Under a normal NFL week of action, the Las Vegas sports books would have cruised to a very profitable Week 13, even with the favorites going 8-4 against-the-spread as they did on Sunday.
But this was no ordinary week of football.
It was the annual four days of festive football wagering action on Thanksgiving weekend that has become somewhat of an institution in Las Vegas for the locals where all three NFL games on Thursday are bet at the feverish pace of a great Monday night game, which can turn into a ticking time bomb of risk for the house.
With Thursday’s risk carrying over into Friday and Saturday’s college football action, and then into Sunday’s NFL card, the parlay liability can mount pretty quickly. And while late scores by the Raiders and Steelers on Thanksgiving day helped quell the risk with two of three the popular public sides not covering, all three totals went OVER, which is just as much a public favorite as laying the points with the chalk.
The books managed to escape with a small win on the combined efforts of Friday and Saturday’s college football card – Michigan staying close to Ohio State was good for the house, Auburn’s improbable win wasn’t, but there was a noticeable weight placed on several of the Sunday games that usually isn’t there at the beginning of a normal Sunday.
It was all due to the Thanksgiving leftovers, most notably the risk from teasers carrying over from Thursday where a bettor went 11-1 if teasing all sides of Thursday‘s games. The final two games between the Raiders at Dallas and the Steelers at Baltimore were all-way winners – both sides, OVER and UNDER – on teasers.
Teasers usually aren’t as big a concern for the books as straight bets and parlays, but on this Sunday, they were hoping for more upsets than usual just to knock a few out. Not much help came from the popular squads.
“We got beat up on teasers,” said Station Casinos sports book director Jason McCormick, “and it all started Thursday when all the popular teaser sides like the Lions, Cowboys and both sides of the Ravens-Steelers game got there. That carried over into Sunday when most of the popular big favorites came through on the teasers with the Broncos, Panthers, 49ers and Patriots. The only teaser side we really beat was the Browns, but that decision was minimal compared to the others.”
The big upsets the books needed didn’t happen, outside of the Jaguars (+7) winning at Cleveland, 32-28, for their third straight road win. The Falcons (+4½) were the only other underdog to win outright with a 34-31 win at Toronto against the Bills.
It was actually amazing that the books were able to come out with a small win on the day with so many popular favorites covering, especially since the Panthers (-7), Broncos (-6) and 49ers (-7½) all came away with covers on parlays. It was the sharp money on other sides that helped them balance things out.
“This was one of those weeks where the sides we had jeopardy on with the straight bets, the public was on the other side with parlays,” McCormick said. “The best example was the Texans game where they had lots of support with larger straight bets, but the public was on the Patriots (-7) with parlays.”
The Patriots not covering against the Texans, a team the public had seen enough of with their nine straight losses, was the biggest parlay root game on the day. After New England beat the Broncos last week, everyone seemed to be on board with the Patriots on their parlays and when they only won by three, 34-31, it wiped out a large portion of the risk.
“Our biggest loser of the day was the Broncos where we had straight bets, parlays and teasers all going to Denver, and our biggest win was probably the Eagles (-3½) not covering,” McCormick said.
The Broncos bounced back strong from their loss last week with a 35-28 win at Kansas City, sending the Chiefs to their third straight loss after starting the season 9-0.
The books should feel very fortunate about the Cardinals covering. If it hadn’t been for a Cardinals defensive holding penalty on third-down with about a minute to go in the game, the Eagles would have been forced to kick a chip shot field goal that would have made it a 6-point win. But when the penalty occurred, the Eagles got the automatic first down, went into their victory formation and ran the clock out for a 24-21 win.
Yes, the sports books should consider themselves very lucky on the weekend, not only for getting late scores by Oakland and Pittsburgh on Thursday, but for also dodging a bullet on Sunday where the stars were somehow aligned perfectly and the betting gods managed to side with the house. It would have been interesting to see what might have happened if the Patriots had covered. We’d probably be talking about a huge loss on the day for the books.
Although it’s another small win for the house, they have been grinding out small wins all season while avoiding the big losing day, and have compiled a 10-1-2 record against the public on NFL Sunday’s this season. That type of winning success is unusual, which means the cycle is sure to change up soon in the bettors’ favor, but there are only four weeks left before the season is over.
NASCAR in Vegas: It’s Champions week at the Wynn Resort where the top-10 finishers for the 2013 Sprint Cup season will get their awards, and fat checks, for their fantastic seasons. The entire week will be loaded with opportunities for fans to meet the best drivers in the series, whether at the craps or blackjack tables, at a bar, or at dinner.
The drivers and their teams will be everywhere all week long. Thursday is perhaps the most fun day of all when the drivers do a victory lap down the Strip, complete with the smell of burnt rubber while they do dough-nuts. John Avello will also be hosting a radio show at the Wynn sports book on Thursday with a few of the drivers.
Avello posted his Championship odds last week with Jimmie Johnson the 3-1 favorite. Tony Miller at the Golden Nugget has also posted his championship odds, as well as odds to win the 2014 Las Vegas Cup race. I was worn out from the long season and happy to see it end at Homestead, but already looking forward to Daytona testing in January.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].