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The Vegas Sportsbooks Are Ready For Action – Part One

If I asked you to name the odds-on favorite to win the 2010 BCS championship, you’d have a pretty good idea of who the folks in Vegas are picking, wouldn’t you?

But what if I asked you which SEC team — ranked in most pre-season Top 15 polls — garnered no better than a “field” bet?

What if I asked you which SEC team gamblers are already putting big bucks on?

That’s where this column comes in.  Two weeks ago, I was in Las Vegas for my annual “talk to the oddsmakers” piece for MrSEC.com.

That’s what you’re looking at here.  In it you’ll find the odds of winning the 2010 BCS Championship as listed by the MGM/Mirage Casinos, the Harrah’s Casinos, The Planet Hollywood Casino Sportsbook and The Hard Rock Casino Sportsbook.

Not all of the casinos list their odds in the same fashion and not all of the books list their opening odds.  So each of these listings might look a bit different.

I’ll assume you have a basic knowledge of how to read an odds sheet, but I will throw out some nuggets that the oddsmakers shared with me… tidbits that many football fans (especially in the Eastern US) don’t realize.

Let’s start with the odds from the MGM/Mirage family of casinos — The Bellagio (best sportsbook on The Strip if you ask me), Circus Circus, Excalibur, The Luxor, Mandalay Bay, The MGM Grand, The Mirage, The Monte Carlo and New York, New York).

The following are the odds to win the 2010 BCS Championship on January 7th in Pasadena.

SEC teams are in bold. 

Teams who’ve seen enough money put on them to have their odds increased are in green. 

Teams who’ve gotten so little support that the books are lowering their odds in an effort to induce more wagering are in red.

I will show you just the teams who had opening odds at 50/1 or better… plus all of the SEC teams listed by the MGM/Mirage casinos.

Team
Opening Odds From March
Odds As Of June 1st
Florida
2/1
2/1
Oklahoma
6/1
6/1
Southern Cal
6/1
6/1
Texas
10/1
5/1
Ohio State
12/1
10/1
Florida State
18/1
30/1
Alabama
20/1
8/1
Virginia Tech
20/1
20/1
Miami, FL
25/1
25/1
LSU
25/1
12/1
Notre Dame
28/1
15/1
Clemson
33/1
40/1
Oklahoma State
40/1
40/1
Oregon
45/1
25/1
Nebraska
50/1
40/1
Penn State
50/1
20/1
Georgia
50/1
35/1
North Carolina
50/1
50/1
South Florida
50/1
50/1
Tennessee
75/1
75/1
Arkansas
80/1
80/1
Auburn
125/1
100/1
Kentucky
125/1
125/1
Field (All Others)
25/1
25/1


Okay, so what stands out?  Several things that you should keep in mind when betting on futures odds (like these) or even on weekly game action.

1.  The sportsbooks want an even amount of money to come in on both sides of a bet… they do not care who wins a game.  (Fans don’t want to believe that, but year after year the men who set the lines say the same thing.  So don’t cry, “They don’t respect us” when your team is a big dog next year.  Instead, know that the oddsmakers know that West Coast gamblers don’t respect your team.  More on that in a second.)

2.  Reputation and national following have more to do with setting a line than the prowess of a secondary or a coach’s motivational skills.  If a team loses it’s starting quarterback, a line will be affected… because the oddsmakers know that gamblers will take that kind of injury into consideration.  But the oddsmakers goal is still to get as much money on Florida, we’ll say, as they will on Vanderbilt.  If the money’s even, then the casino take their cut and the rest is a wash.  That equals a profit for the casinos.

3.  Las Vegas odds are set with actual Vegas gamblers in mind.  SEC fans, your love for your teams really doesn’t count for much.  The casinos set the lines for the people that will frequent their sportsbooks firsthand.  They get no money from your local bookie in Dothan, Alabama.  So when you look at a line — or futures odds like those above — know that they’re set with sportsfans from California, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Colorado in mind.

Now take a look at the above listings.  Notice which schools opened with the best odds — Florida, Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Texas, Ohio State, Florida State and Alabama.  All are expected to be good, if not great this year.  But all are also traditional powers. 

Do you really believe Florida State has the sixth best shot at winning the national title?  Of course not.  But most football fans know the name Florida State.

As I said earlier, the people who gamble in Las Vegas tend to come from the West Coast.  Therefore, West Coast schools always see a bit of a bounce when it comes to their lines/odds (see the boost Oregon has already gotten).

Those West Coast gamblers also tend to bet on traditional, national names.

Look at the schools who’ve seen bounces so far: Texas, Ohio State, Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon, Nebraska, Penn State (a big bounce), Georgia, and Auburn.

All are either traditional power schools or West Coast schools.  (Auburn’s bounce is most likely aided by the low starting point of 125/1, combined with the Tigers’ traditional name.)

More proof of brand-name value is the fact that Tennessee, Arkansas, Auburn and Kentucky are all individually listed by MGM/Mirage odds, while Ole Miss is not.

The Rebels are a consensus Top 15 pick and a Top 10 selection in some polls.  How are their odds not even listed?  They don’t have a strong national reputation.

In fact, if you’re looking for a long-shot bet to win the title (and you know that you’re probably tossing your money away on “for kicks” type of bet), Mississippi would be a good team to wager on. 

As a “field” bet, you would get 25/1 odds on Ole Miss and every other NCAA team not listed on the MGM/Mirage boards.


Click here to read Part Two.

 


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