Over the last few weeks, Las Vegas and off-shore bookmakers may have felt like it was déjÃ vu all over again as the point spread of select college football games were pounded relentlessly, often forcing a line move of 3-4 points.
The scenario, according to sources in Las Vegas and off-shore, is strangely similar to the one employed 20 years ago by the famous Computer Group, which won millions of dollars on college football and basketball, based on the selections generated by a computer program developed by a Westinghouse mathematician.
The way it worked in the mid 1980s was the computer would generate a point spread based on a variety of statistics and, if it deviated more than a point and a half from the Las Vegas line, the group would bet it.
The betting would start on Wednesday, often at a sports book such as Gary Austin’s on the Strip. The group knew that any number of "wise guys" or sharp bettors would notice the action at Austin’s and begin betting the play themselves, as well as spreading the word to their friends.
It wouldn’t be long before tout services picked up the play and the run was on. By Thursday or Friday, the point spread could have moved up to 5 points.
At that point, if the Computer Group believed the line could move no further, they began buying back the line (betting the other side) at the inflated price.
The result was to create a large and potentially lucrative "middle" that would cash both bets if the score landed within it.
What’s happening now, according to bookmakers familiar with the process, is an "Asian group" of bettors has developed a computer program to identify several college football games that might have "soft" lines.
Then on Thursday morning, the group bets the lines heavily, often forcing the spread to move 3-4 points. The event has developed into a kind of "on-screen fiesta" as third-party bettors track the movement and bet as well.
For some reason, the Thursday morning time slot also coincides with the release time of selections from a tout known as Dr. Bob Sports.
His selections sometimes mirror the Asian group’s plays, but they aren’t always the same. For instance, last weekend Dr. Bob Sports’ picks included Baylor, Pittsburgh, South Florida, San Jose State, Central Michigan, Arkansas State and UCLA, according to one of his subscribers.
Teams that were targeted by the Asian group may have duplicated all or some of the above, but also included Texas A&M, Cincinnati, Navy, Kansas State and Florida.
Players will note that betting all of these games did not guarantee a winning day. In fact, only six of the above teams beat the spread at the most widely available lines.
But, as noted, moving the point spread is as much the goal as betting a soft line.
And for anyone familiar with sports betting in Nevada, that has always been the ultimate prize of the biggest sports bettors and betting syndicates — to create a huge point spread gap between the favorite and the underdog, a gap in which both bets could be cashed.
The previous weekend, several college football games were "steamed" or bet heavily by the Asian group, in an effort to create a large middle, as well as create "poor" numbers on parlay cards, which are usually printed well before the weekend.
Members of the group and its followers would then load up on teams whose parlay card prices were out-of-sync with the board spreads.
Here are a few of the games as well as their line moves from two weeks ago:
”¡ Middle Tennessee State:
Opened at +33 and bet down to 29Â½.
”¡ Stanford: Opened at +33 and bet down to 29.
”¡ Mississippi State: Opened 24Â½ and bet down to 20Â½.
”¡ Colorado State: Opened 14 and bet up to 17.
”¡ Hawaii: Opened 9Â½ and bet up to 13Â½.
Note that three of these games — Mississippi State, Colorado and Hawaii — had middle opportunities right up until the very end of the contest.
The groups pushing these numbers and shooting for middles rely less on handicapping skills than in the past. Instead, they operate more as "market analysts" or "fund managers," seeking better numbers on which to bet.
And it doesn’t take many middles to send them over the top. At worst, by cashing just one side of game, the group will lose 5 percent to the vigorish.
But when the number falls correctly, the payoffs are, as they say, sweet.