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With Oregon and Kansas State losing on Sunday, the books get their dream matchup that would involve No. 1 Notre Dame against No. 2 Alabama. The Fighting Irish haven’t been No. 1 since the 1993 season and have their massive following around the country excited again, which will translate to big action at the betting windows.

No offense to Oregon or Kansas State, but the Las Vegas sports books weren’t looking forward to that matchup from a business stance. Just like the television networks, the books want the best possible matchup to create the most buzz for the BCS Championship game. The more people are intrigued with the matchup, the more bets will be taken at the windows.

“Obviously, from a business standpoint we’re rooting for an Alabama-Notre Dame matchup to become a reality,” said William Hill’s Jimmy Vaccaro. ”If we get that game with the intrigue already built in between the two storied programs, and the length of time it will be on the board from early December to almost mid-January, it will be the single biggest handle on any college football game ever booked.”

Beyond all the regulars who have made their attempt at wagering a college football game this season, having Notre Dame playing for the championship brings that fringe audience into the book that may have not wagered all season, or ever.

These people want to feel a little bit of nostalgia from the past and somehow be part of a magical Notre Dame season. Making a wager for as little as $5 gives these type of fans a vested interest in their team.

By the way, oddsmaker Kenny White says he would make Alabama -7 over Notre Dame with a total of 38.

Las Vegas sports books mixed reviews

The Las Vegas sports books had mixed reviews over the weekend with the favorites going 6-6 against-the-spread, but collectively it’s fair to say the bettors got the best of them in Week 11.

The day was going nicely for the sports books until the Matt Stafford-led Lions blew a 6-point lead with less than two minutes left. 

The Packers, laying 3 points, not only scored the winning touchdown, but got the ball back and kicked a field goal to cover thanks to the Lions having four straight incompletions when they got the chance to respond. Detroit turned the ball over on downs and refused to let the Packers run the clock out, using their final two timeouts. 

Much to the delight of the crowd in the sports book, their luck on what was a bad day was starting to turn. The Packers were the most popular bet of the day, which kept a lot of bettors alive and helped them gain some momentum that spilled over into a game in Carolina.

The Buccaneers (-1½) began an 80-yard drive, down 21-13 to the Panthers with 1:02 remaining and no timeouts. The Bucs got the touchdown and tied the game with a two-point conversion. They also scored a TD in overtime making the score 27-21, which not only gave the popular Bucs the cover, but also sent the total OVER the number (47).

In a matter of five minutes, the sports books went from having a great day thanks to the Browns, Jets, Cardinals and Jags covering to being on the brink on massive late game jeopardy heading into the afternoon where everyone was on the Patriots, Saints and Broncos.

The Patriots and Saints both covered and sent their games OVER the total, a nice 4-team parlay bettors capitalized on. If the Broncos won, the bettors would have easily had their second best Sunday of the season. 

Fortunately for the books, Philip Rivers got some protection against a prevent defense in the final four minutes with the Broncos favored by 7½ and leading by 14. Rivers led the Chargers 80 yards for the back-door TD. However, there was some drama involved that made both the bettors and books sweat it for another four agonizing minutes as the score was under review. 

The touchdown came on a fourth-down play, so if ruled no TD, the game would essentially be over. Sports book directors all across town collectively held their breath until the official announced the call on the field was upheld. Touchdown, Chargers.

The books were saved, but the tremendous weight of bets on the Packers, Bucs, Patriots and Saints were enough to get the bettors a little spending money for shopping on Black Friday.

Buccaneers OVER streak, a pot of bold

It took a miracle to keep the Buccaneers OVER streak alive on Sunday at Carolina, but after a few weeks of watching this Tampa Bay offense in action, calling anything they do offensively “a miracle” is probably way off base. 

It may have taken an 80-yard drive with a minute remaining and no time-outs, culminated with a two-point conversion to tie the Panthers 21-21, and then a touchdown in overtime to get to 48 points and their seventh straight OVER, but those last two drives of the game looked pretty much like the same Bucs I’ve been watching for the past six weeks.

