Radio contest handicappers
desperately seeking wins

Oct 24, 2006 7:37 AM

The closing of the Stardust is just a few days away, but for sports bettors the famed sports book with its colorful history was effectively dismantled months ago, ever since the operation was made a satellite of another Boyd property.

One of the heavy casualties was the Stardust Invitational handicapping tournament, which for years was conducted Friday nights in front of a standing-room-only crowd of bettors, eager to pick up a few winners.

Trying to fill the void is Leroy’s weekly "Money Talks" football handicapping tournament, which is held at the Silverton on Friday nights and broadcast on the radio.

This season, another handicapping contest emerged, the Invitational, sponsored by sports talk show host Dave Scandaliato and broadcast on his Friday Sportsline radio show.

Both tournaments feature two different handicappers each week picking seven college or pro games in head-to-head action.

With two weekly contests — plus a "match race" contest between Fezzik and Nick Bogdanovich (more on this later) — football fans should have a wealth of selections to help them through the weekend.

Unfortunately, the picks dispensed by the handicappers have so far produced lackluster results, to say the least. Through seven weeks the Money Talks contestants have compiled a 43-51-4 record, a 46 percent win margin.

The results are even uglier in the contest as the entrants are a dismal 30-49-5, a 38 percent winning margin.

Statistics show that the break-even point in sports betting — because of the 10 percent vigorish — requires a winning rate of 52.4 percent.

Thus, at this point in the season, a coin flip with its 50 percent probability offers as much value as the collective picks from both contests.

Experts point out, however, that the contests represent a small sample and the contestants shouldn’t be judged so harshly. Moreover, the handicappers must use the published betting lines on Friday, when the number might have been inflated through heavy early betting.

Regardless of their record, the analysis by the handicappers is often interesting if not compelling to listen to, and any sports radio show moderated by John Kelly — simply the best host in the trade — is worthy of a listening audience.

Nonetheless, a collective record of 73-100-9 (42 percent) can be a bitter pill if the selections are backed at the betting window.

Which brings us to Leroy’s heads-up match between Fezzik, a local sports bettor, and Nick Bogdanovich, a bettor and former sports book director. Each ponied up $25,000 in a winner-take-all competition, which requires picking six football games a week against the spread.

Through seven weeks, Fezzik leads with a winning mark of about 70 percent; Bogdanovich isn’t far behind at just over 60 percent.

Fezzik admits his sizzling win margin is an "aberration" and that his overall win rate is ordinarily about 55 percent.

And, even though the results so far are exemplary, there are critics of his manner of selecting.

Scandaliato says Fezzik’s reliance on other handicappers for selections, such as Bryan Leonard, Bob Stoll (Dr. Bob) and the Tim Trushel group, is misleading because the picks are not really "his own."

In his defense, Fezzik openly admits that he’s more of an analyst or "fund manager" rather than a handicapper, and that he spends only a third of his time handicapping.

Yet, the idea of a fund manager or actuary in "tout’s clothing" is a sticking point with some detractors. They contend that Fezzik — who frequently bets both sides of a game when line movements create an attractive "middle" — releases selections for the purpose of moving the line, so he can "buy it back" at a higher number.

A college football game at the start of the season illustrates how he cashed in on a line movement that he helped create. In early September, Akron visited Penn State; the line opened Penn State -15 but was slowly bet up to about 17½ and 18 in Las Vegas sports books.

At its peak, Fezzik released Akron plus the points as a "3 weight" selection, based on returning starters, college football rule changes, and so forth.

A few weeks later, however, he publicly stated he made a mistake and, based on the "latest research," Penn State had suddenly become the correct side.

This created quite an uproar among his followers, many of whom had already bet on Akron.

Fezzik’s defense was that he obtained "new information" from three top college handicappers that persuaded him to reverse his selection.

When the dust cleared, Penn State won by 18 points. Fezzik later revealed that he had bets on Akron +18 and Penn State -15½. Not a bad day.

While some question the practice, others believe identifying a winner — no matter who does the actual handicapping or which side you’re betting — is the bottom line.

And as long as the bottom line is printed in black ink, everything is fine. It will become tougher if — as in the invitational contests — the ink runs red.