Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One Night, Two Big Games, Standing in a Las Vegas Sports Book

By Micah Roberts

Just shortly after the San Francisco Giants clinched their birth into the World Series, College Football’s BCS No. 1 team in the Nation, Oklahoma, was being knocked off by an upstart giving a whirlwind of excitement and emotions that not many other places other than a Las Vegas sports book can off. Some of the folks had wagers on the game and some of them were just passer-bys looking to see what all the excitement was about, but combined together inside the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book -- with hundreds of people, standing room only -- it was a pretty gripping moment.

The majority of the crowd appeared to be favoring the Phillies who were a minus-160 favorite to force a game 7 and were also plus-155 coming in to advance to the World Series. The fans agonized and cheered each pitch down the stretch with the biggest moan of roars coming when  Jose Uribe hit a solo home run in the top of the eighth to give the Giants a 3-2 lead.

At the same time that was going on in the baseball game, undefeated No. 11 Missouri was taking over the fourth quarter of a game that Oklahoma had just the lead of 21-20. The majority of the bettors in the crowd had Oklahoma laying 3-points and erupted with excitement when it appeared just then that Oklahoma would be putting the pesky Mizzou squad away. When Missouri started taking control of the fourth quarter there was large support from some bettors, but mostly just college football fans that love witnessing upsets.

This wouldn’t be just any upset either. This was of monstrous proportions that would send shockwaves rippling through the entire college football rankings. Fans who had ties to Boise State, TCU, Auburn, Michigan State and Alabama were all rooting for Missouri and as Missouri started to go on a 16-0 run in the fourth quarter, the sheers became louder for them. Oklahoma bettors had finally stopped figuring out scenarios to cover their 3-points once Missouri once the  score was 36-21 with 6:36 left in the game.

Juts before going to the bottom of the eighth, the FOX coverage showed Tim Lincecum warming up in the bullpen which blew everyone’s one mind away. “Oohhh, their bringing the Freak in to close this thing out,” said one guy in a group sitting at a table full of empty beer bottles. Giants supporters were at ease and felt comfortable with the one run lead while Phillies bettors were a bit more tense.

Lincecum had just thrown 104 pitches in seven innings Thursday night. This was a like seeing Orel Hershiser in 1988 or Randy Johnson in 2001 let it all hang out, no matter how sore their arm was, to get their team to the next level. The Freak delivered immediately in typical fashion striking out Jayson Werth leading some to shout out, “It’s all over,” but then two successive Phillies singles got the crowd going again. When Lincecum was lifted, the noise got louder, “see you Freak, thanks for stopping by,” as the fans hurdled that challenge and now had to get the runners home.

Unfortunately, the Giants would be bringing in their closer with the dyed beard, Brian Wilson, to attempt a five out save opportunity. One out, bottom of the eighth, two runners on and Carlos Ruiz lines out to first, who then doubles up the moving runner on second. It was a feeling like that was the end of the game. An opportunity had been squandered. Yes, there still was the ninth inning, but the Phillies fanatics felt what was eventually about to happen and it did. Even though the Phillies got two runners on by walks, the excitement level had been drained a bit from the previous inning. Ryan Howard got emphatically called out on a third strike by the home plate umpire and there was a light applause and cheer for the Giants in the Hilton book while several others ripped up their bet tickets and threw them in the air like confetti.

As time was running out in the Missouri upset, everyone was figuring out their new personal BCS rankings with differing opinions of how the computer formula works. One person suggested that No. 4 Auburn would leap Boise State this week to move into No. 2 just behind Oregon stating that the computer doesn’t like TCU or Boise St’s conference.    

Two huge games, on at the same time, ending at the same time with characters from all walks of life converging in one area of casino together as one. There’s no better place to be than Las Vegas for these type of moments.

World Series, Will The Nation Watch This One?

Last weeks Monday night football between the Jaguars and Titans was probably the worst prime time game we’ll see all season, but it still rated higher in the final Nielson ratings than the game 3 of the ALCS between the Rangers and Yankees. I bring this up because ratings are currently a huge topic in the baseball world right now. They’re sagging, stale and getting beat by reality TV shows regularly and now baseball enters the World Series without an east coast team playing.

Just how bad will this years World Series be with a Northern California team playing a Texas team? Will there be any interest east of the Mississippi?

Las Vegas Hilton Super Book Executive Director Jay Kornegay still likes the series even though the east coast may tune out.

“This series really intrigues me,” says Kornegay who opened the Rangers a slight minus-125 favorite to beat the Giants in the best of seven series, “How could you not get excited for possibly seeing Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee matchup twice against each other or seeing Josh Hamilton mash the ball along with Validmir Guerrero’s ugly, but effective swing. I’m very excited, but I’m not sure the entire country is.”

It widely known, or accepted, that east coast baseball fans are some of most passionate about their teams, but where is the support for the game itself.

“Out west, and in the midwest, the fans are going to love it and I think the series will generate some good betting interest here because of the way each has gotten here. The two teams in it just knocked off the two World Series teams from last year,” says Kornegay.

“I think were going to see a series kind of like what we saw with the Giants and Phillies where the bullpens will play a huge role. The Giants look to have an edge in that area, but the Rangers bats are much better. The series price reflects those bats and seeing Cliff Lee at least twice on the mound.”

Kornegay opened Wednesday’s game one with Lee a small minus-120 favorite on the road facing Lincecum.

I don’t know what it is about the Giants I like, but I think it has to do with some similarities between them and the 1988 Dodgers when they won by having good pitching from the starters through the bullpen, timely hitting and a different star nightly. It’s small ball and team orientated with no one player being the focal point. Just like the ‘88 Dodgers, the Giants don’t have a big bopper, no one with 100 RBI’s on the season and have a stud starter. They had the bulldog, the Giants have the Freak. I’ll take the Giants in seven games.

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