LAS VEGAS — It’s early on a Tuesday morning at the Westgate SuperBook, and a smattering of patrons are watching the World Cup match between Morocco and Spain on the massive video wall that serves as its visual centerpiece.
SuperBook VP of Risk Management Jeff Sherman is ready for another day of action. Sherman, who’s been with the book since 2004, typically arrives at 6:30 a.m. each morning.
“There’s no 8-hour shift; you leave when the work is done,” Sherman said.
While he’s known as one of the sharpest golf minds in the business (www.golfodds.com), Sherman enjoys booking basketball – and watching his beloved Los Angeles Lakers – more than any other sport.
Sherman got his start as a teller at Imperial Palace in the early ’90s when he was pursuing his MBA at UNLV. He worked in the book’s famed drive-through betting window. Jay Kornegay brought him and Ed Salmons on board back then, and the trio has come full circle now at the SuperBook.
Sherman credits Kornegay and Salmons with having the largest influences on his career, along with Marc Nelson during his time at The Palms. Affable by nature, Sherman sat down with Gaming Today for a wide-ranging interview with insights gleaned from three decades of industry experience.
An Oddsmaker for All Seasons
Gaming Today: You’re known for your expertise in golf, but what’s your favorite sport to book and why?
Jeff Sherman: NBA. I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Lakers growing up in LA. It’s been more of a challenge the last few years with player injuries and player management, but I like that challenge because you have to make quick adjustments on players and what they mean on a point spread. I feel like I’m more in tune than a lot of places. I can do it quickly, and when you make that first adjustment, people have different opinions and you see bets coming in right away. It’s more of a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge.
Gaming Today: You are probably in the minority of Vegas bookmakers who can claim to have run a drive-through betting window. What were those days like?
Sherman: When I started there, I was a ticket teller. When I was doing the drive-through, I was going to UNLV for my MBA, so it helped me out because I had time to get my homework done. There was a TV out there and a place to study. You’d have your peak periods of betting, but there was a lot of down time. So, I had the ability to work on my MBA at the drive-through.
Gaming Today: What’s a typical day at the office look like at the SuperBook?
Sherman: We get in and run through our wagering menu and make sure we’re comfortable where we’re at on our positions, whether it’s NBA futures, soccer futures, props.
We can book a lot easier when things are molded after the morning rush is over. Then you’re just monitoring things all day. Generally, Ed and I will oversee most sports.
Gaming Today: How has this football treated you from a handle and hold perspective?
Sherman: It’s been solid. Surprisingly, with college football, we’ll get a lot of players with larger wagers on that here. The NFL has been solid. We offer tons of player props in all our jurisdictions, so that helps out. It’s done really well.
Gaming Today: Any Super Bowl futures liabilities?
Sherman: We actually have some on the top teams including the Bills and Chiefs. Small liabilities. We’re a little bit less than what you’ll see out there on the market and have some higher prices. In the NFC, we’re in pretty good shape. We do have liability on Tampa Bay from before the year when (Tom) Brady came back. Those are the main ones right now.
Gaming Today: How about the largest bet you’ve taken on the NFL this year?
Sherman: I believe it was a $50,000 wager. In college, we’ve had some larger than that. We’ve had a few house players that have made some larger ones on college.
Gaming Today: How would you characterize your style as a bookmaker relative to Jay and Ed and some of the others here?
Sherman: As far as our style of bookmaking, we’re pretty much on the same page here. A lot of these guys have been promoted from within and with the philosophies of Jay, Ed, and myself, there’s not too many differences of opinion on that.
Gaming Today: There’s still a misconception out there about a bookmaker’s job being to ensure even action on both sides of a line to prevent liability. Is that a myth that doesn’t apply anymore?
Sherman: It hasn’t applied in many years for us. We give respectful-sized bets to those who we consider sharp players, and we’ll have them shape our market. Most often, we’ll want to be on the side of those sharp players since we see them as a winning bettor. So, respect them and move it aggressively versus what the market is and be on that position of it.
Last week, for example, we had a house player that bet USC -3 for $50,000. We had some sharp players that took the ‘3’ for a lot less than that, and we went down to 2.5. So, our position was we needed Utah against USC. We just book that way.
Gaming Today: Is it possible not to get emotionally invested when you’re sitting here on a Saturday or Sunday? Or is it just business?
Sherman: At this point, I don’t. The funny thing is I’ve heard people say throughout the years, ‘Don’t bet the Lakers at the SuperBook because he’s a Lakers fan, and you probably aren’t gonna get the best prices.’ When it’s been converse of that where you’ll often find the better prices here because I’m realistic in analyzing the team. Last year, they were our largest liability in the future book, and I had odds that were three times what the market bared on them. At this point, after doing it for almost 30 years, you take the emotion and subjectivity out and try to be objective.
Gaming Today: What’s the worst bad beat you’ve had whether it came in front of or behind the counter?
(Editor’s note: Tom Brady led the Bucs to a 17-16 comeback win in the final seconds over the Saints on MNF this week)
Sherman: There’s been a lot but my memory is (so bad). We needed New Orleans outright. I didn’t watch the end of the game, but it looked like New Orleans was comfortably ahead, and it went haywire in the last few minutes. That was a big swing for our jurisdictions. That’s the most immediate one that comes to mind.
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