‘Play Ball’ Texas Rangers style amid March Madness

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The first pitch of the 2013 MLB season is Sunday night when a new in-state rivalry begins with the Texas Rangers welcoming new AL West member, the Houston Astros.

It’s not exactly the type of matchup we’ve all been waiting for since the World Series ended, especially considering the LVH Super Book has the Astros projected to win 59 games this season, but it still will garner some attention from bettors.

It’s hard to make a case for the Astros to win more than 59, especially since they don’t get to play the Cubs multiple times this season. The Rangers, meanwhile, are projected to win 86.5 games and are the second choice to capture the AL West behind the Los Angeles (of Anaheim) Angels, the team that signed former Ranger Josh Hamilton.

Matt Harrison has been given the starting assignment for the Rangers and he’ll match-up against the Astros’ best in Bud Norris. While we won’t endorse the Astros at big plus-money here, if there was a month to take a shot with Houston, it would be early on in April while they still have some semblance of hope and excitement for the season. Last season they started out April 9-14 before finishing 55-107.

The Tigers are the 6-to-1 favorite to win the World Series with perhaps the best starting rotation – 1 through 5 – in baseball. Their lineup is also pretty sick with defending Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. The Angels and Nationals are 7-to-1 followed by the Dodgers at 8-to-1.

Play Ball!

Heat on Fire

Last week William Hill sports book offered odds on whether or not the Heat would set an NBA record by winning 34 straight games. Heading into Monday’s game against the Magic, the Heat had won 26 straight.

William Hill opened the prop “Yes” at +500 and “No” at -700. Before the Heat had played their next game at Cleveland, where the Heat erased a 27-point deficit to win their 24th game in a row, bettors had jumped all over the “YES” price dropping “NO” down to -500.

The toughest part of the Heat’s schedule is coming up with road games at Chicago and San Antonio this week.

Height of Madness

The Las Vegas sports books may have just enjoyed their busiest March Madness weekend in state history. We estimated that maybe $150 million could be written this tournament throughout the state, and we may have estimated a bit low based on some of the early returns.

“Handle was through the roof, better than last year,” said William Hill sports book director Jimmy Vaccaro. “The first day was outstanding, and Friday was even better. Things tailed off a bit Saturday and Sunday because of fewer games, but overall it’s been better than ever. I wish we could do it all over again this week.”

That’s a big deal when considering the Super Bowl generated $98 million in handle for what is the largest handled day in the state, but collectively – long-term, nothing is bigger than March Madness.

That’s four days of sold out rooms, exceptional table game hold, and maybe most fun of all…the alcohol tabs paid by March Madness conventioneers that will rival any tailgate bill in the history of NFL parties. There are no official records, but drinking was also at an all-time high.

In all, the business of March Madness in Las Vegas is big. And maybe, moreso, than the NCAA may like since our business is generated by gambling. But that’s another story.

The big story of the tournament so far has been No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast making its way into the Sweet 16. The story is huge because of their seeding, but even more because of their odds.

You could have had 150-to-1 on Florida Gulf Coast to win the South Region and 1,000-to-1 to win the NCAA Tournament.

Their days may be limited as they take on Florida in the next round, but the fact that we have No. 13 LaSalle and No. 9 Wichita State battling it out for an Elite-8 spot in the West might be even a bigger story than Gulf Coast.

The sports books had an outstanding four days of action and did well on the results. Favorites went 25-23 ATS and the OVER went 20-28 – the perfect equation for a winning four days which gives books the ability to easily match the regular hold of 7-to-10 percent every March.

This year, it may be higher than usual.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].

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