Notable bets: 'Worst Sunday of the year' for Las Vegas

November 5, 2018, 12:06 PM

Notable bets is a regular Monday roundup of wagers -- some sharper than others -- made recently at sportsbooks across the nation.

For nearly a decade, I've been writing weekly recaps on how Las Vegas sportsbooks fared on NFL Sundays.

As the late afternoon games wind down, I call, email and text with a dozen or so bookmakers at different casinos around town. I ask them how they did on the day, which results were best and worst for the house and other general questions about the betting action at their shop.

It's been a long time since the bookmakers sounded like they did on Sunday night.

"I'm going to have to explain it to the boss tomorrow," one Vegas veteran said in a resigned tone Sunday night.

Normally, there's plenty of lighthearted hyperbole that comes out in the calls. They don't like to get overly specific about how much they won or lost and certainly aren't handing over any official data to verify their claims.

A lot of the guys are funny and play the role of surly bookmaker well. When they win big, they often temper the tone of their answers in attempt to be good winners. "People lost a lot of money today," one bookmaker told me after Week 1 of the 2014 season, which at the time was the most lucrative NFL Sunday of his career. "We don't want to rub it in."

When they lose big, they talk in more blunt terms:




It never comes off as whining to me, but society, especially social media, doesn't appear to have much sympathy for the bookmaker.

Through the years, a few bookmakers have laid it on thick. I'm sure some of them have downplayed a day's haul or embellished on the severity of their losses. However, over the last decade, the consensus takeaways from the weekly calls generally end up matching the monthly revenue reports released by Nevada Gaming Control. 

If that holds up for this past week, November is off to a very expensive start for bookmakers.

"Today's outcomes have been less than ideal," a sportsbook manager from Caesars Palace deadpanned in an email. "I don't know where exactly it'll fall on our all-time list, but it's one of the worst NFL Sundays that I can remember."

The descriptions from the bookmakers this Sunday night were the worst I can recall since Week 9 of the 2012 season, when favorites went 10-2 against the spread and sliced up Las Vegas. The quotes were spectacular after that week, too: "I've been in this business for 26 years, and I have never seen what I saw yesterday," Jay Kornegay, head of the SuperBook, told ESPN after that week.

Nevada books ended up down more than $5 million on football that November, a giant chunk of it coming from Week 9. Industry sources estimated they lost $7 million to $10 million this Sunday alone (also Week 9, by the way).

Don't worry too much, though. The sportsbooks will manage to pull through and are expected to be accepting bets on this week's football games. They did, after all, win an average of $10 million a week in September, the most lucrative month ever for the state's sportsbooks.

Here are the notable bets from the week that wrecked Vegas:


• In the biggest decisions of the day, the books ended up needing the underdog Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns and the favored Baltimore Ravens. They lost them all. "We won one key decision today," Jeff Davis, head of risk for Caesars Palace sportsbook, said.

• "The Chiefs were the biggest loser of the day for us," Jay Rood, vice president of MGM race and sports, said. "The sharps kept betting the Browns for a little bit, but the public just kept coming on the Chiefs. Everyone kept say that they thought the line would be 9.5 or 10. They thought it was Black Friday on the Chiefs."

• A bettor at an MGM sportsbook in Nevada on Saturday placed $110,000 bets on the Kansas City Chiefs -8.5 and the Washington Redskins -1.5 and a $100,000 bet on the New England Patriots -6 at even odds, according to sportsbook manager Scott Shelton. The Chiefs and Patriots covered the spread in wins over the Browns and Green Bay Packers, respectively. Washington failed to cover in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

• A bettor at BetStars' sportsbook in New Jersey dropped $8.68 on an 11-team NFL parlay that turned into a $10,920 windfall, when the Patriots covered against the Packers on Sunday night. The other 10 legs of the parlay: Bears -10, Panthers -6, Chiefs -8, Falcons-Redskins over 47, Rams-Saints over 57, Steelers-Ravens under 46, Dolphins -3, Texans -1 and Chargers-Seahawks under 48. The odds on all 11 hitting were a cool 1,259-1.

