At one point this season, Virginia Commonwealth was 9,999-1 to win the NCAA tournament at the Las Vegas Hilton sportsbook.
At 5,000 to 1, Hilton book manager Jay Kornegay took a $10 bet on the Rams to win the tournament. For those of you unsure of the math, that's a $50,000 payout for that lucky bettor if the Rams cut down the nets next Monday.
“We definitely have some liability associated with VCU winning the title,” Kornegay told Covers.com in a phone interview from Las Vegas. “I can’t say I’m comfortable.”
The sports books at the MGM Mirage and M Resort know the feeling.
Jay Rood, book manager at the Mirage, told Covers.com Sunday that he took “significant” futures action on VCU at 175-1 and Butler at 150-1. Mike Colbert, book manager at the M, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that he took some big-money bets on VCU at 16-1 before the Sweet 16. And, over at Caesars, sportsbook analyst Todd Furhman wrote a ticket on the Rams at 500-1 in January.
Shaka’s shakedown of Las Vegas is on.
Kornegay will take on as much as “$30,000 to $50,000” in liability on a future bet like VCU to win the NCAA title. But most wagers on big longshots are of the “ham sandwich” or $20 variety.
“There were more significant bets on VCU, but most of the time it’s just little stuff. A guy will bet like $20 because he or his girlfriend went to school there,” said Kornegay. “But it doesn’t have to be a very large wager to hurt at those kinds of odds.”
The significant bets on the Rams started coming in after they beat Georgetown in the round of 64, and VCU steam has been building momentum ever since.The Rams started the tournament as a member of the 19-team field, fetching 200-1 odds. Putting them in the field actually saved Kornegay a little stress.
“They probably would have been much higher like 400- or 500-1, if they weren’t associated with the field,” he said. “But because they were playing in the play-in game, we put them in the field. I mean we had them at 200-1 to win the region.”
Not all Nevada sportsbooks are as exposed as the Hilton. Jimmy Vaccaro, odds director at Lucky’s, said he’ll end up as a small loser if VCU wins, but nothing outrageous.
“We listed them at 200-1 and just took a ham sandwich bet on them at 200,” Vaccaro told Covers.com. “We got a little lucky. We’re actually a small loser if VCU were to win, but we escaped most of the mortar fire. We didn’t get caught with any big play while they were really up there.”
Offshore, at BetCRIS.com, VCU winning is the best case scenario. The book at 5Dimes.com is in a no-lose situation no matter who wins, according to general manager Tony Williams.
But not Kornegay.
“Some books won’t take as much liability as us,” he lamented with a chuckle, “but we do. Luckily, this kind of thing doesn’t happen often.”
King Kong of Cinderellas
Virginia Commonwealth is the biggest Cinderella ever, according to the odds.
The Rams, who upset top seed Kansas as 11-point underdogs, are the biggest underdog winner in the Elite 8 since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1986. They cashed at +600 on the moneyline with the win over the Jayhawks.
VCU is the third 11-seed to reach the Final Four, but faced a much more difficult path than either LSU in 1986 or George Mason in 2006.
In the 1986 tournament, LSU played its first two games on its home floor and was actually a 2.5-point favorite over 6-seed Purdue in the first round, according to Mike Seba of the Las Vegas Sports Consultants.
The Tigers were underdogs in their next four games, but never by more than 8.5 points. No. 2 seed Georgia Tech was favored by 8.5 over LSU i