Friday, June 10, 2011

Auburn Gets Picked On In Golden Nugget's College Football Games On the Year

By Micah Roberts

After the first few hours of action at the Las Vegas Golden Nugget Sports Book, director Tony Miller and his crew had already booked more action on their College Football Games of the Year than they did last season, and this was with close to 80 games less. Action opened just after noon on Friday and the bettors lined up to get all they could at the 100 or so games offered and picked on several teams in the fashion a lion does to a wounded gazelle in the Serengeti.

Wagers were limited to $1,000 per bet and only three bets could be made per window visit and then it was back to the end of the line. The bulk of the bettors had the same ideas on quite a few teams. They seemed to think higher than the Golden Nugget on teams like Notre Dame, LSU, Georgia and Tennessee. They also thought less of Auburn, Michigan and TCU than the Nugget did.

Below is a list of all the opening lines and what they moved to during a four hour betting period. You'll notice that all Auburn games seem to be the biggest move againsts of the day.

The Golden Nugget will have all these lines posted throughout the season until the week the games start.

List of Golden Nugget's College Football Games of the Year

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Say it ain't So, Papa Joe; Chevalier Passes

By Micah Roberts
Gaming Today

Papa Joe will be dearly missed
The sports world lost one of it’s all-stars Friday when sports talk radio host Armand Chevalier passed away at the age of 62. Chevalier, better known as Papa Joe, suffered a stroke in April that had paralyzed his right side. He was originally from Pittsburgh, but it was Las Vegas that he called home and established many lasting relationships.

His Sports Buffet radio show went national, but had a distinct Las Vegas flair to it as he invited callers to give them their picks for the week. His show was unlike any other where the callers were the show and he was the moderator. He despised the Yankees and Cowboys, yet did it a way that fans of those teams still loved him.

For over two decades Las Vegas sports fans were treated to this type of delicious radio. Callers became celebrities like “Bubba” with his lead pipe cinches or “Top Gun” from Florida who had his own intro music. They would give their picks and Papa Joe would grade them. It was next to impossible to get in on the show as the lines were always jammed.

I used to be a regular caller myself during the early 90’s and had a system of trying to get in that worked about half the time. Knowing that there was a five second broadcast delay, I would try to time when the on air call sounded like it was almost over and then make my call trying to beat the hundreds of others trying the same strategy to get on to the show with that open line.

His afternoon daily show was contagious and allowed for myself and thousands of others to vent frustrations with anything in sports with his “Bite Me Wednesday’s” edition. No matter how good or bad any of his caller's takes were, he would find the angle immediately and spin it in an instant to make it sound more interesting.

His show was a lot different from what we have on radio now where the hosts are the stars who rarely take phone calls, opting to talk about what they want to talk about. Papa Joe let the callers set the topics and let them be the stars, chiming in with his two cents in his own clever way usually with a good natured zing at the end of the conversation.

Papa Joe loved all his callers and wanted to meet them so he organized gatherings where all the callers could meet each other and Papa Joe himself. He had a weekly softball team that he invited listeners to show up where they got to see him pitch with his ‘79 striped Pirates box hat.

Chevalier also had a news letter that used to go out to thousands of listeners and in 1994, during the baseball strike, his presence in the sports world was never more acknowledged than a story ran by USA Today on the cover of their sports page. The photo on the cover had him draped with thousands of baseball cards from listeners supporting his grass roots effort of his protest of baseball for what would eventually be a lost season, something that not even world wars could do.

Current ESPN Las Vegas 1100am radio producer Clay Baker was one of those loyal fans who sent his baseball cards in while living in Lansing, Mich., but also had the privelidge of working with Papa Joe in Las Vegas from 2002 throgh 2008 as his producer.

"Rather than interview a player, Papa Joe was more interested in what the fans thought. On his show, the callers were priority," Baker said. "His fans were encouraged to roar and debate his topics, daily, and they never let him down. I'm grateful to have worked with Joe and his friendship was a blessing."

