Las Vegas sportsbooks went through a roller coaster of emotions – winning and losing this past weekend.
Sunday might have been their best day of the NFL season as Week 10 underdogs rolled to a 10-2 record with nine of the dogs winning outright. But Saturday was a completely different story and seriously diminished the books’ weekend profit margins.
The Saturday night disaster was -1000 favorite Ronda Rousey getting knocked out by Holly Holm with a second round booming kick to the neck to give the champ her first career loss.
“We had 89 percent of tickets written on the bout on Holm,” said CG Technology vice president of risk management Jason Simbal. “The biggest was a $5,000 wager that paid $48,000. We lost a low six-figures, but it would have been much worse if we didn’t get some late Rousey bets.”
Simbal said Saturday’s college football action didn’t go well either, so the huge Holm payouts just added fuel to the fire.
Wynn sportsbook director John Avello said his book took a loss with Rousey, but couldn’t help be impressed by Holm doing what no one else had done to the most popular fighter in the UFC.
“Holm had a great game plan. She didn’t let Rousey take a breath and went right at her. It was impressive.”
For whatever reason, the general public loves betting favorites in baseball, basketball and football, but in boxing or MMA, they come strong on the dog, always.
“It’s the same story all the time with big bouts at high prices,” said South Point sportsbook director Bert Osborne. “People like to bet a little to win a lot. They don’t mind laying double-digit points in other sports, but when the money-line is the only option in fights, they seem to swing for the fences and hope the improbable happens.”
The only chain of books that didn’t experience a big loss in Las Vegas was Station Casinos, but that’s only because they choose not to book the events due to owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta also owning the UFC.
So just as the books were licking their wounds from Saturday, Sunday came around with the swirling Las Vegas winds and the underdog trend continued with its greatest presence of the NFL season.
“Our biggest game of the day was the Lions winning at Green Bay,” said Osborne. “That game killed all the big money-line parlays and teasers and also wiped out most of the extended parlay risk.”
The Lions’ 18-16 win as 12-point underdogs was its first win at Lambeau Field since 1991. This is a Detroit squad that has gone 1-7 straight-up and against-the-spread all season that just did the impossible, almost in the same fashion as Holm knocking out Rousey.
Holm was getting +700 on the money-line while the Lions were getting +525. Green Bay has now lost three straight after starting the season 6-0. They’ve also failed to cover the spread in its last four after starting 5-0 ATS.
The only two favorites that covered on Sunday were the Panthers and Steelers. Carolina remained undefeated at 9-0 (7-2 ATS) with its easy 27-10 win at Tennessee as 4-point favorites and the Steelers took care of business at home as a 7-point favorite over Johnny Manziel and the Browns with a 30-9 victory.
Big games for the books early on had the Redskins (+1.5) winning 47-14 at home against the reeling Saints, who continue to struggle against losing teams and on grass. The Dolphins won 20-19 at Philadelphia as 6-point underdogs. The Jaguars won 22-20 at Baltimore as 5-points dogs and the Bears won 37-13 as 7-point dogs at St. Louis.
Bettors couldn’t get any roll going and when they came back in the afternoon reloaded with extra cash, things got worse as the underdog covered all three with Minnesota and Kansas City winning outright.
The Patriots-Giants game generated the most volume on the day and it turned out to be Sunday’s best game with the Patriots winning 27-26, but failing to cover the 7-point spread.
Avello noted that all three late afternoon games landed right on the total, but said they didn’t get burned on any of them.
By the time the Sunday night game came around, NFL bettors were broke. They had been steamrolled by an underdog machine rarely seen. The Seahawks were 3-point home favorites over the Cardinals in a critical NFC West matchup and most of the risk was on Arizona.
Bettors managed to salvage a little something on the day with the Cardinals’ impressive 39-32 win.
As Arizona was putting up 480 yards of offense in front of Seattle’s 12th Man, you couldn’t help but be impressed. Arizona looks like the class of the NFC, despite Carolina being 9-0, and has the feel of a Super Bowl team.
The only question that remains is whether or not 35-year-old Carson Palmer can remain healthy for the entire season. If betting “No” on that type of mythical Palmer wager in past seasons, you’ve been doing quite well.
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].