At the end of July, I put together my much-beloved (at least by me) recap of the bets I'd plunked down in Vegas for the 2012 NFL season. I updated that list with three more small bets in my next column, but with a full month left in Vegas before I moved back East, I found a few more opportunities for action. In some cases, that meant getting additional bets down on some of my previous targets, but I also found some new targets for action.
O'Shea's Las Vegas Casino has been a bizarre contradiction for its entire existence, so it is no surprise that the casino's impending shuttering on April 30 seems both too soon and not soon enough. Anachronistic and out of place from the day it opened in 1989, O'Shea's will exit the world with the slightest of whimpers, but it will leave with one important question: Will the property replacing it be any more relevant?
Outside of the Super Bowl, no event inspires more throngs of people to pack Vegas sportsbooks than the opening two rounds of March Madness. And while the Super Bowl is just one ridiculous day, the bevy of betting that surrounds March Madness is a four-day marathon that starts, bright and early, at 9:15 a.m. Thursday morning. If Vegas is specifically that weird place in the world where you spend more time thinking about the appropriate time to transition directly from coffee to beer, March Madness is perhaps the quintessential Vegas experience.
It takes a lot to surprise Jay Kornegay. As the sportsbook director at the LVH (formerly Las Vegas Hilton) sportsbook, Kornegay's seen it all during his eight years at the helm of the city's bellwether operation — and made money for the casino in the process. When you run a book with the widest variety of futures and proposition bets available while simultaneously releasing those lines before anyone else in Vegas, you normally end up taking a lot of action. When we talked to Kornegay this past week, though, it was the absence of action on one particular line that shocked him. And that's just one of the five fascinating tidbits we took away from our chat with one of Vegas' foremost bookmakers.
1. Nobody's bet on the Charlotte Bobcats. Nobody. The LVH is renowned for having futures bets available before anyone else, so degenerates like myself descend on the book regularly to try and find a long-shot championship or conference championship winner before anybody else. And after the Mavericks followed years of disappointing playoff performances with a title win last season, it seemed like a sure thing that NBA long shots would be bet heavily in a weird, shortened season.
In my opinion, the Aria casino has the best sportsbook in Vegas. It's a lofty honor, because it's really not hard to create a fun time when you combine sports with betting, televisions, and drink service, and there are a lot of places on the Strip that manage to do so rather beautifully. In the end, picking a favorite becomes more about personal taste than about something absolute.
On Tuesday, I got to partake in one of the most satisfying experiences anyone can enjoy in Vegas: Cashing out your futures bets. After waiting five months for the bets I placed in August to play themselves out to a conclusion, I got to drive around town on Tuesday and pick up my hard-earned money.
If there was ever going to be a Sports Betting Hall of Fame, there are a few pieces of memorabilia that would serve as the facility’s cornerstones. It would want a betting slip from when Donerail won the 1913 Kentucky Derby as a 91-to-1 underdog — the longest shot to win in the race's history. Maybe organizers would throw in a seat from the Hilton, the whiteboards from the Stratosphere, or a mound of cigarette butts from just about any casino in town. The most famous item in sports betting history, as you might suspect, is located in Las Vegas. It's not in a sportsbook, though. It's tucked away on the 39th floor of the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. And even if you did end up grabbing it, you would need a DeLorean and Doc Brown to make much use of it.
What's more exciting than the shortened NBA season that starts on Christmas Day? Of course, it's betting on that shortened NBA season! Because the NBA is removing 16 games off the docket and eliminating plenty of rest days, there's a lot of uncertainty about how the season will play out. Will younger, faster teams dominate during the dog days by virtue of their spry legs? Or will veteran teams with experience playing alongside one another gain an advantage by showing up in shape and not needing time to gain a rapport with new teammates? One thing is for sure: With a shortened schedule, the season will be subject to more randomness by virtue of the smaller sample size of games. Moving the NBA season from 82 games to 66 is the equivalent of taking the 162-game baseball schedule and turning it into a 130-game slate. At the 130-game mark of this year's baseball season, the eventual World Series champion Cardinals were 67-63 and 10.5 games out of the wild card they would eventually claim as their route to the playoffs. A lot can happen with an extra 20 percent added on to a season, and a lot can avoid happening when the league slices the last fifth of a season off the books.
With three-quarters of the NFL season in the books, now is the perfect time to catch up with some of the prop bets that were out before the NFL season, since we're beginning to get an idea of how this action is actually going to play out. In fact, 11 of the league's 32 teams have already finalized the outcome of their "regular season wins" over-under bet from before the season with their performance through the first 12 games, and three more have already tied one side of their total and could clinch an over or under as early as this week. Let's review those 11 teams and see what happened.