"Joe's first stint in Vegas was dealing dice and 21 at the Slots O'Fun, but working on the floor was short lived," said Baker, who then quotted Joe on the matter, 'After my first day, the Pit Boss told me: If you were ever hanged for being a craps dealer, it would be an injustice to the rope. Eventually, I was assigned to the 'Eye In The Sky' and that afforded me similar work at the Hilton and Four Queens.'

He was genuinely loved by everyone because he actually seemed to care about us. He was one of us. He would have a beer and discuss topics like regular guys do at a bar. It was that same type of comfortable approach that made him such a loved icon on air.

A few years later I ran into him while I was running a sports book and we had a good laugh about his early years on the radio and how I used to get in to the radio shows. When talking about the show and everyone in his radio world family, he glowed with the same pride he did when it was initially happening.

He had quite a few relationships with people all over town, but he especially was fascinated with the job of sports book directors, who he always called “Boss Bookies”. He was intrigued with how the operation worked; how and why numbers were moved along with what the “wise guys” were doing.

When talking about the wise guys on air, he would stretch out the pronunciation in a different hush-hush tone, “Wiiiizzze Guyyzz”, as if he was telling a secret and if it got out, someone might get whacked. I always chuckled every time the voice came out.

I was proud to have been invited as a regular guest on his shows and reflect fondly of my younger years trying to get on his shows as a caller, but I was more honored to have just been his friend.

Las Vegans, and everyone else who had the chance to know him, or hear him are going to miss him, but his legacy will not be forgotten. Not only did he have one of the most unique relationships with his callers, but he was also somewhat of a pioneer with syndicated sports radio shows. He set the pace and tempo of an industry that we know as common place today.

"Joe Chevalier fell in love with radio by chance and it changed the world forever," Baker said. "Joe eventually quits the casino business, does radio full time in Las Vegas, then took the nickname Papa, from the Bourbon street bar and soon he was a Vegas legend. Papa Joe never had to make a demo tape. Papa never typed up a resume for a radio gig, he was just the genuine article. The fans knew it and Papa Joe Chevalier became the first star of an industry that had no stars."

Very well said Clay Baker.

Thanks for all the memories Papa Joe, rest in peace!

Golden Nugget To Release College Football Games of the Year Friday

By Micah Roberts

In the older days of Las Vegas there used to be frenzied betting action on Sunday nights at the Stardust when they opened their football numbers for the next week of games. Every major bettor in the city would stand in line, make their plays and then go to back of the line and make some more. The bank of pay phones in the back of the book would be jammed with phones call made all over the country relaying what the opening lines were.

This was in the days before the internet. With the exception of the Wynn sports book’s weekly college football numbers, the opening football numbers from Las Vegas don’t have the same type of luster and excitement they once did. Off-shore sports books generally set the pace and take the early lumps of setting a virgin number.

But if anyone wants to get a glimpse of the past they can do so this Friday at The Golden Nugget. They’ll be posting their college football games of the year for the fourth straight year and doing so with no numbers in the world to compare with. The betting lines will be long with some of the sharpest bettors in the world who will try and get the best of an early number set this far in advance.

The sports book won’t be loaded with only big bettors, either. Just like the old Stardust, because of all the action, the Nugget will be filled with anyone and everyone who has an opinion on college football just to see where the action takes the betting line.

“It’s just a crazy betting scene,“ said Golden Nugget Sports Director Tony Miller, “We’re going to have several lines that trail out through the casino doors. Others will be sitting and standing around thumbing through their college football annuals looking for any edge on the numbers.”

This gives bettors their first real glimpse into the 2011 football season, one that could be without pro football for a few weeks. What it really does, though, is give many of us bit of nostalgia, a glimpse to the past of how Las Vegas used to be.

