Just like clockwork, when the Super Bowl ends Atlantis Reno sportsbook director Steve Mikkelson doesn’t take any rest and immediately jumps right into another major project.
For three days he barricaded himself from the rest of the world and did nothing but baseball work in order to get his 2016 MLB Season win totals posted. Last Thursday, after one final massage of the numbers, Mikkelson was ready to show the betting world what he thought and opened odds on all 30 teams. The Atlantis was the first sportsbook in Nevada to post the totals for the 10th consecutive year.
Being the first to post anything in the sportsbook world can be a risky venture, but on the season win totals it meant they’re only going to get bettors with real opinions wagering rather than those just playing one book against another. The Atlantis will have that luxury at least through Sunday when Ed Salmons at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook opens their totals. Then, all hell is going to break loose.
Bettors will have a huge edge for a few hours as they’ll play the two books against each other until the two sets of numbers merge and look similar. Bettors don’t even have to like a side, just bet the difference. And with two smart baseball guys setting their own numbers, there are going to be lots of variances with the actual win total extremely close to what they thought it would be.
For instance, betting the Dodgers this year UNDER 87 wins with Zack Greinke being gone and a rotation that is full of lefties might be a good wager at the Atlantis right now because you may see a much smaller number Sunday at the Westgate. That will create a nice middle opportunity if betting, say, OVER 85.5 wins.
If the Dodgers win 86 you capture both bets. If they win 87, you win one bet and push on the other. The worst case scenario is you’ll win one bet and lose on the other and maybe get juiced out a few cents.
Last year, Mikkelson posted the Royals at 86 with not much action until other books opened them at 80. Kansas City ended up winning 95 en route to a World Series title.
“That was one of our better wins last season,” said Mikkelson. “We closed at 83 with lots of UNDER action.”
Mikkelson set the Royals this year at 87 and is high on them again as they attempt to be the first team since the 2001 Yankees to make three straight World Series appearances.
“I really like what the Royals do and I don’t think all the sabermetrics really tell the whole story of how good they are,” he said. “This is one of those teams I go more with the eye test than numbers.”
The San Francisco Giants have won the World Series in each of the past three even years, but that’s not why they were posted with the highest total at 90 wins. In addition to upgrading the pitching staff by signing Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, Mikkelson also has to post a number knowing his core audience of bettors up north in Giants country always make the drive east to Reno to wager at his book.
“I didn’t factor in as much this year, knowing I would get Giants action (OVER the total) like I usually do,” said Mikkelson. “I really believe top to bottom the Giants have the best 25-man roster in baseball. Of all the teams, they have the least question marks. I mean that rotation is stacked and if they get anything out of Matt Cain, it makes them even better than expected. I like the addition of Denard Spam and I’ve always like the way Bruce Bochy manages his bullpen.”
Risk on the Chicago Cubs’ World Series futures have dropped them down to 4-to-1 odds at many sportsbooks. The Cubbie fans can’t wait to see their team win its first World Series since 1908. They won 97 games last season, but they’re posted at a total of only 89, despite Mikkelson knowing those fans will bet away on any number OVER.
“Last season they kind of surprised everyone. This year they’ve got pressure and expectations to match 2015. I like them to do well, but downgraded them a bit just because they have a lot of swing and miss guys. Plus you’ve got the Cubs in the same division with the Cardinals and Pirates, who both finished ahead of the Cubs last season. I just couldn’t go higher than 89 wins.”
The lowest total on the board is Atlanta with 65 wins. Last season the Braves went 67-95 and didn’t do any type of off-season upgrades as they’re building for the future. Their lack of doing anything stood out to Mikkelson.
“Prior to the Astros, when teams were rebuilding they didn’t tank and make it so obvious. But now you’ve got teams like the Braves, Phillies, Brewers, Reds and Rockies that aren’t even trying. The Braves are the most obvious of the bunch. They traded away their best pitcher, Shelby Miller, for prospects and they have Bud Norris expected to be their No. 2 starter. They‘re like a good Triple-A roster.”
The hardest number Mikkelson had to make was on his beloved Red Sox, who despite winning only 78 games last season, were posted at 85.5.
“I’m a die-hard Red Sox fan, so I had to be as objective as I could, but I really like all the moves they made in the off-season. I think they’re arguably the best team in the American League.”
The big moves for Boston were getting David Price to anchor the rotation and Craig Kimbrel to close out games. Hanley Ramirez will also be taking over at first-base.
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. Twitter: @MicahRoberts7 Email: [email protected].