The Las Vegas sports books got a Thanksgiving preview of sorts over the past weekend with the huge betting menu that began on Thursday.
Usually, the Thursday nights offer a decent NFL game with a so-so college football matchup. The books are busy, but nothing crazy like on Saturday or Sunday. But last Thursday, there were two giant college football games everyone wanted action on featuring four top-10 teams, highlighted by Oregon at Stanford.
At the South Point sports book it looked like an NFL Sunday as bettors were 15 deep at eight different betting windows from 3 p.m. on prior to the Baylor-Oklahoma game, and they all seemed to have the same sides, favorite and OVER.
However, most bettors were wrong with most of their plays as Baylor rolled 41-12, covering the 17-point spread, but the game stayed UNDER 75 total points. Stanford’s 26-20 win as a 10-point home dog also stayed UNDER 60.
“The handle was amazing Thursday,” said South Point sports book director Bert Osborne. “And most of the games turned out well for us, from the two big college games staying UNDER, the Vikings winning, and also the NBA and NHL providing some nice returns.
“Anytime you get a couple high-profile isolated night games to stay UNDER the total, you can expect to cut a third (of the risk) out, and in the pros it might even get closer to half,” Osborne added.
Saturday had an even bigger game with public appeal. No. 3 Oregon went down on Thursday, so why not No. 1 Alabama against LSU? Bettors were mixed on their opinions during the week, but on the day of the game, most decided to lay 13½-points with Alabama, and were rewarded with a 38-17 win. The day ended up being a wash for the books, but Osborne said another game turned the tide for them.
“We thought we had the West Virginia win, but when Texas came back to win, that was a big swing on our day. We went from winning to breaking even on the day.”
Texas ended up winning 47-40 in overtime, covering the 6½-point spread.
On Sunday, the books got back on track as two of the biggest Week 10 favorites got beat outright. The biggest upset came when the Jacksonville Jaguars won at Tennessee, 29-27, a game the Titans opened as 13½-point favorites last Sunday at the LVH.
Sharp money took the points with winless Jacksonville, pushing the line down to -11 by kickoff, but the majority of parlay bettors sided with the Titans. The Jags never trailed in the game and scored more points than they had all season. They have now beaten Tennessee in four of their last six meetings.
The other double-digit dog that won outright was the St. Louis Rams, who blew out the Colts 38-8 at Indianapolis. The Colts opened as 11-point home favorites, and just like the Jaguars game, sharp money pushed the dog number down all the way to 7½.
Parlay players didn’t care what the number was and played the Colts like they do almost every week. And why not? This is a Colts team that has beaten the Broncos, 49ers and Seahawks, three of the best teams in the league. Why not lay the points against the then 3-6 Rams?
The only game of the morning where the majority of parlay bettors had the right side was the Seahawks beating the Falcons, 33-10, a game that opened up with Seattle as 7-point road favorites. Sharp money on Atlanta pushed the number all the way to 3½ by kickoff. The bad news for Joe Public with their Seattle play was that most of their other early games linked up on their parlay failed to cover – such as the Giants winning 24-20 over the Raiders, but failing to cover the 7-point spread.
One of the more popular wagers of the early games was the Bengals, who opened as a 2-point road favorite at Baltimore. The Ravens had failed to cover their last 3, but were dominating a defensive battle. Baltimore led 17-10 with one Bengals desperation throw remaining, and the Hail Mary was answered – a 51-yard TD pass from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green that was twice tipped by Ravens defenders.
It was easily the biggest roar of the day from the crowd in the sports books. The Ravens would dampen the mood, however, as they kicked a field goal in overtime to win 20-17.
“It was a good day,” said Aliante sports book director Marc Nelson. “We were up in the A.M. games, but did even better in the afternoon. How often is it a good thing for us when the Broncos cover a spread? Usually, we get carried out when that happens, but we were pretty balanced on the game. The only thing we were long on was the OVER.”
The Broncos had gone OVER the total in all eight of their games this season. Denver hadn’t played in two weeks, but bettors quickly remembered how much they had been cashing with Broncos totals this season and bet them OVER religiously all week until kickoff. It didn’t matter if the total was 57½ or 58½, but in the end, the Broncos 28-20 win made the books pretty happy.
The books also did very well with the two other afternoon games. The 49ers, favored by 6, fell 10-9 in a defensive battle at home with the Panthers. The 49ers had covered their last 5 coming into the game. With the win, the Panthers have covered five straight and proved that they are a team to respect the rest of the season. The knock on Carolina was that they hadn’t played anyone, now they have and beat one of the best.
The Cardinals beat the Texans 27-24, a game many bettors pushed on. Arizona had been bet up from an opener of -2½ to -3 and was -3½ by kickoff, but the books still made out okay with the decision despite the middle opportunity. By the time the late game between the Cowboys and Saints came around, there was hardly any liability remaining.
“We’re a little extended on the .OVER (55),” said Nelson, “but we really didn’t have any carryover from the first two wave of games like we usually do.”
The Cowboys found some backers as the line dropped from Saints -7 to -6. Dallas had covered 7 of 9 on the year, but was quickly disposed of in the Superdome, 49-17.
On the day favorites went 6-6 ATS with four of the underdogs winning outright.
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].