For Miller and his staff to offer these numbers before everyone else is a testament of hard work and confidence in their numbers. The trend over the last decade with most Vegas books is to not have the first line out, let off-shore take the sharp early action, and then settle on a consensus number. So why would Miller do something so against the grain in Las Vegas?

Golden Nugget to be packed on Friday
“This generates great publicity for the Golden Nugget brand,” said Miller. “We get thousands of people into our property just because of it and I get calls from all over the country regarding the games. It keeps our name out there in an otherwise dead time of the year regarding something that everyone loves. Of course, we expect to win and we generate a tremendous amount of handle which in turns creates that opportunity for us to win.”

Last season didn’t go the Nugget’s way in the win department as the early players got the best of the early numbers, but the house did very well in their first two seasons. The system in which they set the numbers is about as old school as it gets just like the days of the Stardust.

“We use a consensus number between myself, supervisor Aaron Kessler and (former LVSC college football expert) Tony Sinisi. We’ve been analyzing every angle for every team separately for the last three months; things like players lost and returning starters, schedules, who the team plays before and after certain games,” said Miller. “All these things go into our own personal data which gives us our own rating for each team, then we put those numbers together and make a consensus line which is what the opening number will be.”

Miller will offer 100 of the best games of the college football season which are most of the top-25 teams and games from the major conferences. Each game will have a $1,000 limit and a bettor will be able to make three bets and then have to go to the end of the line if they‘d like to make more.

The real sharp players will already have their own numbers figured out and when they get their first look at the sheet on Friday at noon, they will have to find the biggest discrepancies from their numbers to the Nugget’s and bet the three accordingly before going to the back of the line.

Because the early numbers are at a premium, some bettors may be inclined to collude with each other in team efforts, but that kind of activity won’t be tolerated.

The whole process with a fast and furious pace of transactions in June makes the overall vibe a can’t miss extravaganza for the everyone to witness. Brian Blessing from Fox Sports Radio will even be there doing his Sports Book radio show live from 2-3 pm giving up to the minute updates on the games that had the largest moves.

If you never got to see J.J. Walker holding court in the back of the Stardust or Wall Street type of action in a sports book, you’ll want to be at the Golden Nugget this Friday.

For those that can't make it because of being out of town, check back here on Friday. I'll have a list of the games along with the largest moves.

MLB Betting Notes From Las Vegas: Indians Sliding Quickly

By Micah Roberts

Home field not the advantage in Cleveland it was
The Cleveland Indians are fading and fading fast. There was no better example of how far they have slipped than by looking at their play over the weekend at Progressive field when the Rangers swept four games from them, the last two coming on shutouts. Granted the Texas Rangers are one of the best in baseball with Josh Hamilton back in the lineup, but we’re talking about an Indians squad that had the best home record in baseball by a large margin.

The Indians were 30-15 at one point and are now 33-24 with the red hot Tigers breathing down their neck only 2.5 games behind. The Tribe has now dropped nine of their last 12 games and have scored only 11 runs in those losses.

The losses seem to coincide with DH Travis Hafner going on the disabled list, but it goes much deeper than that. Carlos Santana and Shin-Soo Choo aren’t hitting as expected with only Asdrubal Cabrera coming with any consistency at the plate.

The starting pitching, which had been their strong point, has let them down over the last three weeks. Their ace, Justin Masterson, led the Indians to wins in his first six starts. But since May 6, they have lost five of Masterson’s last six starts.

Their immediate future doesn’t look too promising either. They start a three game set against the Twins on Monday and then play four at Yankee Stadium over the weekend. The Twins are coming off a four-game sweep at Kansas City while the first-place Yankees won six of their last seven on their west coast swing.

Baseball fans everywhere are hoping the fairy tale story doesn’t end this quick for the city of Cleveland. After watching Lebron James take a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals, The Browns players being locked out, Jim Tressel stepping down and all the other anxieties surrounding their beloved Buckeyes, could the sports gods at least shine a little light on the Indians for the sake of their tortured fans?

