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The second half of the baseball season is under way and with almost four months of data, we should have a pretty good idea of the teams to beat.

The LVH SuperBook has the Dodgers and A’s as the 9-to-2 co-favorites to win. While I would love to see a rematch of the ‘88 and ‘74 World Series, serious consideration goes to the Angels to oust the A’s.

Right now the Angels are 8-1 to win the World Series, which presents nice value. They underachieved the past two seasons with mega-free agent signings. The Angels are considered favorites at the beginning of each season, but have failed miserably. No team continuity, injuries and lack of a closer were just a few of their issues that plagued them.

So far this season on the Angels’ “things to do list” or “problems to solve,” they’ve checked off everything. They find themselves with the second-best record in baseball, 1½ games behind division-leading Oakland at the start of the week.

Not only do they already have the best player on the planet in Mike Trout, but they’ve got a healthy Albert Pujols and a bunch of scrappers contributing nightly.

The missing element had been the scrappers; guys in the mold of Scott Spiezio from the Angels Championship squad in 2002. They have that now with Kole Calhoun, Collin Cowgill and C.J. Cron. They’ve also had Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick come through with great seasons. The combination of all those players has allowed their offense to score 5.1 runs a game – the most in baseball.

Pitching wins championships and the Angels have it. Garrett Richards (11-2, 2.47 ERA) has become the ace and anchors a rotation that has been able to limit opponents enough to allow their offense to do what they do best.

The one major problem over the past three seasons was relief pitching, so last Friday they traded for Huston Street who has converted 25 of 26 save opportunities for the Padres this season. Coming back on the Angels will now be a thing of the past.

Street has been a lock down closer his entire career and the missing piece that makes the Angels good enough to win the AL at 4-1 odds.

The Angels have won 21 of their last 26 games through Sunday. Due to Oakland in front of them and Detroit in the Central plus Anaheim not showing much heart the past two seasons, the Angels can be found at a pretty good price.

Bucs coming: Another team that may provide some value is the Pirates at 30-1. A couple of months ago I wrote there was value in them at 50-1. Pittsburgh took a while to come around, but began the week 1½ games behind St. Louis in the NL Central. The Bucs are 18-9 over their last 27 games and 12-2 at home since June 19.

The NL Central is highly competitive with four teams within 2½ games of each other. The Pirates should be able to come out on top because they don’t have as many weaknesses as the other three. Sure they’re not as polished all around as the Dodgers but, if they get into the playoffs, anything can happen.

The Pirates should take over first-place within the next two weeks. They play a weak schedule where they’ll see sub-.500 teams in 4 of the next 6 series. They took care of business against one of those bad teams over the weekend – sweeping the Rockies – and will face them in Colorado this weekend. After three at San Francisco, they play 10 games against Arizona, Miami and San Diego.

When that run is over, the Bucs should be in first-place and brimming with confidence, which should keep them afloat heading into September. Let’s face it, these aren’t the 2013 Cardinals, the Reds can’t hit and the Brewers’ starting rotation is nowhere near the April and May version.

This division is begging the Pirates to take it over and, right now, the price is right.

Roxy: If you get a chance, check out the series of articles “Matty Vegas” is writing for on Michael “Roxy” Roxborough. Roxy started Las Vegas Sports Consultants and supplied most sports books in Nevada with their opening number.

Roxborough was instrumental in the careers of almost everyone in the book business one way or another. For many, it was just reading the bookmaker’s guide he wrote, which taught everyone the basics on why or why not to move a number and proper risk management – all theories that still apply in today’s sports book world.

Bears get heavy traffic: If you’ve been looking at the Super Bowl odds to win prices at the MGM chain of sports books, you may have noticed a major drop in odds with the Chicago Bears who have been bet heavy.

“Our biggest risk among the division (NFC North) is the Bears, who we have had to drop all the way down from 20-1 to 6-1,” said MGM Resorts sports book hub manager Jeff Stoneback.

“Every time we lower it, they just keep betting it and we just keep incurring more risk. We get a lot of that Midwest traffic through here, and always get the high risk on the Bears and Cubs, but they really seem to like the Bears a little more this season. If the Bears won it all, it would be our second worst decision right now behind the Raiders,” he said.

Personally, I don’t get it. Is Jay Cutler still the quarterback? Haven’t we seen enough out of him, or not seen enough (regularly injured) to know he’s not a championship type of guy? Not only do the Bears have to top the Packers within their division, they have to contend with Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC.

The Bears’ defense is still a mess and they don’t have a quality backup like last season when Josh McCown was able to move the ball and win some games when Cutler was hurt.

It takes a lot of cash and risk at the MGM books to move so rapidly because they take more future action than any of chain of books in the state thanks to lodging more visitors at their hotels lined up across the Strip.

McIlroy win hurts books: Usually when the favorites win a major, the books fare well, but SuperBook assistant manager Jeff Sherman said that wasn’t the case in last week’s British Open. “They were all over the favorites with McIlroy and Adam Scott,” Sherman said. McIlroy opened at 12-1 odds and his adjusted odds going into Sunday’s final round had him at 1-to-10. It was McIlroy’s third career major win.

Parlay card change: MGM Resorts sports book VP Jay Rood has altered the payout charts on parlay cards for the upcoming season. The payouts are actually increased a bit, because of a change in verbiage.

“I just thought it was time for us to change how the parlay cards read (so that) the payouts read the same as our odds off the board, using ‘to’ instead of ‘for.’ All our cards will now read, as an example, with odds, at say, 100-to-1 instead of 100-for-1 like we’ve been using for so long. It’s just confusing to some of our guests,” Rood said.

On the 100-1 payout on the board, the bettor gets his initial wager back when winning. On the 100-1 wager listed on the cards – like nearly every Nevada book uses – the original bet is included in the payout.

Hopefully, other books will follow Rood and MGM’s lead in this area because it’s long overdue. The way things stand it’s almost like a slight of hand with words. The problem is it has been rooted for so long into the minds of everyone who has run a book. The verbiage started when parlay cards were first seen in Las Vegas books.

Sports books hiring: If you’ve ever wanted to work in a sports book, now is the time to start putting in your applications as directors start increasing staff for the football season. Because of extended hours and a huge increase in tickets written, many books will increase their staffs by up to 30 percent.

Here’s my advice: When hiring ticket writers, I rarely wanted people with book experience. I wanted friendly people, who smiled, were clean, had some personality and were eager to learn.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].

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