When the first sportsbook report hit my inbox Monday, the question "How did your book fare in the NFL?" was answered with "great." The same question, in the next email, was answered with “horrible.” These extremes alternated throughout the day, and a pattern quickly emerged. The square books made a killing, while the sharp books got killed.
"The house always wins” is an often-used phrased, and when it comes to sports betting — over the long run, in aggregate — it’s true. Bettors must risk $11 to win $10, and though that equates to a seemingly surmountable 52.4 percent win percentage to break even, the consensus estimate is that less than 1 out of 20 sports bettors profits over the long run.
Why do such a high percentage of bettors lose? On the surface, the bettor has many advantages, such as the power to decide when, where, and how much to bet. What the bookie asks for in return is the 11/10 vig. Vegas old-timers I know often refer to the bookies' 11/10 advantage as “the nuts” — and it’s certainly a formidable hurdle, but what makes winning nearly impossible for many recreational bettors is their failure to maximize the advantages they are offered.
Happy days are here again! My Scrabble Friend and I went on a run this week thanks to the Phoenix Suns, who have gone undefeated against the spread this year. We have bet and will continue to bet the Suns until Vegas throws out a scare line like Pho (+2) @ OKC, at which point we will sigh deeply, say a prayer to the God of Repeated Mistakes, and keep betting the Suns.
Sports bettors watch football differently, and the ending of Sunday night’s game was an especially telling example of this fact. All viewers were glued to their TV sets when Andrew Luck threw the go-ahead touchdown with four minutes left. But then the two types of viewers diverged. Non-bettors were still talking about the pass, checking their Twitter feed, or perhaps even refilling the chip bowl when the Indianapolis offense lined up for the two-point conversion, attempting to extend its lead to three points. Bettors, on the other hand, could not have been more engaged — for millions, the Colts winning by one or by three made the ultimate difference, because Indy was favored by 1.5 points.
The sports world was buzzing on Sunday after the Lions’ last-second comeback win against the Cowboys. The final touchdown didn’t affect the point spread, since Dallas was a 3-point underdog and lost by only one. A decade ago, that would have meant the ending had no significant gambling consequence. But things have changed.
(*Obligatory weekly explanation: A “jermajesty” represents the fake name given for a dollar amount in this series. It’s also the unfortunate name of one of Jermaine Jackson’s sons.)
At what point does Jermajesty Jackson sue me for mental anguish as a result of the association between his name and my horrible NFL picks? If I’m him I do it really soon because I’m running out of all sorts of currency. Another rough ride last week in NFL Prop Land. I really hope the neighborhood trick-or-treaters will be OK with tiny bottles of expired Minoxidil.
Staying positive. Let’s get it all back this week ... tens of thousands of made-up coinages at a time.
Las Vegas commentators often stress how much the public loves to bet favorites. It’s not so much that the public prefers to lay points, but rather that it loves to back the better team — and if the better team is getting points, that’s just icing on the cake. College football polls act as shortcuts, helping the casual fan decide which team is better. BetOnline.ag’s Dave Mason estimates that a higher-ranked underdog receives the public’s betting support upward of 90 percent of the time.
On any given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday), your NFL Run & Shootaround crew will be gathered around multiple televisions, making inappropriate jokes and generally regressing to the mean. Catch up on all the NFL action right here.
Come As You Are
Robert Mays: When the Colts traded for Trent Richardson, part of the collective shock came from how unprecedented the move seemed. Without considerable extenuating circumstances, teams don’t give up on 23-year-old first-round picks. From the Browns’ side, it really was a deal that was almost unheard of, but not for the Colts. They’d done this before.
Anyone who watches Hard Knocks will remember the scene from last summer when Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland called Vontae Davis into his office and informed his fourth-year cornerback that he had been traded to the Colts for a second-round pick. Davis’s reaction wasn’t surprising, given what we knew about him at that point. Taken 25th overall by Miami in 2009, Davis was one of the more physically impressive cornerbacks you’ll ever see. Brother of famed pre-draft workout star Vernon Davis, Vontae was a 5-foot-11, 205-pound, 4.5 corner who looked like he could handle 20 carries a game if a team were so inclined. His issues in Miami had more to do with the other side of things. He struggled with maturity, with the day-in, day-out call for consistency of the pro game. When Ireland told Davis he’d be headed to Indianapolis, Davis’s first response was that he wanted to call his grandma. He was polite, he was gracious, but at 24, he was still a kid.