Jimenez Back?
Ubaldo Jimenez takes the mound for the Rockies Tuesday night at San Diego fresh off his first win of the year last week at Dodger Stadium. The Rockies had gone 1-8 in his first nine starts with Jimenez taking the loss in five of them, yet the money-lines didn’t decrease too much on him throughout the drought. It was as if he got a free pass for all the bad starts with everyone setting the lines knowing he would eventually come around, and he did.

Perhaps it’s more about the Dodgers lineup and pitching at their park, but he was dominant in a 3-0 complete game shutout win and looked every bit as good as he was for the first half of last season. We may not get a full gauge on whether Jimenez is completely back until two weeks during inter-league play because he faces another weak lineup in San Diego’s park and then faces the Dodgers at home, both teams that he should be expected to shut down under the circumstances. The real test for may not be until Detroit visits Coors Field where he’s expected to start June 19.

Big Z Sounds Off
The Cubs have lost six in a row with the last two coming on walk off homers by Albert Pujols. Sunday’s starting pitcher, Carlos Zambrano (5-2), who left with a 2-1 lead after pitching seven innings questioned the pitch selection of closer Carlos Marmol in the ninth inning to Ryan Theriot who hit the game tying double to send the game into extra innings.

"The problem wasn't Pujols. The problem was (Theriot's) at-bat," Zambrano said. "We should have known better than this. We are playing like a Triple-A team. This is embarrassing. Embarrassing for the team and the owners. Embarrassing for the fans. Embarrassing, that's the word for this team. We should play better here. We stink. That's all I've got to say."

This was the second game in a row that Zambrano has allowed one run with his team winning only to see Marmol implode. Last Tuesday Marmol allowed the Astros to rally for six runs in the ninth during a 7-3 loss.

Over Zambrano’s last four starts he has been one of the more consistent starters in baseball, but has failed to go past the eighth in any of his starts all season. He didn’t actually call out Marmol’s name, but he described the situation so we all knew who he was talking about. He may have went about things the wrong way, but he has every right to be upset that his quality contributions to a team that has struggled have been wasted.

Young Starters
Zach Britton has struggled his last two starts
I have fallen out of love quickly with one of my favorite young pitchers. Zach Britton of Baltimore was the latest to be on my disowned list after two consecutive starts of giving up five runs or more. The biggest disappointment came May 29 when he lost at Oakland giving up six runs to that lineup. Prior to that, Britton was just rolling along like he’d been in the league for a few years, but it appears that all the scouts have converged on what his deal is and he hasn’t been able to adjust. It was a nice run, though. The Orioles won seven of his first 10 starts.

Josh Tomlin gave in quite bit his last start against Toronto giving up six runs, but the Indians won quite easily and gave him his seventh win of the year. It was Tomlin’s worst outing of the year. The Indians have won eight of his 11 starts this season as he heads into Monday’s game against the Twins. They need him to come up big now more than ever.

In Tomlin’s start against Toronto he faced Kyle Drabek who didn’t make it out of the first inning. Between three walks and four hits, the Indians pounded him for four runs. It was the first time this season that the walks finally caught up with Drabek who now has 45 walks to 43 K’s. The fact still remains that Toronto is 8-4 with him as the starter even though Drabek is 3-4.

Meanwhile, Michael Pineda keeps rolling along. After losing his first start of the season the Mariners have gone on to win seven of his last 10 starts and he’s 6-2 heading into Monday night’s start at Chicago. Unlike the other three rookie pitchers, Pineda has been dominating only allowing more than three runs in a game once. In seven of his starts he’s allowed one earned run or less making him not just a candidate for rookie of the year, but for the Cy Young as well.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

MLB Betting Notes From Las Vegas: Don't Count on D'Back's Magic to Continue

By Micah Roberts

Gibson has his club playing very well
With Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the Marlins, the Arizona Diamondbacks are now 13-2 in their last 15 games and 15-3 in their last 18, which begs the question: Are they for real?

