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The proud and confident American betting audience has just turned around in the worst month of NFL gambling that veteran bookmakers can remember.
By entering Monday Night Football, underdogs have covered the spread of nearly 60% of matches in November. Twenty-three underdogs drew direct disruptions during the month, and heavily bet primetime favorites seemed to fall on a weekly basis.
“From week to week, things seem to be changing dramatically,” said Chuck Esposito, a veteran of the Las Vegas sportsbook with Station Casinos. “Dominant teams earlier this year have come down to earth and dogs have covered a much higher cut. There are 24 teams still fighting for playoff spots.”
Public players have struggled to figure it out and were crushed in November.
“There was one week where players only had one game that they won, and another week they only won two games,” said Jeff Stoneback, a 30-year-old Las Vegas sportsbook who oversees BetMGM’s sportsbook in Nevada. “We had big wins, yes, but the number of wins, percentage for us, was incredible. I was shocked.”
Sportsbooks’ net profit or loss on bets is known as “hold”, as in the amount of money that bookmakers hold on after everything is settled. Over the past three decades, Nevada sportsbooks have averaged about 5.5% of the money bet. The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas was on track to hold around 6.25% in November.
“It looks like it’s going to be one of our best holding months in Nevada ever,” John Murray, CEO of SuperBook, told ESPN.
For the betting audience, the unfortunate November came right after a hot streak. In October, sportsbooks endured three consecutive losing Sundays. But the only thing that did was fill up the bankrolls in time for a bookmaker’s Thanksgiving party.
Jay Croucher, commercial director of sportsbook PointsBet, said Week 9 was where the season turned on players, pointing to the Jaguars’ disruption of the Bills as two-touchdown underdogs as “particularly notable” for his book.
Murray said November 7, the Sunday with the Jags ‘rebellion over the bills, was by far SuperBooks’ best day of the season.
“There were some terrible Sundays for NFL favorites this month, and that meant big returns for the House,” Murray said.
November also brought a series of hard-hitting favorites that lost in prime time. The Titans and 49ers each beat the Rams in prime time for consecutive weeks, and the Dolphins disrupted the Ravens one Thursday night, producing the books’ biggest wins in November.
“It’s been an excellent November so far for the book,” Croucher added.
• The home teams are 77-101-1 against the spread) this season, which is heading toward the worst ATS mark of the Super Bowl era.
Underdogs is 99-77-1 against the spread, which is on track to be the best character since 1980.
• With fewer games, the effort handling on Sunday was easier than in previous weeks, and there were not many big decisions. Several bookmakers described Sunday’s results as “insignificant”.
• BetMGM offered a bid for the Bears-Lions game on Thanksgiving: “Will both teams score 40 or more points?” A player placed at $ 227,026 bet “No” at -10,000 odds and won a net $ 2,270, with the Bears’ 16-14 victory.
Biggest reported bets at Caesars Sportsbook:
$ 445,000 on Packers money line +115 vs. Rams (Wind)
$ 402,500 on 49ers -3 (-115) vs. Vikings (winner)
$ 385,000 on Browns +3.5 vs. Ravens $ 220,000 on Titans +7.5 vs. Patriots (tab)
Remarkable college football
Sunday’s opening conference championship game lines at Las Vegas sportsbook Circa Sports:
Conference USA: Western Kentucky vs. Texas-San Antonio PK, 71.5
Pac-12: Oregon vs. Utah -2, 59.5
Big 12: Baylor vs. Oklahoma State -5, 46.5
MAC: Kent State -3, 72 vs. Northern Illinois
MWC: Utah State vs. San Diego State -5, 51.5
Sun Belt: Appalachian State -3, 53.5 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
AAC: Houston vs. Cincinnati -12, 54.5
SEC: Georgia -6, 49.5 vs. Alabama
ACC: Wake Forest vs. Pittsburgh -3, 72.5
Big Ten: Iowa Vs. Michigan -11, 41.5
Georgia was about a 4-point favorite over Alabama before this weekend’s games. But after Crimson Tide struggled to pull out of a win against Auburn, SuperBook Georgia reopened a 6.5-point favorite. The early action on the game was relatively smooth, with 56% of the money bet on the game from Sunday on the favorite Bulldogs.
