Editor's note: The Golden Nugget has released their Games of the Year odds. Find the full list here.
One wise guy described the scene as “lots of guys hanging around in sweatpants with fat rolls of $100 bills.” Another professional sports bettor compared it to the cantina scene from Star Wars.
The sweatpants gang from a galaxy far, far away will be out in full force again Friday, as the Golden Nugget sportsbook releases 100 or so pointspreads on this year’s top college football games. The spreads will go up at noon, but it’s best to get there early.
“Last year, we had lines out the door,” Golden Nugget sportsbook director Tony Miller told Covers.com
in a phone interview Wednesday. “I came in at 9 a.m. and the book was full of guys with their Phil Steele books. They were jabbering away and hammering it out. At noon, it was a frenzy.”
This is the fifth year Miller and lead oddsmaker Aaron Kessler have teamed with longtime Las Vegas oddsmaker Tony Sinisi to generate pointspreads on their college football Games of the Year. They started with only a handful of games the first year, but the event has grown so much that they offered 200 games last year.
Miller said they wrote close to $130,000 worth of betting tickets on the first day they posted the Game of the Year lines last June.
“And we’re taking $1,000 bets, so you can see there’s quite a bit of action,” he added.
Last year was also the first time they suffered a loss on their Games of the Year, so they’re cutting back to just over 100 games this season.
The lines to get to the betting windows are made up of 90 percent Vegas pros, guys Miller considers to be sharp bettors. There is a $1,000 limit and customers are allowed to make only three bets at the counter before going back to the end of the line. Those stipulations help limit the risk, but it’s still a ballsy move to offer wagers with unmolested pointspreads on games that, in some cases, won’t be played for five months.
“We got caught last year with our pants down on North Carolina,” Miller said. “Unfortunately for us, some guys out there had a little better information than we did.”
Last year, on June 14, the Nugget opened North Carolina as a 3-point favorite over LSU in an opening weekend matchup. The Tar Heels had been under NCAA investigation for a few months and eventually suspended 12 starters for the game. LSU ended up being favored by as many as 10 points at kickoff
“In highly technical terms, they got annihilated in Day 1 betting. It would not surprise me if two thirds of the bets taken in the first hour of action won. Even at a $1,000 limit, that's a lot of money heading out the door," Las Vegas pro Steve Fezzik estimated in an email.
“Given the 2010 results,” added Fezzik, “it is a huge credit to the (Golden Nugget) that this likely loss leader will continue in 2011.”
Miller shrugs off last year’s defeat and believes the publicity surrounding the event far outweighs any losses. He's won three out of the four years, he points out.
“Yeah, it’s a risky move and, like always, we’ve had things work for us and against us,” said Miller. “But in the end, it’s worth it. For this one day, we’ll have more handle than anywhere else in the state.”