Vegas is simultaneously the most useful and depressing place in America on Thanksgiving. Useful, of course, because the city turns into a hundred different Thanksgiving dinners with no invitations needed. Virtually every elite restaurant on the Strip remains open and cooks a turkey dinner with all the trimmings that blows away the meal your aunt was going to slave over all day. Chances are that your aunt wasn't preparing pumpkin risotto, foie gras creme brulee, or toasted cinnamon ice cream. If turkey isn't your favorite, restaurants offered alternate options like bison tenderloin, Australian Kobe beef, and bourbon barrel-aged ham. And if you actually like turkey too much, the city's many buffets offered Thanksgiving dinner on a loop for ten hours straight. You are now hungry.
Scheduling games on Thanksgiving might very well be the greatest thing the NFL's ever done. Can you imagine how boring the day would be without football? How lucky we are to avoid bonding with our families under the guise of watching Detroit get blown out by 40 points.
Until the Lions were recently dragged down by the rising tide of Millen, though, the perception surrounding the Thanksgiving Day host teams was that they gained a competitive advantage by virtue of hosting games on the holiday. Not only did they get to play teams that had to travel after a short week of practice, but they then got a nine-day break before having to play again -- basically an extra bye week. That seemed more valuable before the NFL implemented a Thursday night package as part of their NFL Network in 2006, but it's a question worth re-evaluating: Do the Cowboys and Lions really have an advantage by virtue of those Thanksgiving games?
This week, our sportsbook review heads to what might be Vegas's most luxurious resort: the Wynn. Opened by casino magnate and namesake Steve Wynn in 2005, the hotel and its attached sister property, Encore, cost about $5 billion to build at the peak of the Vegas megacasino boom. It's the only hotel on the strip with its own golf course, and in our humble-yet-unbiased opinion, the Wynn is home to the nicest "standard" hotel rooms in all of Vegas. The casino is also a safe havens for vegans or vegetarians traveling to Vegas, as Wynn himself became a vegan in 2010 and promptly instructed all of the restaurants on his properties to offer a variety of vegan dishes. So if you're traveling to Sin City with a carnivore, you can head to the Switch steakhouse in Encore and get the tofu carpaccio or the vegan meatloaf.
We're here to talk about the sportsbook, though, and the Wynn's book is its own animal. The operative term for this sportsbook is "boutique hotel". The Wynn's sportsbook is certainly smaller than the mammoth open spaces carved out by the Caesars Palace and The Mirage books, but it uses that space extremely well. This is, seat-for-seat, one of the most comfortable Sunday NFL experiences in the entire city.
Now that the Packers are 8-0, it's about time for Mercury Morris to get his TV haircut, since he might be needed to pontificate about the 1972 Dolphins and their greatness very shortly. Since the Packers figure to be favored in each of their final eight games, we are facing the distinct possibility that a third NFL team might finish the regular season 16-0 undefeated. And Vegas has taken note.
The Las Vegas Hilton recently posted a futures bet regarding such a possibility. Before their victory over San Diego, the odds of Green Bay going 16-0 were listed at +500. On the other hand, if you were a buzzkill and expected the Packers to lose at least once during their final nine games, you were getting -700 odds. A $100 bet on the Packers to go 16-0 would payout $500 in profit if they won; that same $100 on the Packers to lose at least once would pay a meager $14.29 out in profit. It's certainly more fun to bet the 16-0 side, but which side do you think should you plunk your hard-earned cash on? Let's do the math and get an estimate.
Here in Viva Las Vegas headquarters at the Veer Towers, we get one question about twice as much as every other question combined.
"I'm coming to Vegas soon. Which sportsbook should me and my friends go to?"
It's time to start answering that question. Starting this week, we'll be providing capsules and reviews of the sportsbooks that line the Las Vegas strip. If you're just looking to place a bet somewhere when you're in Vegas, of course, this won't really matter. You can do that at any sportsbook. But if you're looking to figure out where you and your buddies should spend a Saturday or Sunday watching football, watch this space over the next couple of months.
What's better than teasing and hedging bets on the NFL? Combining the two! The teaser-hedge was in play for many bettors in Week 7, myself included, and while it didn't end up working out as a huge victory, it saved a lot of people a lot of money.
The teaser-hedge is actually two separate bets. The first outlay is a teaser bet made on two separate games that start at different times. The easiest scenario is with a Sunday NFL game and then the Monday Night Football contest. With a teaser, remember, you move the spread in each of two games by six or more points, creating a new line that you'll need to beat in both games to cash. My personal six-point teaser was on the Packers -8 and the Ravens -7.5, moving their lines to Packers -2 and Ravens -1.5, respectively.