Las Vegas has never seen the type of patriotism for a national sports team like is currently being witnessed for the U.S. Men’s National Team in the World Cup.
The excitement can be measured in decibels or flag waving from the multiple mini-parties watching the matches from casinos and pubs all across town. And many people, hands on heart, are also betting with their heart; small, but still enough to have a big effect on the sports books.
“I’d say the type of handle we took in the USA-Portugal game rivaled what we’d take on a big, high-profile, Saturday night college football game,” said South Point sports book director Bert Osborne. “You know, the kind that makes or breaks an entire Saturday.”
Down 1-0 in the first-half, the USA methodically marched back like never seen before on this stage to take a 2-1 lead, but the excitement was short lived as Portugal tied it 2-2 in the last seconds of extra time. When the USA kicked off, the whistle blew and the game ended in a 2-2 draw, which turned out to help many of the books.
“We actually did fairly well with the draw,” said Osborne, showing his own patriotism wearing a USA sweater. “We could see the type of one-sided action we we’re getting on USA so we positioned ourselves to offer more attractive numbers on Portugal with the goal line and three-way, and we found plenty of takers.”
Osborne had initially opened up Portugal on the goal line -1 at -105, but with all the one-sided early action on the USA, he quickly dropped the goal line to -½ -130 and then eventually down to -110 each way.
“The ticket counts were one-sided with the USA at maybe an 8-to-1 count, but the volume of actual cash wagered was almost the same,” said Osborne. “We were able to attract some large money on our line, which many felt was too low for what was considered the better team in Portugal.”
The three-way betting option is generally a huge win for the house because theoretic holds are usually around 10 percent. Some books are much lower and others are much higher, but it’s still a reference point to look at knowing a normal 20-cent split on a game is expected to hold 4.5 percent.
The three-way was one sided wagering that really pinned down Osborne and the South Point book. If Portugal doesn’t get that equalizing goal in the last second, this entire article would have had a different tone.
“We were weighted by about 75 percent of the action on USA, 15 percent on the draw and 10 percent on Portugal,” said Osborne, who had the USA posted on the three-way at +340. “If the USA wins outright, we would have gotten buried.”
The other area Osborne and his staff had to steadily watch was the total, where recreation bettors are riding the World Cup’s 22-9-1 OVER streak. “We went high enough on the OVER 2.5 goals, that large money came on the UNDER to offset it for us.”
After a rough start to the World Cup games where many of the favorites combined with the OVER, the past week has balanced things out with the underdogs coming through. Since the tournament began on June 12, the favorites on the goal line have gone 13-17-2 through Sunday’s games.
Wild World Cup scenes: I’ve been visiting a few places around town during the World Cup and I haven’t felt this type of bonding with fellow citizens ever in Las Vegas. The UNLV basketball run on 1990-91 was pretty intense for the all of the locals united in their rooting interest, but the visitors from out of state weren’t involved.
With the USA playing so well and legitimately having a shot to upset some very good teams, there is a buzz throughout the city with just about every American in Las Vegas. Many don’t even like soccer, but they can’t help to be excited for the country in an area we have been perennial underdogs throughout history.
Germany is next: The Germans came into the World Cup as the third choice at 5-to-1 to win, and they’ll be the next opponent for the U.S. at 9 a.m. Thursday. Germany is -½ goal favorite at -130 with a total at 2.5 UNDER -125. The U.S. doesn’t have to win to advance to the knockout stage, but it sure would be fun to see it happen.
It could be Portugal just isn’t as good as many expected, but what I saw in Sunday’s match by the U.S. thoroughly impressed me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the U.S. so fluid in their possessions. They looked like a very good European club team, which is something I have never been able to say before about the U.S., which always seemed choppy and inconsistent.
I like the angle of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, one of Germany’s greatest stars who helped West Germany win the World Cup in 1990 and scored 47 goals for the National team from 1987-98. Every move he has made in this World Cup with strategy and substitutions has been brilliant, and the team is playing just as he has drawn it up. Now he gets to face his mother country, and he wants to beat them like never before.
Germany has had an extra day’s rest, and they also didn’t have to play in the hot Arena Amazonia in Manaus like the U.S. did Sunday, where it’s hot and humid and drains future strength. When Italy and England played their match there in the opening weekend, both teams came out flat in their next match.
Will that be the case for Team USA Thursday? Maybe, but I’ll root for the U.S. to win anyway, and wouldn’t be upset with a draw, which is what I believe will really happen. How about 2-2, which would be the third straight OVER for the U.S. in the World Cup.
Why not, every other game seems to be going OVER.
Borrowing a song: Because of the United States involvement in two World Wars that were heavily instigated by Germany, it would be appropriate for us to borrow England’s “German Bomber song” Thursday. It is sung to the tempo of “she’ll be coming around the mountain” and tells the story about England fighting back during WWII when the Luftwaffe dropped countless bombs leaving city’s like London in rubble.
It goes something like this: “There were 10 German bombers in the air, there were 10 German bombers in the air…and the R.A.F. of England shot one down (in an excited tone), shot one down.” And then it drops down to “nine German bombers in the air” and so on like 99 bottles of beer.
Germans don’t like the song much as they’ve moved on from the past, but it’s the perfect example of what happens in International competition like the World Cup where history is always in the back drop.
Whether it’s Argentina vs. England, Ireland vs. England, France vs. Ivory Coast or USA vs. Germany, the historical ties always give the competition a little more boost of importance. My only hope is the soccer team can be almost as strong Thursday as the 1944 Team USA squad was in the European theater.
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].