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NASCAR’s popularity keys bet variety

Apr 6, 2004 5:39 AM

Through the first seven races of the season we have seen a significant change in public betting strategies when dealing with the Nextel Cup series numbers.

Wagering on the stock cars is still a relatively new phenomenon in the industry and both the bookmakers and the bettors are maneuvering to maximize their profits.

There are generally two types of wagers players can make with NASCAR”” odds to win and matchups/propositions. The odds to win are the most attractive to the general public and also the most profitable for the books. Only one driver can win the race and there is usually a theoretic hold of 35 to 40 percent of overall handle on the indexes.

For the bettor who allocates a bankroll of $20 to $200 a week on the car race, this is the option most take. They can win big with little, which is always attractive for any gambler in any gaming venture.

The matchups and props are much different and have become a science to some. For the bookmaker, they can expect a theoretic hold of about four percent. Either side A wins or side B wins. There aren’t 42 other opponents to go against like odds to win a race.

Players have done very well with the matchups and over the years, the bookmaker has had to do some altering in an attempt to bring the edge back to the house and that 4 percent or better hold.

Everything starts with the two practices and qualifying beginning on Fridays before the race. Then, there is a final practice session on Saturdays before the race called "Happy Hour." That final practice often indicates who will do well and is generally what the bettors use as a guideline to make their wagers. Teams use that last session to get their car in top position to win the race and rarely do they tank. If they are slow in "Happy Hour", they are likely to be slow in the race.

Books have done a number of different things to bring some of the edge back to the house. Here are a few examples of what they can do regarding matchups:

Removing during practice: For the books offering matchups prior to qualifying, this is a must. Some of the bettors are extremely sharp and if they see something during these sessions, they’ll know right away what a bad line is on the board before the session is even over and posted, and they’ll jump all over it.

Readjusting: After the practices and qualifying, the question is, how high do you adjust the matchup? If car A is better than B by a large margin, the bookmaker has to ask how high do they make the number to make a bettor take the slower side at plus money. Over the last six years, driver A that finishes better than driver B in qualifying has a better finish in the race over 60 percent of the time. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or even a fan of the sport to figure out that in the long run they’ll make money just betting the driver that qualifies better.

Pre & post-qualifying: There are a few books out there that offer matchups for the players that have an opinion prior to any of the sessions. These players are rare, but there are some out there, and they might be the sharpest of the bunch. When the sessions start, the books look at all the data from the three practice sessions and qualifying. They will then put new matchups based on the same data the bettors see. This may be the best way to bring some edge back to the book because it’s tougher for the bettor. They’ll have no problem laying -180 on a readjusted matchup if it’s bad, but a matchup based on the same data they have makes it tougher to decide which gives the house some edge.

Eliminate altogether: This is a drastic measure but one that books have taken. To increase the odds to win betting pool with the high theoretic edge, it’s my thought that matchups are essential to attract every type of player to the casino. But at the same time, it is a books duty to always protect the house and if they can’t win, there is no reason to continue being a free-flowing ATM to the bettor.

Staffing also becomes an issue with books. This is a specialized sport that is very new and not many follow or understand it. Each book usually has one or two supervisors that follow NASCAR, but they also have to watch the higher end wagering on the other sports that are always deemed more important. It takes a lot of time to sift through all the data. This makes it much easier to just book the odds to win and scrap the matchups.

Whatever strategy is taken by the bookmaker and bettor, it’s amazing that a sport like this can just jump into the industry and be so successful in only seven years. Just like any other sport, as the bookmaker maneuvers to gain an edge, the bettor will go back to drawing board and re-strategize. It goes on and on in a constant cycle.