Wagering on starting pitchers should be pushed

May 07, 2002 4:37 AM
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It is standard operational procedure for sports books to accept baseball side bets regardless of the starting pitchers, even though the line is based upon pitching match-ups.

In other words, bettors can be screwed out of money if the starting pitchers are changed. That’s especially unfair considering that pitchers are listed on tickets involving totals (over/under). What makes totals different than sides when both prices are determined by starting pitchers?

The inequity occurred in a 5-team parlay made during the week, with Florida vs. St. Louis the game in question. The Cardinals were a $1.30 favorite with Garrett Stephenson on the mound and the bettor took Florida as the $1.20 underdog.

Stephenson was pulled later in the day in favor of an emergency starter and the Cards wound up winning 6-4. Florida was the lone loser on the five-team card and the bettor unsuccessfully argued that his selection of the Marlins should have been voided. It would have been a "no contest" as an over/under wager.

"Yeah, it’s a bad lesson to learn," said Rob Akers, race and sports book manager at The Venetian, where the parlay bet in question was not made. "But when we try to explain the rules to the customers, they look at us like we’re zombies."

Akers said the best way to prevent "a screw job" is to designate at the time of the side bet that the pitchers must start the game. That way if they don’t pitch, the parlay payoff would be adjusted as if the contest was postponed. It is the fair solution.

"We generally don’t say anything when side bets are made because people want the action," Akers said. "Again, that’s standard procedure in sports books."

Well, maybe a change is in order.

Akers admitted that a baseball side parlay of $100 would probably bring out a "starting pitchers" reminder from the ticket writer. That’s a slap in the face of the $5 bettor, implying the smaller amount means he or she is less interested.

"It would probably be a good idea to treat sides and totals betting the same, but sides betting far outweighs totals in volume of wagers," Akers said. "The option is available for bettors to mention pitchers. They just have to exercise it."

So the next time you decide to bet a multi-team baseball parlay with sides only, make sure it’s the pitching matchup shown on the board.

If not, it can be costly.