Bettors of the NFL have been so baffled over the course of the season they’ve completely abandoned their normal betting strategy, which traditionally has them laying points with the favorites.
On Sunday of Week 16, the favorites went 10-5 against-the-spread, a figure that would normally rip the Las Vegas sports books apart, but instead the books went on to have another winning day, their best win in over a month.
“The game that was huge for us was the Chiefs losing outright to the Colts,” said MGM resorts VP of race and sports Jay Rood. “That was kind of the root game of the day that had the most lopsided action with teasers and parlays. And then when Arizona beat Seattle, that kind of made our day, but if KC wins, it would have been a much different result.”
It’s not surprising everyone would jump on the Chiefs laying 7 points at home against the Colts, just because KC piled up 101 points in its previous two games at Washington and Oakland. But the Colts completely dominated the Chiefs in a low scoring 23-7 win, which stayed well below the total (47), which was another area the public got crushed on because they loved the OVER.
Sharp money had bet the Cardinals (+10) at Seattle, but the majority of parlay bettors everywhere was laying the points with the Seahawks.
Logic said the Cardinals needed the game bad to keep their playoff hopes alive, but past history told everyone Russell Wilson and the Seahawks don’t lose at home, and most of the time they cover. Seattle had been 17-5 ATS at home in their previous 22 games before Sunday’s 17-10 loss.
Those two favorites losing outright basically made every other game on the day gravy, and allowed the books to root for their straight bet action, rather than stressing on all the parlay and teaser risk from a normal week just because the Chiefs wiped out so many.
The UNDER was 11-4 on Sunday, which also destroyed plenty of parlays on the day. For the past two weeks the OVER had gone 10-6. Parlay bettors’ first instinct usually has them taking the OVER.
One of the games most books lost on was the Patriots absolutely dismantling the Ravens in Baltimore, 41-7. The Ravens had been at their best at home all season, and opened as a 2½-point favorite, but it was the Patriots that closed at -1.
“I kept hearing people all week saying the wise guys were on the Ravens, but we didn’t take one sharp bet all week on Baltimore,” said Rood.
Another game that hurt the books a little was Carolina covering (-3) at home against the Saints, a team the public usually tends to blindly toss on their parlays. But opinion was split on the game with a slight edge in tickets written and cash wagered coming on the Panthers.
The Saints have shown on the road they are nowhere close to being a quality team like they are at home. New Orleans has now failed to cover its last six road games.
The Panthers will be one of those teams Rood will be rooting for to win the Super Bowl just because they are the team they do the best on in futures.
“The Panthers (8-1) would be huge for us,” said Rood. “We’ll hold about 50 percent of all the futures action.”
And when Rood says huge, he’s not kidding because his chain of MGM books across the Strip take in the most futures action in the state. No one is even a close second. He’s got nine Strip properties, each with over 3,000 rooms, with visitors coming and going daily, many leaving with a Super Bowl ticket for a friend back home, and they’ve been betting on it since February.
Bowl contests still open: Bettors have until Dec. 31 to enter the South Point’s College Bowl Jackpot Parlay Card that is offering $50,000 to whoever can pick the most winners (no spread). It only costs $10 and requires a selection for the final 16 games of the bowl season. Any additional monies collected over $50,000 will be paid out as well. The South Point’s Jimmy Vaccaro said as of Sunday they had 1,100 entries already.
William Hill sports books are offering $20,000 for their 20/20 Bowl Challenge where contestants pony up $20 and pick 20 games of their choice against the spread. The deadline, when there are still 20 games remaining, is Monday, Dec. 30. Last year, two winners split the pot by going 16-4.
This is free money waiting to be grabbed and I encourage everyone to take full advantage of the nice offer.
Bennett not to be forgotten: I had some family in town over the weekend, and with kids, of course, a trip to Circus Circus is always on the agenda.
For me, it brought back a lot of memories, not only because I got my first job in a sports book there, but because my mother worked there as well. I started thinking back to the old days when Bill Bennett ran the show like no other.
Bill used to give every employee a turkey and two bottles of wine at Thanksgiving, but it was his vision of Las Vegas that really got me thinking about his legacy.
Not many people talk about Bennett anymore, but he shouldn’t be forgotten because he was one of the first to reinvest all his earnings into making Las Vegas bigger and better. He built Circus Circus into a winner and marketed his property with the help of Mel Larson like no one else.
Bill was way ahead of his time with slogans like “Rooms available, if not we’ll place you” or “Be a kid again.” He did business the old way, where his first thought was to give guests a fair shake by offering good cheap food. His buffet was copied by everyone in town.
It was Bennett’s fair dealings with his clientele that kept them coming back and allowed him to make enough money to build the Excalibur, Monte Carlo, Luxor and Mandalay Bay, and it all started with the casino under the big top, and has since morphed into the massive MGM Resorts, which now has more rooms than any chain of properties on the Strip.
So as I walked through the Midway with all the games, and circus acts still going every hour on the hour, I couldn’t help but be proud and thankful of what Bennett did for our city. If we ever have some sort of Mount Rushmore for Vegas, Bennett should be one of the four faces.
Riviera value: It’s too bad I hadn’t been to Wicked Vicki’s pub inside the Riviera sooner in the NFL season, because I found one of the best values in the city. I caught the late afternoon games there Sunday and couldn’t believe what I had been missing.
Vicki’s had all the NFL games on with a great viewing presentation, but the thing I liked most was their $15 promo that gives you a pitcher of beer along with 15 wings. Being an English pub, they have all my favorites on tap, such as Harp and a fairly good Guinness pour as well. For one pint it’s $6, but you get about four glasses in a pitcher, and then they throw in wings as well. Can’t beat that $15 deal. It’s rare to find any value on the Strip like that.
For those who like the nostalgia of old Las Vegas, the Riviera is like a Las Vegas museum with all their old photographs of events that actually happened in their casino over the years.
Between countless films such as “Casino” or the original “Oceans 11” being filmed there and beautiful pictures like Liberace and Elvis hanging out together in the 50’s, the Riviera offers plenty for those looking to get a feel for how things used to be and is worth a visit.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: When I was reviewing all the bowl games, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the Michigan-Kansas State match-up just because everything was so equal on paper. They are statistical mirror images of each other in just about every category. Both went 7-5 this season and 7-5 ATS.
Each defense allows 367 yards per game and both offenses score 33 points per game. Their overall rating is almost identical with K-State having a half point edge, but on the neutral field in Tempe, Arizona, it’s K-State that is a 3½-point favorite.
That 3-point boost is because of current form, as well as Michigan QB Devin Gardner being limited in practice after suffering a toe injury in the 42-41 loss to Ohio State last month.
Michigan started out 5-0, but closed out the season by losing four of their last five games. K-State started the season slowly at 2-4, but closed out 5-1 and covered six of their last eight. One team is playing very well now, albeit against bottom level Big-12 teams, while the other – Michigan– is struggling.
I’m taking Michigan anyway, and a lot of it stems from K-State not being prepared in past bowl games. For whatever reason, Bill Snyder hasn’t had his team ready, teams that were better than this year’s squad.
K-State has failed to win or cover in their last five bowls, and with so many areas being equal between the two, getting +3½ is good enough to get my attention. Michigan, 34-31.
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].