Monday, May 9, 2011

Las Vegas Sports Book Notes: MLB Win Up and The Aftermath of No Kobe

By Micah Roberts

Baseball Been Very Good.....

Las Vegas Sports Books have done very well with baseball
These are supposed to be the dog days of baseball for the sports books, but so far, the books are loving baseball and having a great first few weeks of the season. The problem is that when the players lose at a higher rate, they lose the churn factory of volume which may cause some of the books to show lower handle despite the higher win.

If a regular bettors bankroll for the week is $100 and he loses it quickly, it doesn’t leave them much of a chance to create more action. Normal circumstances have the bettor being able to churn that $100 into $300 or $400 worth of action over the course of a week showing a small win or loss. With the way it’s going now, the books should expect to see some slight drops in volume.

Part of the reason is that there are no whipping boys any more. You can’t just pick on the Pirates or Royals on a daily basis, nor can you blindly hit a three-game parlay by just taking the Phillies, Yankees and Red Sox like in years past. The pitching is better, less runs are being scored and games are tighter than ever.

Heat Are Who We Thought They Were, Crown Them!

We’ve come full circle on the Miami Heat index from being the clear cut overwhelming choice to win the championship when LeBron James made his announcement, went through some turmoil that caused skepticism, and now they are back on top in public opinion.

When James made that announcement, the Heat were 5/2 favorites (Bet $100 to win $250) to win the title. When the Heat started playing the blame game and pointing fingers at the coach, it was around the same time the Lakers kicked into gear which vaulted Los Angeles to the favorite and sent the Heat to as high as 5/1.

Now, with the Lakers gone, the Heat are 7/4 (Bet $100 to win $175) to win the NBA championship, a price much lower than when the season started even though they were expected to be in this situation. Their play, dominating at times, has validated all the initial trust on the early short price to begin the season.

The Heat look prime to win it all
While most basketball fans will be rooting against the Heat, a group of professional bettors here in town can’t wait until they spray the champagne. When rumors were circulating where James might take his talents to, this group took advantage of the Miami odds around town that were still on the board at 25 and 20/1.

Not every book offered lines on the NBA futures until James decision was announced, but a handful did so immediately after the 2010 NBA Finals. So needless to say, there will be a few books that will be rooting for the Heat Index to go cold quickly.

Because the Lakers are now out, so is a large portion of NBA bettors. Books can expect a 10% drop off in action from the last three year average of NBA Finals action the Lakers were involved in. Should the Heat get knocked off before the Finals, that number could fall even lower. It’s not that the Heat has that many fans, but they keep people’s attention just to see what they’ll do next with many rooting against them. Let’s face it, the Mavericks, Grizzlies and Thunder aren’t the most popular teams in the league and one of them will be in the Finals.

Champions League

With no Euro or World Cup coming up because it’s an odd numbered year, our summer fix of soccer will end with the UEFA Champions League final of Manchester United and Barcelona. The Hilton posted odds on the match immediately following their semi-final matches last week with Barcelona being a huge minus-200 favorite (Bet $200 to win $100) to win outright over the mighty Reds Devils.

Although soccer doesn’t generate the volume of other major sports, the last Cup action in June and July of 2010 were pretty large and the few hundred thousand in handle, and 16% win, will be missed during those months when baseball is the main source of action. June and July are usually the toughest months a sports book has with forecasted win being more unpredictable than any other set of months.

Sports Betting Systems

Last week I speculated about the impact of William Hill taking over CBS (Computerized Bookmaking Systems), the company that services many Las Vegas race and race sports books betting systems. I got quite a few calls on the matter from many different points of view, which makes the subject all the more interesting and warrants more discussion. Next week, we’ll explore all the options that Nevada sports books and bars have available to them in addition to CBS.

I also wanted to clarify something I mentioned last week regarding company financial records for the sports books. Under GCB (Gaming Control Board) regulations, CBS currently has to call their client to get approval should they need to enter the sports book's system or it becomes a violation. The hub operation usually keeps a hand written log for these types of activities which is most common when there is a system issue, stoppage or regular programming needs to be updated.

I also regret that I forgot to mention horse racing handicapper Richard Eng in my Kentucky Derby piece last week who was doing a free seminar at Terrible‘s, after naming several others. The last thing I would want was for Eng to feel slighted in any way because he has been such true friend to me over the last decade. The man has done countless favors for me over the years with promotions and lent his time and name to those efforts.

He probably didn’t even read it, but I just wanted him, and everyone, to know that it was just a short mental lapse. Eng is one of the top horse racing handicappers in all the land.

Over the summer I’ll also have a few series of articles on the origins of some of the current sports book directors around town. It’s a small community of people that many would be surprised how closely linked they all are. We’ve all heard of the six degrees of Kevin Bacon or the branches of Bill Walsh and Bill Belichick‘s trees, soon you’ll read about the roots of the bookies, many of which began in Pittsburgh.

MLB Betting Notes

Guyer after hitting a home run
You have to love the story of the Rays prospect Brandon Guyer in the same sense that we loved the plight of Moonlight Graham in ’Field of Dreams’. Guyer, a 25-year-old outfielder, was called up from the minors last week after starting pitcher Jeff Niemann went on the disabled list because the Rays thought B.J. Upton might be suspended and wanted fill the possible hole.

Upton put in an appeal and wasn’t suspended, but the Rays inserted Guyer into the starting lineup for Friday’s game against the Orioles anyway. In his first major league at-bat, Guyer hit a home run and ended the night 1-for-3. Now that’s how you make a first impression. Guyer was one of the key players received in the Matt Garza trade with the Cubs. After a great first month at Durham where he was smoking the ball, he had to be thinking he was up ‘in the show’ to stay.