• "Handle was pretty strong today," Rood said. "We had a big convention, bunch of car guys. We got a lot of really public money this week, and I've always said, the public is where we can get hurt the worst."

• The South Point said, not counting the lightly bet Jets-Dolphins game, that it went 0-6 in the early games. "Bad day today," South Point sportsbook manager Tim Fitzgerald said in an email. "Worst Sunday of the year, by far."

• A bettor at the SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas placed a $22,000 bet on Tom Brady to throw more than 2.5 touchdowns against the Packers in the Sunday night game. Brady finished with one touchdown pass.

• A bettor at the SuperBook placed a $20,000 bet on the Tennessee Titans scoring over 17 points in the Monday night game against the Dallas Cowboys.

• "We're already pretty ugly to [Monday's] game too," Rood said Sunday afternoon. "We need Dallas. Lot of parlays, couple big straight bets are all connected to the Titans." The Cowboys are 4.5-point favorites over the Titans in the Monday night game.

• A bettor holding a $1,000 season-win total bet at -120 odds on the Buffalo Bills winning under 6.5 games elected to sell the wager for $1,650 last week on PropSwap, an online secondary market for betting tickets. Barring a dramatic second-half turnaround for the Bills, the new owner of the betting ticket from Wynn Las Vegas will be able to collect $1,833.35 at the end of the regular season. The Bills fell to 2-7 with a 41-9 blowout loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

• The Seattle Seahawks opened as 9.5-point underdogs against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 10 at the SuperBook, and the line was quickly bet to -10. That line would be the largest underdog Russell Wilson has ever been in his career (previous was +7.5 on four occasions).

College football

• Alabama improved to 9-0 against the spread in the first half this season, a trend that is becoming increasingly popular for bettors. The Crimson Tide, who were 7.5-point favorites over LSU in the first half, took a 16-0 lead into halftime. "There was once again a flood of bets on Alabama first half against LSU," SuperBook director John Murray told ESPN in an email. "And once again the bettors were rewarded for that one. We actually had more tickets on LSU for the game itself but we took a loss on the first half."

• The SuperBook posted a line and opened betting on a potential national championship game matchup between Alabama and Clemson. The Crimson Tide opened as 8.5-point favorites on Sunday. A bettor immediately placed a $1,000 bet on Clemson.

• The SuperBook reposted a line for the season-ending showdown between Michigan and Ohio State. The Wolverines are now 3.5-point road favorites over the Buckeyes. In September, the posted line on the game was Ohio State -9.5.

• Washington State failed to cover the spread for the first time this season in a 19-13 win over California. The Cougars were 7.5-point favorites. Washington State covered the spread in its first eight games of the season, becoming just the eighth team in the last 40 seasons to do so. Only four teams have covered the spread in their first nine straight games.

• Ed Salmons, head football oddsmaker at the SuperBook, said his raw numbers would have Alabama as a 6.5- or 7-point favorite. "At this stage, to me, you just want to go higher, just because Alabama has such a following right now," Salmons said. "There's not team that has even shown they can compete with them. Obviously, Clemson is the second-best team in the country, and they have competed with them in the past. But Alabama's never had a quarterback like this before."

• Top four teams in Salmons' power rankings:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Michigan
4. Oklahoma

• "If Michigan and Notre Dame played again, I'd probably make Michigan -4.5," Salmons said.

• "We really just broke even [Saturday]," Salmons said.

Odds and ends

• Baseball: The Hollywood Casino at Charles Town in West Virginia took on $550,000 on early liability for next year's baseball season. Hollywood executive Erich Zimny told ESPN that a bettor placed a $20,000 wager on the Washington Nationals to win the National League at 11-1 odds and a $15,000 wager on the Nationals to win the World Series at 22-1.

• Nevada sports betting numbers: September was the worst month ever for football bettors in Nevada. Out of the state's sportsbooks' record $56.3 million haul in September, $44.3 million came from football (NFL and college). That's the most ever for football in one month. The books held 11.40 percent of the money wagered on football. The average hold percentage is 5.5 percent.