Vegas Wiseguy Report: Early NFL Season Wins $$$

Teddy Covers | Jun 3, 2013 | ARCHIVE

In last week’s column, I wrote about my personal process for assessing NFL Season Win Totals, calling those totals “the single most profitable set of wagers that I’ve found in my 15 years as a professional bettor living in Las Vegas.”  I also wrote in detail about the first step of that process – identifying accurate strength of schedule numbers from last year, to better gauge whether teams overachieved or underachieved in 2012; giving me a superior ‘starting point’ to begin my analysis for this year.

I closed out the article with these two paragraphs: “The New York Giants faced single toughest schedule from last year based on my numbers on the weeks the games were played.  The Saints weren’t far behind.  Arizona, San Francisco, Tennessee, Baltimore and St Louis all faced abnormally tough slates.

“On the easy side, the Colts, Texans and Bengals all stood out; by far the three easiest schedules in the league.  Miami, Atlanta and San Diego also had much easier than average slates.  In my next column, I’ll write about the next step in the process -- identifying accurate strength of schedule numbers for 2013.”

Unfortunately, I can’t do that this week for one simple reason – we haven’t seen enough sportsbooks post season win total numbers yet!  I expected to see a handful of books here in Vegas and offshore besides the LVH and the Cantor Gaming books post win totals last week, but that hasn’t happened.

Instead, I’ll write about where the earliest of the early money is going.  That early money is most assuredly a strong ‘leading indicator’ of where the future money is likely to flow.  In other words, we don’t see many wiseguy ‘head fakes’ when it comes to season win totals (betting the opposite of what they really want in an effort to create a much broader market after other books copy those numbers) to get more significant wagers down.

Cantor was the first to post win total numbers; and it’s no surprise that their numbers have moved the most in early summer betting.  The prevailing rule of thumb for NFL Win Totals is that a half game is worth at least 50 cents of juice  For example betting a team Over 7.5 (-160) has approximately the same level of expectation as betting Over 8 (-110). 

We’ve seen the Cantor books move the win total for four teams, all of whom took significant Over money.  Books do NOT like to move their numbers -- adjusting the juice is a vastly superior option. The last thing any sportsbook director wants to see is a team finishing the season by landing on one of the two numbers, ensuring a push or a win for virtually anyone who bet.

That being said, this early in the process, adjusting a win total number by a half win is a vastly superior option to getting hammered with wagers on an ‘off market’ number.  Money that comes in over the summer dwarves the money that flows in the first week or two that the numbers are posted.  In other words, the risk of moving off a number is much less now than it will be a month or two from now.

Here are the four teams that early bettors have gotten heavily involved with Overs, forcing Cantor to move their opening numbers.  All updated numbers are accurate as of Sunday, June 2, and this grouping of the four biggest line moves are all from the Cantor books:

Cleveland Over/Under 5.5 wins (-110 each way) is now Cleveland Over/Under 6 wins (-135 to the Over). 

Kansas City Over/Under 6.5 wins (-110 each way) is now KC Over/Under 7 wins (-160 to the Over).

Miami Over/Under 6.5 wins (-120 to the Over at the opener) is now Miami Over/Under 7.5 wins (-145 to the Over); the biggest move of all!

And St Louis Over/Under 6.5 wins (-110) is now St Louis Over/Under 7 (-165 to the Over).

The LVH opened their numbers after Cantor, and were able to take advantage of the information available surrounding those early ‘strong opinion’ teams.  Jay Kornegay opened the Browns O/U 6, (with the Over -130), and that number hasn’t moved.  The Chiefs opened O/U 7 wins (with the Over -145), and has been bet up slightly; with the Over now at -155.  The Dolphins opened at LVH at O/U 7.5 (with the Over -135), moving slightly down to Over -130 since.  And the Rams opened at O/U 7.5 wins at LVH (with the Under -140) and bettors continued to support St Louis at that number – the Under is down to -120 as I write this.

This doesn’t mean that LVH’s numbers were ‘sharper’ than Cantor’s.  It only means that LVH was able to take advantage of the knowledge they gained about the emerging markets from Cantor’s ‘first to market’ numbers.

That being said, the LVH offered variance on 13 of the 32 NFL teams compared to Cantor’s numbers.  As described above, Cantor moved the line on four of those teams, leaving nine teams with some variance between books as of late Sunday Night.

Here are the nine teams with current variance.  Both Cantor and LVH are dealing bettor friendly 20 cent juice on their season win total lines:

At LVH, Baltimore is lined O/U 8.5 wins with the Over at -140.  At Cantor, the Ravens are lined at 9 wins, with the Over at +110.  Note how the ’50 cents of juice equals approximately half a win’ theorem is in play here (and elsewhere on this list).

At LVH, Denver is lined at O/U 11.5 wins, with the Over at +110.  At Cantor, the Broncos are lined at 11 wins, with the Over at -160.

At LVH, Green Bay is lined at O/U 10 wins with the Over at -120.  At Cantor, the Packers are lined at 10.5 wins, with the Over at +115.

At LVH, Houston is lined at O/U 10 wins with the Over at -130.  At Cantor, the Texans are lined at O/U 10.5 wins, with Over at +120.

At LVH, Minnesota is lined at O/U 7.5 wins, -110 each way.  At Cantor, the Vikings are lined at O/U 7 wins, with the Over at -150.

At LVH, New England is lined at O/U 11.5 wins with the Over at +130.  At Cantor, the Patriots are lined as an 11 win team, with the Over at -140.

At LVH, Pittsburgh is lined at O/U 9 wins with the Over at -140.  At Cantor, the Steelers are lined at O/U 9.5 wins, with the Over at +125.  Here is one instance where there is more than a 50 cent differential between the two lines right now.

At LVH, San Francisco is lined at O/U 11.5 wins with the Over at +135.  At Cantor, the 49ers are lined as an 11 win team with the Over at -125.  It’s worth noting that Cantor’s number on San Francisco hasn’t moved from their opener.  The LVH took an opinion here with their opener, and they’ve seen an early 30 cent line move as a result, after opening San Fran with the Over at +105.

Seattle has the most dramatic current variance as of late Sunday night.  At Cantor, the Seahawks are lined O/U 10 wins and the -120 juice on the Over hasn’t moved since the opener.  At LVH, the Seahawks opened at O/U 10.5 wins -110 each way, and they haven’t moved their number off the opener either!

I’m hoping that by next week, we’ll have enough ‘near virgin’ numbers out there to write about what my definition of “accurate” strength of schedule numbers for 2013 actually means.  If we don’t, it’s not too early to discuss WHY the early bettors are supporting or fading the squads that have been bet heavily in early action.  This week’s column was a bit too heavy on the ‘what happened’ and not heavy enough on the ‘why it happened’, which merits significant future discussion……