Guyer didn’t play Saturday, which wasn’t alarming because Joe Maddon constantly shuffles his lineups around utilizing his entire bench as starters. But on Sunday morning, before their game, Guyer was informed he was being sent back down to Durham because they needed a pitcher. Maddon said he’s sure Guyer will be back up and make an impact with the team, but you never know. At least his cup of coffee in the majors was of the bold and strong flavored variety.

Phenomenal Phillies
The Phillies may have had a set back when pitcher Roy Oswalt went on the DL last week, but don’t feel too sorry for the team tied for the best record in baseball. Oswalt’s replacement, Vince Worley, has fit right in and has dominated his two starts going 2-0 and allowing only one run.

The Phillies also have a couple of amazing trends going right now. They are 10-0 this season in day games and have gone 9-1 against lefties. They play two day games this weekend against the Braves, but won’t face any lefties against either the Marlins or Braves.

The Marlins are still nipping at the Phillies in the NL East, but unlike the Phillies, they don’t play at their best in day games. Florida’s win Sunday was only their third day win in eight games, making them a really dangerous night club going 17-8.

Definitely Not a Number One

Lee has lost his last three starts for Philly
Many thought Cliff Lee was crazy for not taking the big New York money, opting to take less and pitch in Philadelphia with all kinds of reasons given such as his wife didn’t like the city. But the real reason was him probably not wanting to be so visible in the brightest spotlight of such a big contract.

Lee has lost his last three starts, yet has remained out of the storylines because of how well the team is doing. He doesn’t have the weight of the team on him, letting Roy Halladay handle that department. Although Lee has pitched very well in those three losses, you have to believe the New York media wouldn’t have been so kind to Lee in the same situation which makes his move to Philly look like the smartest thing he could have done.


The run-line can be a nice way to pull some edge back to the player in the right spots, but certain teams should almost always be advised to stay away from. The Royals have played in 14 one-runs games this season, winning nine of them, while Reds lead the NL with 13 one-run games, only winning six of them. The best teams to be on or against on the run-line are the Orioles and Tigers who have each only been involved in five one-run games.

Power Outage

We’re seeing the lowest home run ratio in baseball since 1992 with pitchers quickly getting ahead in the count and showing no fear like we saw through an era that seems to have just passed us by in 2009. The last two seasons have seen batting averages and home runs decline while also seeing ERA's drop. This has become a pitchers game again and more emphasis than ever should be put on the pitchers and bullpens when it comes to handicapping the games.

Tigers Ready the Growl?

Penny has come on strong over his last four starts
After a sluggish start that carried through last week with a seven-game losing streak, the Detroit Tigers might be a team we can expect to start coming around. They’ve won five of their last six through Sunday and most of that can be attributed to good starting pitching.

Justin Verlander (3-3) has been getting all the headlines after throwing a no-hitter last week, but the real ace of the staff has been Max Scherzer (5-0), who just wins. The pitcher that has really made them tough to beat in a series now is veteran Brad Penny (3-3), who has been outstanding over his last four starts going 3-1 allowing two runs or less in the three wins.

If Rick Porcello (2-2) can stay .500 and give them innings and Phil Coke (1-5) can start showing some of that promise, Detroit should be able to make a good run at the Indians for the division quickly. The Tigers are currently 30/1 to win the World Series at the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book.

The Bucs Don’t Stop Here
Calling a .500 record somewhat of accomplishment on May 8 may not be a big deal for most teams, but for Pittsburgh, they’ll take it. The Bucs haven’t had a winning record since 1992, the last of their three straight NL East titles, and also last year of Barry Bonds in the steel city. After winning their home series from the Astros on Sunday, the Pirates went to 17-17 and tied their season high with a two-game winning streak. It’s been six years since the Pirates have been .500 this late, and it’s only May.

If it weren’t for the Marlins (0-3 record against), Brewers (0-2) and Rockies (1-4), Pittsburgh would be starting a catch phrase, or cling to a song for this year’s version of the team. Even though two games in a row doesn’t sound like much, it’s when the Pirates win them that matters, like the front and back end of three-game series. The key to their success thus far has been terrific play on the road, winning four of five road series. Their win Sunday was their second home series conquest of the season.

This week the Pirates welcome the lackluster Dodgers for a four-game set before traveling to Milwaukee, who has dominated Pittsburgh. The Brewers are 48-17 against the Pirates since 2007, including the two-game sweep in April.

Those of you thinking that this could be the Pirates first World Series win since 1979, check out the 300/1 odds offered at the Las Vegas Hilton.


Peavy should make his first start Wednesday
Welcome back Jake Peavy! Wednesday looks to be the day 2007 Cy Young award winner Jake Peavy makes his return to the rotation for White Sox. He threw over 100 pitches in a rehab assignment last Thursday and had no pain. For some bettors, they may be happy to see Peavy back as well or at least for his first start.

Pitchers coming back from an injury can be a great spot to bet against them, as was the case last week with Zack Greinke. Some pitchers take it to the extreme when they come back like Ubaldo Jimenez has in losing all three of his starts since returning to the Rockies rotation. Jimenez pitched very well his last time out which may put a stop to that gravy train.

Others, like the Reds Johnny Ceuto, have come back strong. In Sunday’s 2-0 win at Wrigley Field, Cueto didn’t allow a run in six innings of work after struggling somewhat in four previous minor league rehab appearances.

Rangers OF Josh Hamilton is coming back in two weeks. He‘s been swinging the bat and is ahead of the timetable set. He went on the disabled list Apr. 13 and was then expected to come back in six to eight weeks. The Rangers were 9-1 when he went on DL and are 9-16 without him. Over that losing stretch, it hasn't helped that Nelson Cruz has also been banged up which forced the Rangers to put him on the 15-day DL on Saturday.

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