• Michigan’s disruption of Ohio State on Saturday gave PointsBet the biggest win of the college football season to date.
What were the odds?
30-1: Alabama’s odds of beating Auburn late in the fourth quarter, trailing 10-3. Crimson Tide would equalize on a late Bryce Young touchdown pass and win the match in the fourth overtime. [odds via Caesars Sportsbook]
-200: Bryce Young’s odds of winning the Heisman Trophy. Young is the odds-on favorite at Caesars Sportsbook, followed by Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud (4-1) and Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (15-1). Hutchinson was not listed last week but caught the attention of odds-makers and players after his three-sack performance in the Wolverines’ uprising in Ohio State on Saturday. He now has the third best odds.
-9: Duke closed out as a 9-point underdog to Gonzaga in their college basketball showdown last Friday. It’s the first game the Blue Devils were more than a 7.5-point underdog when they were ranked in the top 5, since at least the 1993-94 season. Duke won 84-81.
+14: The New Orleans Pelicans beat the Utah Jazz 98-97 as 14 point underdogs on Friday. It’s the biggest disruption, point-by-point, in the NBA season so far.
Questions and answers with a player
Cal Spears is a Tennessee-based fantasy sports and betting entrepreneur who hit a $ 1,000, six-legged parlay in the same game at the Raiders-Cowboys game on Thursday, which paid $ 266,566.27. Talk about a satisfying Thanksgiving!
The six legs were:
• DeSean Jackson anytime touchdown scorer
• Ezekiel Elliott over 19.5 receiving yards
• Josh Jacobs over 19.5 receiving yards
• Michael Gallup over 100 receiving yards (alternate line)
• Tony Pollard over 16.5 receiving yards
• Elliott anytime touchdown scorer
Spears communicated with ESPN’s David Purdum this week about his unlikely victory. The interview has been organized and edited for clarity.
Question: Take us through your process when creating this parlay. What was the idea behind it?
While watching late prey for my DFS lineups during the Bears game, it dawned on me that Desean Jackson’s chances of catching a bomb were underestimated. I opened Fanduel to check out his yardage prop and they did not even offer one. So I bet he scored a TD at +700 and then added the other legs I liked. I actually hit another parlay that did not include Zeke TD and Pollard Over for $ 91,000.
Q: Are you at Thanksgiving dinner when it’s all played out?
My boyfriend and I were planning on having Thanksgiving with my family in Madisonville, Kentucky, but we both came down with a cold. We got negative COVID tests on Wednesday, but still did not feel well on Thursday morning. So we scrapped our plans and ended up lying on the couch all Thanksgiving and watching football. I would not have made this bet if we took the trip to Kentucky; betting is not yet legal there.
Q: Takes us through the sweat, please.
Sweat could not have started better with a DeSean touchdown just a few minutes inside the match. Three quarters of an hour later it looked completely dead, then Gallup came alive with catches of 41, 32 and 17 to cross 100 yards. When I went on overtime, I was just missing one catch each from Zeke and Jacobs. I watched in disbelief as things fell exactly as I needed to, and then I checked the statistics triple sense to be sure.
Q: How did you celebrate it and what do you want to do with the winnings?
The endorphins hit right away and I was ready to celebrate it, but then I remembered it was Thanksgiving night and I had a cold. A proper celebration awaits.
The first thing I did Friday morning was donate $ 10,000 each to five non-profit organizations that are making an impact locally here in Nashville. I was incredibly lucky to hit this and am very happy to share my happiness. Not sure what to do with the rest, but there will definitely be a big Christmas for friends and family.