The LVH Superbook is most assuredly a wiseguy friendly establishment, consistently ranked along with the Cantor books as the best sportsbooks in town. Jay Kornegay and his staff are industry leaders – the betting boards at LVH are loaded with a bevy of wagering opportunities that many books in town don’t offer; particularly around Super Bowl time.
Kornegay doesn’t ratchet up the juice either, offering ten cent lines during baseball season and twenty cent lines for his win totals on both NFL and college football. On their future book, the LVH is willing to adjust in both directions. For example, within the past week, the LVH adjusted their Odds to Win the Division for the 2012 NFL season on ten of the 32 teams.
Five of those teams are now more expensive to buy – less of a return on investment since last week. But five of those teams are now cheaper to buy, offering better value than they did a week ago. Many sportsbooks in town simply adjust odds down from their openers in response to the bets they’ve received, but the LVH is one book willing to adjust upwards in an effort to attract more handle.
The LVH took center stage in the betting world this past Sunday when they released lines for 100 upcoming College Football Games of the Year; the first book to post numbers on college games since the Golden Nugget released their numbers more than a month ago. But frankly, not many wiseguys showed up – the action can only be described as quiet.
The Hilton showed confidence in their numbers – they didn’t move the spread off every single $1000 limit bet. In fact, during the first three hours following Sunday’s openers, only five pointspreads moved at all. Why was the action so quiet? I have a few theories, but no hard facts.
My first theory is simple – this is the time of year where many professional bettors have their focus pointed elsewhere, as I described in last week’s column about the World Series of Poker. Las Vegas in July can be a miserable place – if you can afford to get out of town and have the time to do it, you’ll probably schedule some sort of vacation this month. There simply aren’t as many sharp bettors trolling for good numbers right now compared to what we’ll see two months from now.
The second theory correlates strongly with wiseguy betting strategies. Sharp bettors spend half their lives looking for line variance; shopping for an extra half point here, an extra point there. At this stage of the summer, there aren’t many betting options for college football games – the Nugget and LVH are the only two books that have posted numbers. There were some dramatic differences between the openers at the two sportsbooks – I’ll go into details later in this piece – but the days of seven point middles between two competing sportsbooks’ current numbers are a thing of the past.
LVH didn’t post a single college football pointspread that was more than four points off the current Nugget number. And most of the LVH numbers were within a point or two of the current Nugget numbers, not enough of a variance to attract bettors looking to lock in middles six weeks before the opening kickoff. It’ll likely take a third book or a fourth book to post before bettors really start to fire away at the outlier pointspreads.
The third theory has to do with bankroll management. The 2011 college football season was not a banner year for wiseguy bettors, to put it mildly. The books beat the sharps early and often last year, leaving some with depleted bankrolls and others grasping for new strategies for the upcoming campaign. As a result, there is less wiseguy money around to bet into these virgin numbers this year, and more tentativeness when it comes to firing out limit bets in July, where the books will hold the cash for months until the game is actually played.
OK, enough with the theories of why the action at the Hilton was so slow on Sunday – it’s time to talk about the actual numbers for the upcoming college football campaign. There were some significant variances between the Nugget’s openers last month and the Hilton openers on Sunday. Many of those variances were Phil Steele related – clearly, the LVH paid attention to Steele’s opinions in his highly influential 2012 College Football Preview magazine.
Here are a few examples. Steele is very high on Florida State, ranking them #1 in his preseason Top 40 poll. For the Seminoles September 22nd game at home against Clemson, the Nugget hung Florida State as -8 favorite and watched bettors drive the number all the way up to -11. At the LVH on Sunday, that same game opened with Florida State as -15 chalk.
Steele is also very high on USC, while calling for Syracuse to challenge Temple for last place in the Big East this year. The Nugget opened September 8th’s USC-Syracuse matchup at the Meadowlands with the Trojans -21. That number was bet up to USC -22.5. At the Hilton on Sunday, USC opened -25.5.
West Virginia was another team that the two books clearly had differing opinions about. The Nugget gave the Mountaineers some respect, installing them as only 4.5 point underdogs in their Big XII road opener at Texas on October 6th. Bettors subsequently drove that number up to -6.5 at the Nugget. When the Hilton opened on Sunday, West Virginia was +8 in that same game.
It was a similar story for the West Virginia- TCU game on November 3rd. The Nugget gave the Mountaineers ample respect, installing them -7 against the Horned Frogs. Bettors pushed that number down to -6. When the Hilton opened on Sunday, West Virginia was priced even lower, only -3.5.
The Oklahoma- West Virginia game on November 17th had a similar pointspread discrepancy. The Nugget opened the Mountaineers +4, but the Hilton installed Dana Holgorsen’s team +7 underdog in that same game.
The LVH and the Nugget didn’t post numbers on all the same games. The Nugget hung numbers on 111 games; the LVH hung 100 numbers, but by my count (unofficial) the two books had only 64 games in common, leaving sharp bettors with relatively few of the middling opportunities that they covet.
While much of this article has focused on the Games of the Year pointspreads, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss another set of numbers that the LVH just released – their college football season wins. 35 teams are on the LVH betting board, including our own UNLV Rebels, lined at O/U 3 wins for their upcoming 13 game campaign.
While the Games of the Year pointspreads are truly virgin numbers – we haven’t seen the offshore sportsbooks open yet – college football season win numbers have already been released and bet into in the offshore world, where a relatively high percentage of the sharp money gets bet. In this type of scenario, much of the initial action comes in the form of arbitrage.
One leading offshore book has Louisville lined at 9.5 wins for the upcoming campaign. The LVH opened Louisville O/U 8 wins. No surprise that the offshore now has Under 9.5 wins at -225, while the LVH took Louisville Over 8 bets, driving the number to -165.
LSU was lined offshore at 10.5 wins, but LVH opened them lined at 10. The results were predictable; a 30 cent line move towards the LSU Over here in Vegas. It was a similar story with Mississippi State, lined at 7.5 offshore but only 7 at the LVH. As of Sunday afternoon, you now had to lay -175 to bet the Bulldogs over that seven win number.
It’s worth noting that a half win in college football can be worth more than the standard “50 cents = ½ win formula” widely used for NFL Season Win bettors. These relatively minor discrepancies are significant, because for many college teams, the actual ‘are they likely to win or lose the game’ question is not in doubt for more than half of their schedule – even for middling teams. That’s why we saw initial feeding frenzies on the few teams that offered real variance between the Las Vegas numbers and the numbers from the offshore world.
Teddy has been a successful professional sports bettor here in Las Vegas since 1998. Follow him on Twitter @teddy_covers