The combination of Doug Martin running the ball and Josh Freeman toying with opposing defenses as he fires darts to a great receiving corps makes them one of the best offenses in football. For the last four weeks, bettors have simply been able to bet the Bucs and OVER on a two-team parlay paying 13-to-5, and cash. That combination has happened in five of the past six weeks.

The Broncos streak of four straight covers is finished after getting back-doored on Sunday against the Chargers, but they continue to be a strong play betting the totals OVER in their games. For the first time in franchise history the Broncos have scored 30-points or more in five straight games. They have gone OVER the number in five of their past six games.

After starting the season with two straight games UNDER the total, the Patriots have reeled off eight straight OVER. On Sunday, they beat the total of 54 themselves by five points. Most bettors religiously bet the Patriots just because of the scoring, but don’t come with the same tenacity at the betting windows on the Pats OVER. 

Unlike the point spread that has caught and passed the Patriots by with over-inflation, the totals offered hasn’t seemed to have caught up with them. For the same reasons bettors take the Pats weekly, they should also be betting the total OVER. 

You know the Patriots can score as many as they want on most teams, but they have a knack for letting teams harass them in the late stages of games. They’ve only lost three games this season by a combined four points, but 8-2 to the OVER sounds much better than 6-4 against-the-spread.

Happy Thanksgiving

If you happen to find yourself with nothing to do on Thanksgiving, which is true for many transient bettors in Las Vegas, take a stroll to your favorite sports book and do a little people watching. While working in the sports books, I loved being there for most of the day because there is a much different vibe to it than a regular NFL betting day. 

First off, bettors seem to be much friendlier. Not that they’re collectively unfriendly, it’s just a small fraction of one percent, which comes with the job of taking their money and them being bad losers. But on Thanksgiving, even the toughest cookie who gives the writers a hard time treats the day with some reverence, kind of giving them a pass for the holiday.

What I amused myself with while working at both the Strip and local properties was trying figure out what the story was with some of the bettors I didn’t know. Some would stay the entire day – wonder where they are from and what table is missing them right now. And some would make a quick visit – probably telling the family they were going to the grocery store to get more yams just so they could get their action in.

Sometimes it’s hard being away from family, all alone in Las Vegas, and I kind of felt it was my duty to chit-chat more than usual with the bettors just to give them some conversation like they might get at the table with their family. Sending lonely individuals to a “comped” turkey dinner in the café was a common practice in some of these instances.

I used to love writing tickets on the Strip during Thanksgiving because there was a massive overtaking of the hotel each Thanksgiving weekend from Asians as if there was a big flier in their country that said, “come to Las Vegas on November USA holiday, town is empty, cheap rooms.”

These guys were great, and it gave me a little early insight into how emotions can turn with bets on a good or bad play that translates well in any language. 

The cool thing about them was even though we didn’t understand each other, the international language of betting was clear. “Cowboy and high,” was how most would call the game and without saying the amount, they’d splash out one-hundred dollar bills and give me a nod, suggesting that was the amount they wanted. Man, did they like to fire on their visits.

This Thursday the common wager tying almost everyone to a Thanksgiving parlay together will be the Texans (-3) at Detroit, Cowboys (-4) against the Redskins and the Patriots (-6½) at the Jets. The OVER in all three games will also be the most bet upon on the totals.

In order for the sports books to not lose on the day, they need to beat at least one of the sides and two of the totals, or vice-versa.

New Lakers Show

Mike D’Antoni hasn’t even taken over for the Lakers on the sideline yet, but it’s clear his presence within the organization is already showing up in the box score. D’Antoni likes his teams to run, and the Lakers scored 114 points against the Suns on Friday night and 119 Sunday night against the Rockets. The Lakers have covered and gone OVER in three of their past four games.

While we shouldn’t expect to see home totals on the Lakers as low as 200 anymore, the adjustment process the sports books will take to find the proper rating for home and road totals may take a few weeks.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Contact Micah at [email protected].

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