Sports books use caution for college bowl lines

Dec 4, 2012 3:00 AM

Last season the sports books got crushed with stale lines on the parlay cards, so the reaction this season is to be as cautious as possible. 

The result of that will be seeing several sports books offer spreads on the cards for only the week of games.

Parlay cards come out at most sports books on Thursdays, which means numbers must be made by Wednesday so they can go to print. In most cases, the life span for each card produced will end with the last game played being on Tuesday before the new cards are made.

Last season, sports books kept the cards on the shelf through Wednesday with all the bowl games listed that didn’t play for up to a month. While all the large money straight bets were making moves on a particular side that reflected on the board, the cards stayed the same. They are otherwise known as “stale numbers” like week old bread at a grocery store.

As a little as 15 years ago, most sports books didn’t put all the bowl games on the cards just because they didn’t want to deal with the possibility of having stale numbers. Competition changed the thought process and slowly, one by one, everyone else started to follow suit.

All the sports book guys talk, and no one was getting beat, so why not offer the same thing? If a game gets out of whack, then you just take the game off the board. Sounds simple, right?

Well, last season the perfect storm hit and many of the moves that happened, occurred after some sharp groups made their plays. There are a couple groups in town that do a great job with their own ratings and were way ahead of the curve on all the big movement on games. Most books won’t pull a game off the card unless it moves a point-and-a-half off a key number or up to 3 points.

By the time the books did yank the stale numbers, the sharp groups had already made their plays, not to mention all the other less informed bettors that saw value in the better numbers.

Because of offering all the games, by the time New Year’s had come around, there were four separate weeks of cards to post on the same matchups. Many of the moves got there and the losses were multiplied by the same result on all four weeks of cards.

When the losses came up big, each sports book director made a memo to self, “let’s not do that again next year.”

So here we are this year with the same situation ready to present itself with the first batch of cards. Rather than seeing an entire bowl lineup, the only college game you’ll get is Army-Navy. Don’t be surprised, however, if you do see a few books having a hard time going through with it cold turkey and giving in to offer just the BCS games.

Bettors will still have the option of betting up to eight future bowl games off the board, but thanks to the sharps and the books having no other recourse, the small bettor that loves the cards gets caught in between.

It may seem like a conservative approach, but based on the results of last bowl season with the cards and the November the books just went through, most are okay with being conservative right now.

Information gap

Sharp bettors are always going to be ahead of the sports books on key information such as injuries and suspensions. They always will be. The goal for the sports books is trying to bridge the gap of receiving the key information from minutes to seconds, which is a tall task.

Whether it’s sharp groups having a paid friend on the wire delaying a send, or just doing their due diligence searching through any kind of google alert or Twitter feed, these type of bettors do a great job in getting information quickly. To counteract, the books pay a few paid consultants to get the same information and relay it. But there still is a major gap.

Last Thursday, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sent his four best players home before the prime time TNT feature game against the Miami Heat. Popovich had said that was his intention all along because he wanted to rest his aging players at the end of a long trip and have them ready for a key matchup at home against the Grizzlies.

No one relayed the information to the press until game day, but the bettors were way ahead of the books on this one. When I say way ahead, I mean only three to five minutes, but that’s all it takes.

Sharp money pushed the Heat from 6-point favorites to -8, and then eventually off the board when the alert came out.

When the books readjusted their line, the Heat were -13 and were bet up -13½.

The end result had the sports books all winning when the Heat only won by 5, but that’s rarely the case in these situations.

NBA commissioner David Stern was livid about the players being sent home and fined the Spurs $250,000, citing the disservice to the fans. He also indicated he wants information like that to be disseminated properly ahead of time, something the sports books would also love to see happen in the future.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Contact Micah at [email protected].

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