Over that three week stretch, Arizona has given us a little bit of everything to do with excellence in baseball from dominant pitching, offensive fire power to great managing in close games.

Manager Kirk Gibson has this young team molded with his own personality stamped all over it, but the type of run we just saw looks to be more about a young team overachieving rather than getting ready for post-season play.

When looking at all the teams they ran into during their run, it wasn’t exactly filled with baseball’s best, but more about catching mediocre teams on a slide. Mixed in with those 13 wins were three each against baseball’s worst, Houston and Minnesota. They won two thrillers against the Braves, caught the Rockies in another offensive slump and also took two from the less than fearsome Dodgers attack.

The strength of their pitching has been their bullpen led by an energized J.J. Putz who leads the National League with 16 saves. He has been lights out when given the lead with no blown saves giving the D’Backs all kinds of confidence in close games. They are 26-0 when leading going into the ninth inning.

Ian Kennedy (6-2) has been brilliant at times this season, but the rest of the rotation has been just kind of getting by. Even Daniel Hudson (6-5), who has been better than most expected this season, has been quite fortunate to win some of his games despite allowing quite a few runs.

While Putz and Kennedy have carried the staff, the Arizona bats have carried the rest of team all season. They currently lead the NL in home runs and it looks like Justin Upton is finally ready to live up to all the potential. But in today’s baseball, you have to have three great starters to compete for a playoff birth and Arizona doesn‘t have that yet.

In this new era of pitching dominating baseball, it will be hard for Arizona to keep up with all the teams that do have the work horses. When they start facing more competitive teams and winning two of three and three of four, then they’ll be a team heading into August that we can make a case for.

As great as 50-to-1 odds on them to win the World Series may sound, it may be better to pass. The only thing they do have going for them is playing in the NL West where the Dodgers and Padres look like they may be pushovers. The division will probably only have one playoff team and right now it looks like the Giants are the team to still beat and we know the Rockies will have one of their mile high runs coming closer to September.

Gas Can
Bobby Jenks was activated from the disabled list Tuesday which probably doesn’t make many Red Sox fans happy because the guy can throw fuel of the fire like maybe only Eric Gagne could in a Boston uniform. Before his one inning stint in garbage time Tuesday -- where he allowed two quick hits, Jenks had been getting tagged all April blowing two save chances and losing two others.

He is the poster board goat for what was wrong with Boston the first month of the season. His fastball is no longer fast, and what’s worse is that he knows it which causes him to throw balls nibbling at the plate, and missing, allowing more runners to get on base. I have a feeling that his stay in Boston won’t be for very long. Nothing can be more demoralizing to a team than a pitcher taking the mound when the players behind him know he won't get the batter out.

Brew Crew
The worst road team in the NL is so good at home that they are only 2.5 games out of first-place. After a seven game losing streak in early May, the Brewers have been playing some great ball. The combination of getting Zack Grienke (4-1) and Corey Hart (5 HR’s) healthy and playing well has been the main reason for the surge. Milwaukee is currently on a 16-5 run and look to have the makings of a team that could contend with anyone because of their staff. Between Grienke, Yovani Gallardo (7-2) and Shaun Marcum (6-2), this team could go far. While they’d love to have a better bullpen, John Axford and Cameron Loe have been a good tandem to close out games. The Brewers are 28-1 when going into the ninth while leading.

The Las Vegas Hilton Super Book has Milwaukee 20-to-1 to win the World Series which shows a great deal of respect for what they’re capable of doing.

Road Warrior
Kevin Correia has been at his best when away from PNC Park this season sporting a 6-1 record with a 2.35 ERA. Amazingly, he’s had a decision in all 11 starts heading into his Wednesday matchup at the Mets going 7-4 overall. His excellence mirrors what the Pirates have done all season on the road where they have one of the highest payout returns in baseball this season at +939.

