Tuesday November 6
LAS VEGAS – "Black Sunday." No, that movie name has already been used. How about "Nightmare on Las Vegas Boulevard," "Revenge of the Public" or "Attack of the Killer Parlay Cards?"
No matter what title we put on it, bookmakers thought they were in the middle of a horror flick and there was nothing they could do about it as bettors had their best weekend of the football season and some are saying it’s the worst of all-time for the bookies with estimates ranging from at least $5 million to upwards of $8 million in Nevada alone.
It’s important to note that sports books here typically don’t give exact figures (even to longtime journalists) and the state's Gaming Control Board doesn’t give weekly breakdowns of the betting here. For comparison’s sake, the biggest Nevada loss on record was $2.57 million on the 2008 Super Bowl when the Giants upset the Patriots 17-14. That would have been on a much higher handle.
Favorites went 10-4 against the spread in the NFL, but the real damage was done due to the most popular favorites covering. A lot of people tied up those teams in parlays, which are usually big winners for the house, but when all the favorites come in they end up paying off on seven, eight, and even 10-team parlays.
The favorites covered on Thursday and Monday night (Chargers and Saints), as well as LSU and the under being popular plays to cap off a winning Saturday for the bettors are well, but the biggest damage was done on “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (again, already been used).
In the early games, the public was all over the Broncos, Packers, Ravens, Texans, Lions and Bears (oh, my!) and all those favorites not only won but covered. The two underdogs that covered early – the Colts and Panthers – were pretty popular, too, and really did create a “Perfect Storm.”
Even though underdogs went 2-1 in the afternoon games, it didn’t stem the tide much as the Buccaneers and Steelers also received plenty of support as well as the favored Seahawks covering. By the time the prime-time games rolled around, the books knew they had tons of parlay-card liability no matter what happened as bettors were pretty split on Cowboys-Falcons on Sunday night and Eagles-Saints on Monday night. But the favorites came in on both cases, including the Falcons kicking a field goal with 14 seconds to play to go from a non-covering 16-13 lead to a spread-covering 19-13 victory.
Anyone who had been paying any attention so far this NFL season knows that underdogs had been barking through the first eight weeks. After peaking at 56-32-2 ATS (63.6%) through Week 6, underdogs were still hitting at a 61-percent clip entering this weekend and the bookies were cleaning up. Every great movie has some foreshadowing, a storytelling device that alludes to future events, so I’ll quote what I wrote in my Oct. 2 "Vegas Beat" piece: "One of my favorite themes in covering the 'Vegas Beat' is that all good trends must come to an end. No matter how lopsided a trend is, given enough time and sample size it’s going to regress to the mean and move back toward .500."
And that’s exactly what happened. The underdogs couldn’t keep covering at that pace forever and there was bound to be a correction to the market. Underdogs are still 74-57-3 overall (57.8%), but we’ve seen home underdogs really take a hit as they were 21-11 ATS through Week 6 and are now just 23-21 overall, while double-digit dogs are 5-6 ATS. Over/unders? They’re 65-65-2.
So what does this mean moving forward? A lot of people are saying “See, you have to bet the favorites now” but that could be an overreaction. My guess is that faves/dogs will pretty much be split 50/50 moving forward, so it’ll be up to individual bettors to find value in the lines whether they’re looking at faves or dogs.
However, if the public – flush with money after their huge weekend – fires away again on the favorites, it could provide an edge to some underdogs. If we look at the Week 10 lines, we might be seeing some of that happen already. The Buccaneers opened -2.5 against the Chargers and have been bet to -3 with some -3.5’s popping up (again, Bucs were a popular dog last week so bettors could be coming back on them); the Broncos (a popular fave last week) opened -3.5 vs. the Panthers here in Vegas and have been bet up to -4; and the Ravens (another popular Week 9 fave) opened -7 against the Raiders and have been bet up to -7.5. In fact, checking websites that track what percent of tickets are on which team, the Texans are the only underdog getting more action as of this writing (and it’s just 55%-45% in that case). On Thursday night, the Colts are -3 at the Jaguars, but with more than 80% of the tickets on the Colts, that seems destined to go to 3.5.
In conclusion, don’t be so fast to jump on the favorite bandwagon as it’s likely you’ll be paying a premium this week. However, even though I report on all these trends, the best advice is to ignore those and forget about trying to figure out which way the wind will blow and instead look at the games individually and find your best plays. Good luck!
Dave Tuley is an award-winning journalist who has covered the Las Vegas race & sports beat since 1998, first for the GamingToday newspaper in Vegas and has written for Daily Racing Form since 2000. Tuley started his own website, ViewFromVegas.com, in 2007 and has written for other websites, including ESPN.com. In 2006, he won "Best News Story" by the Professional Football Writers of America, the only time a gambling story has won a PFWA award. Tuley, 45, grew up in the Chicago suburbs and is married with children in Vegas. His roots can be seen in the names of his three children: daughters Jordyn and Peyton (named for Walter Payton, not Peyton Manning) and son Maddux. Dave can be followed on Twitter @ViewFromVegas.