Sports books offer variety of bets, props

Mar 18, 2003 4:51 AM
By Ron Fortune Sports bettors are ready to dance. And with the NCAA men’s basketball tournament taking center stage for the next three weeks, there should be plenty of moves on which to bet. Regional action kicks off this week with 64 teams playing on Thursday and Friday. (The 65th team was eliminated on Tuesday.) The winners advance to the second round and play on Saturday and Sunday. When the dust settles, the Sweet 16 teams will advance to the semi final rounds next week. The winning eight teams will play in the Regional Finals on Saturday and Sunday, March 29-30. The Final Four teams will advance to the championship games the following Saturday, April 5, with the championship game scheduled for Monday, April 7. With so many interesting match-ups, sports junkies should be able to stay “fixed” for the entire tournament. College basketball fans who have followed the course of the season should have no problem finding teams on which to bet. But some players may need some help. One of the best betting strategies in Âí­recent years is betting the underdogs in first round action. One of the contributing theories is that tourists and other unsophisticated bettors tend to put money on the favorites with the dog reaching its highest number of points shortly before tip-off. “If you don’t have to time to handicap the match-ups or analyze what the teams did during the regular season, this is a good system,” said one high-stakes bettor who asked not to be identified. “It’s the same as college football before the bowl games: if you bet every underdog you should make money.” The bettor pointed out that one of the common scenarios is that the “higher seeded teams often get a big lead, and then back off because they know they have more games coming up.” Indeed, checking the ATS records over the past five seasons reveals that underdogs have a higher winning percentage than favorites in virtually every round. Moreover, underdogs in the second round and the Sweet 16 round have been very efficient. In second round action, dogs have covered the points at a 66 percent clip, and in the Sweet 16 round they’ve covered about 74 percent of the time in recent years. Another trend that has found some backing in recent years is taking certain lower seeds against their opponents in the first round. “For whatever reason, we’ve seen the number 10 seeds not only cover, but actually knock out quite a few number 7 seeds,” said the sports book director at a Las Vegas casino. “Some of the more popular teams get in as a higher seed, and teams that aren’t on TV that much get overlooked. “The higher seeds get it handed to them because they’re not taking these lower seeds seriously.” Other lower seeds that have fared well against the points versus higher seeds include the 16 versus the number 1 seed, and the 12 seed versus the 5 seed. The higher-seeds (which are usually the favorite) that have winning point spread records against lower seeds include the number 3 seed and to a lesser extent the number 6 seed. With all the games taking place, most bettors want to play the entire tournament. Our sports book director pointed out that such factors as conference strength and team match-ups have to be considered after the opening round. But caution is always the watchword. “For the quarter finals, you’d think the better teams are going to get there,” he said. “But this is not necessarily true. As we’ve seen throughout the regular season in college basketball, there’s a lot of parity.” Making betting easier is the amount of parlay cards that will be issued this year. They will be released this week for the Thursday-Friday match-ups, and some books such as The Palms and Cannery/Rampart are giving away a free T-shirt with a $20 parlay card bet. You will also find parlay cards at the New Frontier, Park Place casinos and the MGM Mirage properties. Adding to the excitement of betting are the proposition bets released by the Imperial Palace. While the props weren’t ready at press time, in the past sports director Jay Kornegay has dangled out such props as which conference will have the most wins, will a team advance to a higher round, will the 16th seeded team every have the lead on its top-seeded opponent, well, you get the picture.