -3 and despite moderate Panthers money we stayed firm on the number even as other books moved to -2.5 and -2. In the long run, staying at 3 is always the best move you can make (barring injuries, extremely heavy action, etc.), although it does hurt on days such as this.
The 27th was a good day for the books and would have been great if Southern Miss had of held on to their 23-20 lead in the Houston Bowl. Oklahoma State opened at -7 and was bet all the way to -10 so the Cowboys’ 33-23 win was painful for us. However, that loss was more than compensated for by the Cornhuskers’ dismal performance against Ole Miss in the Independence Bowl (line went from Nebraska -4 to as high as -8) and by Kansas States non-cover against Arizona State. If there is a split in the results, it always helps to win the late ones as players sometimes press their winnings or chase their losses. This was definitely the case on this day.
It was also the case on Saturday the 28th. Books got off to good start when Virginia upset West Virginia 48-22 in the Continental Tire Bowl. West Virginia was one of the worst teams for the book this year as they had covered 7 straight and 9 of 10 so this little bit of revenge made us feel a little better about our handicapping skills. Players did well when the Giants came back to beat the Eagles and earn a playoff spot (looks like some of you read my column last week on Home Dogs and cashed in!) but the late NFL game was good for books as the horrible weather turned the Over action into losing wagers. The late college game (the Alamo Bowl) was a bit of a miracle in that the spread was Colorado -7 and it looked like that would be the final margin of victory until Wisconsin rallied to tie it very late in the fourth quarter. Wisconsin then won on a Field Goal in Overtime and books cashed in.
The last Sunday of the NFL regular season was one of the best we had all year. Players bet heavily on Washington -8 (didn’t cover against Dallas), Minnesota -3.5 (didn’t cover against Detroit), New Orleans -6.5 (lost outright to Carolina) and San Diego -3 (lost outright to Seattle). Three of those four had the favorites covering until very late, so I am sure there were a lot of frustrated bettors at the end of the day. Players did cash in on Buffalo (-8 over the Bengals) but suffered a moderate loss on the total for that game.
Yesterday saw bettors lose heavily on both college football games as the two 8.5-point favorites lost outright. Minnesota beat up Arkansas in the Motor City Bowl 29-14 and Wake Forest embarrassed Oregon 38-14 in front of a mostly home crowd in the Seattle Bowl. (I was lucky enough to be able to sneak out of the office for a day and go to the Seattle Bowl. The only bad thing about being a book manager is not getting to see live games as you are always working. In my role as Operations Manager, things are busy as well although not quite as rigid. This was my first chance to see a live football game in several years and I forgot how much better the games are live. Seattle, you should be embarrassed that only 10,000 or so showed up. I also want to apologize to all Ducks fans that were sitting in section 135 for my raucous cheering!).
The Monday Night football game did go to the players though and what a goofy line it was. When the Jets beat Green Bay, Tampa Bay suddenly had something to play for so that line moved from Bucs -7 to -8.5. As it was more likely that the Bucs would win on Sunday night in Chicago, it seemed less likely that the 49ers would have any reason to play their starters and that was indeed the case. There was a lot of press on this and the line moved all the way from San Francisco -1.5 to St Louis -3! We were more aggressive than normal in moving the line as we had just completed a big weekend and did not want to give it back by holding a big losing decision on the last game. At Halftime we were wishing we had stayed with a more conservative approach as the 49ers led 17-0 but the Rams fourth quarter rally left us with a slight smile despite a moderate loss.
Overall, it was a very busy (and profitable) week and the House certainly came out ahead in most of the close finishes. That only means that the betting public is due for a big day and with the big Bowl games still left to come, only time will tell who gets the last laugh! Good luck to all and have a very Happy New Year.
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Rob Gillespie is President of Bodog Sportsbook & Casino