Bullpen Change For the Better in KC
Aaron Crow takes over the Royals closer role
The Royals hope to shake things up for the better by naming rookie right-hander Aaron Crow their closer after Joakim Soria pitched himself out of the role. Monday’s blown save was the final nail in the coffin for Soria, once considered one of the baseball’s best closers. That gave the Royals nine blown saves in 18 attempts. It didn’t help Soria’s effort to remain the closer that Monday’s loss was Kansas City’s 13th in their last 16 games.

Jeff Francis got the Royals out of their funk Tuesday with a 7-3 win, his second win in his last three starts. The bats helped him out so there was no need for their new closer to make an appearance. This season Crow has been pretty dominant in a set-up role with a 1.33 ERA in 27 innings.

There could be some value in playing the Royals again just because the prices are still going to reflect their rough two week stretch. You know coming into any KC wager that they can hit. They’re currently in the top-10 MLB categories of runs scored (8th), batting average (7th), on base percentage (10th) and slugging percentage (10th). Now they have a closer who hasn’t had his confidence shattered and should be able to finish a few games off right out of the gate.

Best in the League?
Brandon League has been sensational for Seattle
We saw Brandon League go through a nightmarish stretch in the middle of May where he couldn’t close games out. After starting the season perfect with nine straight save conversions, he blew four straight chances taking the loss in each. Since May 18, League has once again been perfect converting his last six chances with not even a glimpse of a team scaring him.

He’s shutting teams down again and makes the Mariners very attractive in almost every game that four of their five starting pitchers take the hill. The exception is Doug Fister, but even that perception may soon change. Seattle has won two of the last three game the big 6’8” right-hander has started.

Tuesday night’s Mariners win was the perfect microcosm of their season thus far. They got great starting pitching from Erik Bedard, but couldn’t get anything going at the plate. However, the great starting pitching kept them within two runs. After some great middle-relief help from their bullpen to maintain the close deficit, Justin Smoak hit a three-run dinger off of Jeremy Guthrie in the bottom of the eighth, his only mistake of the night. Brandon League then took the mound for the ninth, struck out two batters, ball game over.

The Hilton isn’t as impressed by the Mariners as I am. They currently have Seattle 75-to-1 to win the World Series. It's a real long shot, but the pitching staff does have me intrigued.

Ravens Defense Strategy Wins In Baseball?
Who needs hitting when it’s being shown that a decent rotation and a premium stopper can win lots of games in a row and contend for a division title. Seems like the Giants have shown the rest of the small market teams how it’s done, with Seattle and Oakland both looking very similar to San Francisco’s 2010 model.

Teams don’t have to hit well to control games. It’s like the old Ravens defense that everyone tried emulate, but it was their bad offense that helped set the tempo of the games and allowed their strength to be maximized late in close games. It’s no surprise that both the Giants and Mariners, two of the worst hitting teams, have two of the best records in one-run games. It’s almost like that’s how they want it.

Toughest Teams to Go Yard Against
San Francisco’s pitching staff has been the toughest team to hit a home run off of this season allowing only 28 long balls which shouldn’t surprise many, because after all, they are the World Series Champions who relied on that type of stingy pitching to get their rings. But the next two lowest totals come from the American League where Oakland (30 HR’s allowed) and Seattle (33) have a case for being more impressive just because they come from a league with the designated hitter.

Best/Worst Money Teams
If betting every team in baseball all season long, your best earner would be the Indians at +1,704. They have scooped up so much AL money this season that only two other teams show a profit, the Mariners (+334) and Blue Jays (+202). The NL has seven teams with a positive cash flow with Florida (+900) and Arizona (+868) leading the way. The worst two teams to consistently bet on this season have been the Twins (-1,629) and Rockies (-1,374), two teams that have gotten my share of cash flushed this season.