Vegas Books make House call on parlays: Delay of game

Jul 3, 2012 3:00 AM

Last week we did a piece on how some of the sports books were getting everything in order for football season. One of the areas under review were the parlay card payout charts – in particular the payouts for the eight, nine and 10-team parlays.

LVH SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay had mentioned they were reviewing their 2012 strategy for parlay cards and one of the areas he hit upon that I failed to include was leaving off some of the future college football bowl games.

When I talked with South Point sports book director Bert Osborne this week he was much more adamant about making future changes into how they offer those bowl games on the cards than changing the card odds. 

“We are going to review the pay charts, but one thing I will tell you for sure is we’re not going to be offering the entire bowl schedule on the cards weeks before the games are played, but rather only the games that are played that week,“ said Osborne.

Last season was a disaster for most books’ cards in the final few weeks of the pro football regular season. Most of the damage was done from lingering liability from weeks of college bowl games that had not been posted when that week of NFL games were. 

From the NFL’s Week 14 on through the Wild Card round, the entire bowl schedule was placed on the cards – leaving the window open to being blind-sided by them from weeks prior when eventually posting the results of the college games.

The big NFL games the sports books lost on during Week 14 and 15 came back to haunt them again three and four weeks later when posting one of the bowl games. 

In Week 17, the books were still paying out live cards from Week 14 that had the future bowl games on them. By the time the National Championship game was posted, there were five weeks of different cards to post with Alabama being the worst of the two losing situations. 

Of course the bettors preferred side still has to win, but when the sharp parlay card groups round-robin the cards early on and those are the sides with the most extended risk, it becomes a powder keg waiting to explode. And last season, it exploded pretty large thanks to the overflow of attractive stale spreads being the correct side in many of the bowl games.

The beauty of playing the parlay cards for the sharp groups is that the spreads remain the same on the cards while they are rapidly moving on the board. With the college bowl games, the opportunity to play the cards is much longer than pro football, because the cards usually stay open a few days after the Monday night football game before the next week of cards are opened on Thursday. 

So instead of having two or three day old spreads on the cards by game day like in the NFL, the spreads can be up to six days old for the college games. 

The odds on all the college bowl games will still be offered on the board, but you’ll never see the sharp groups round-robin parlays off the board because there is no edge like the stale numbers on the cards.

And ultimately, minimizing the angles that the sharp bettors can beat you is one of the main priorities every sports book has to combat to satisfy their top overall objective, which is to always protect company funds.  

Changing times

I can remember being behind the counter for hundreds NFL Sundays where we would have bettors begging the ticket writer and supervisors to punch out a ticket for the late game while attempting to use his unposted ticket from the early games as collateral until it finally became posted.

“Aww, come on,” the bettor would say.” Look, the Steelers are up by 17, I laid 6 and there’s only a minute left and they’re getting ready to kneel down. You know it’s a winner, just print the ticket and wait for a minute.” 

As all this was happening, the teams were on the field waiting for the 1:15 pm game to kickoff. Then the game was off and the bettor had no action. 

If the teller would have helped the bettor out, it would have been a violation of GCB rules.

That was the first thing I thought of when I saw the NFL planned to drop the start times of the late games from 1:15 pm (PT) to 1:25. It was big news almost a decade ago when the start times of a few games were dropped from 1:05 to 1:15, but now this is really big news.

Most serious football bettors already have their action on the late games and don’t find themselves in financial need of results happening in the early games to keep them active in the late games. But for 95% of the other bettors who have an allowance or threshold of what they can bet each week, they do need the money won from the early games to have action in the next wave of games.

During the 2009-11 seasons, 44 early games lasted longer than the start time of the 1:15 pm games. Had the kickoff been under the 1:25 start time like this season will be, only 15 of those 44 games would have gone on longer. 

The NFL says it was to ensure fewer fans across the country didn’t miss any of the action on the field, but that outcry from fans across the country sounds to me like the same bettor asking for rules to be bent so he could get down on his afternoon three-team parlay.

Whatever the case may be, the start times will have a positive effect on Las Vegas sports books because it will keep money churning through the windows that might have had to just settle on the two-team Sunday night parlay. Now the books are more likely to get three tiers of action from the early games, to late afternoon and then into the Sunday night games. 

It’s hard to project what kind percentage increase in handle there will be because of the time changes, but it’s safe to say there will be an increase.

However, in the older days, the time change might have shown a larger impact than it will be now. Over the last 10 years, many books would leave games open for a few minutes after kickoff to get all the extra action they could, leaving maybe a three or four minute window for bettors to get their action in after the late games had kicked off. 

And more recently, several sports books have begun doing in-progress wagering where bettors can wager on a game well after it starts and also throughout its entirety.