Wiseguy report: Phil Steele factor influencing NCAAF futures
The Las Vegas Hotel and Casino Superbook is wiseguy friendly establishment, beginning with the off-Strip setting and never-ending numbers littering the betting.
The book took center stage in the betting world this past Sunday when sportsbook director Jay Kornegay and his crew 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.
The LVH, formerly known as the Hilton, showed confidence in its numbers – it didn’t move the spread off every single $1000 limit bet. During the first three hours following Sunday’s openers, only five spreads moved at all. Why was the action so quiet? I have a few theories, but I’ll only share the most interesting and avoid the most obvious (July is a vacation month for most people including professional bettors).
The 2011 college football season was – to put it mildly – 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, 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 LVH openers on Sunday. Many of those variances were ‘Phil Steele related’ – clearly, Kornegay paid attention to Steele’s opinions in his highly influential college football preview magazine.
Here are a few examples. Steele ranks Florida State No. 1 in his preseason Top 40 poll. For the Seminoles Sept. 22 game at home against Clemson, the Nugget hung Florida State as 8-point 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-point 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 Sept. 8’s USC-Syracuse matchup at the Meadowlands with the Trojans as 21-point faves. That number was bet up to USC -22.5. On Sunday, the SuperBook opened USC at -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 12 road opener at Texas. Bettors subsequently drove that number up to -6.5 at the Nugget. West Virginia is an 8-point underdog in that same game at the LVH.
It was a similar story for the West Virginia-TCU game. The Golden Nugget gave the Mountaineers ample respect, installing them as 7-point home favorites against the Horned Frogs. Bettors pushed that number down to -6 and the Kornegay and Company opened West Virginia priced even lower, at -3.5.
The Oklahoma-West Virginia game had a similar pointspread discrepancy. The Nugget opened WVU as 4-point home underdogs, but the LVH installed Dana Holgorsen’s team as a 7-point underdog.
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.
The Las Vegas Hotel and Casino also released its college football season wins totals on Sunday. It became the second Nevada shop after Cantor Gaming to dive into the NCAAF win totals. The market is being set as I type now that we have two Vegas books and a few offshore shops offer win totals.
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 the Tigers 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.