Week 6 was a disaster. I split my four picks, got screwed over by Denver in the first half and — of course — by the Texans, who I was foolish enough to put in a three-team teaser again. I think if Matt Schaub bet on himself as much as I do, he’d cheer his own injuries. And by the way — there are worse examples of fans displaying their insensitivity at public events. What about the people who applaud the dead names during the Academy Awards' in memoriam montage? Talk about coldhearted!
OK, enough nonsense. The good news is I raised my own debt ceiling and am ready to fire away on some NFL propositions. We’ll worry about how we’re going to get this boat full of jermajesties* to China later.
Bettors suffered their worst loss of the football season this past weekend. When talking to bookmakers in the aftermath, I didn’t really sense joy, but rather lingering irritation that it took so long to book their first monster win. Bettors throwing darts and laying 11-10 will lose 4.76 percent of money bet in the long run. To a civilian, that probably seems like a nice healthy profit. But to the bookmaker, that is only the starting point — and they are always impatient to get more.
College football was particularly brutal for bettors. A majority of sportsbooks reported Texas A&M vs. Ole Miss to be their biggest-bet game of the day, and more than one said the Rebels’ cover was their biggest win of the day. In the Red River Rivalry, approximately four out of five dollars bet backed favored Oklahoma, resulting in another big loser for the bettors. Utah’s outright upset of Stanford gave the bookies a 3-0 sweep on Saturday’s biggest decisions.
Enrico Fermi is in town for a wedding. He has got a bunch of plans but he asks if he can watch football with me on Sunday. I tell him to meet me at 10, at Ye Rustic, my place of business. I'm there at 9:57. They've got the Bengals/Bills game on the TV in the back corner, the one that's blocked by a pillar if you don't choose your seat right. The only open seat at the bar with an unobstructed view of the TV is the one Janet saves for her plus-one, so I take a booth that's big enough for five people.
The old jukebox is gone. The new one is a glowing LED slab bolted to the wall by the front door, one of those touchscreen models that looks like a giant Zune and beams down 3,600 new releases from Skynet every week. I haven't checked but I'm assuming it has that feature that you can pay an extra dollar to have your song play immediately instead of waiting out the queue, an option I find ideologically repellent. I spent my 20s sitting in bars waiting for my songs to come on and so should everybody else. Letting somebody cut the line because they've got an extra dollar to blow is dictionary-definition antidemocratic. Might as well institute a policy that you can pay a buck to opt out of the rule about not spitting in other people's drinks.
Bettors watching games at Vegas sportsbooks tend to go wild in response to the smallest successes (such as getting a first down in the second quarter). Some combination of the booze, cash, lack of sleep, and location strips away society’s niceties. The intensity skyrockets when a single play decides the bet’s outcome. In the time it takes for your heart to race through a few dopamine-filled pumps, you are either a winner or you’re a loser.
On rare occasions, that deciding last play is so improbable, you never forget the result.
+47,500 jermajesties last week
+133,000 jermajesties overall for the season
Hello, degenerates! As you can see, life is good again. Week 4 proved to be profitable. Now all there’s left to do this weekend is to put our heads together and amass a bundle of tax-free jermajesties.* Yes — that’s right — any amount won while our inept government is on strike is untouchable. Don’t believe me? Check the NFL Propositions of Independence. Here’s my plan to free ourselves from our bookie’s stranglehold in Week 5.
"Jacksonville is the worst NFL team I have ever seen,” says Golden Nugget bookmaker Aaron Kessler. Not many people in Vegas disagree. Nine-point underdogs at home last week against the Colts, the Jags were supported by an extremely positive trend: Home-team underdogs of more than eight points had covered 23 of 25 against the spread. The public didn’t care about that, fading Jacksonville with both fists, and Jacksonville didn’t come close to covering, resulting in the biggest win of the day for players, as reported by BetOnline.ag.
As much as bettors hate Jacksonville, they love Denver. These two play next week, and with early spreads in the 27-point range, the Broncos have a chance to be the biggest favorite in NFL history. Against Philadelphia, Denver garnered 71 percent of the bets (according to our ticket count tracking tool at Pregame.com), and their cover was another win for the bettors. "We got destroyed on this game. Lost not only on the side and total for the game, but also lost big on the first half and second half side and total," said Mike Perry from Sportsbook.ag.