It’s amazing how August is flying by here in the Tuley’s Takes home office as we move closer to the real football season. This is usually a great time to clean out the ol’ reporter’s notebook, even if that’s a misnomer. Our reporter’s notebook more often includes a sloppy stack of handwritten stats and betting trends, plus printed schedules and charts along with bookmarked websites.
Red Smith and Grantland Rice are rolling over in their graves!
I have my “Press” hat on after spending Tuesday morning on the “Best Practices for Covering Sports Gambling” panel at the AP Sports Editors conference at the Flamingo. I shared how I started my journalism career in the Chicago suburbs dreaming of being the Bears’ beat writer and how a 1990 trip to Arlington Park, which is sadly on its last legs, introduced me to horse racing and gambling — and eventually turned me to the dark side of sports betting journalism when very few were covering the industry. If we had held a sports betting writers convention at the turn of the century, we could have held it in my Saturn (how’s that for a historical reference?).
However, I also believed that sports betting was a legitimate beat, as much as covering any team or other part of the sports world, and that’s how I’ve treated it in my stints at the Daily Racing Form and on my own ViewFromVegas.com website, ESPN.com and VSiN.com. Even though sports betting was legal only in Nevada until the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that all states could decide for themselves, interest was always high in how Vegas viewed sports in regard to futures book odds and individual game lines.
Las Vegas Review-Journal Sports Editor Bill Bradley moderated the panel and gave Brent Musburger credit for launching VSiN as the first all-sports betting network in 2017. We were also joined by Todd Dewey of the Review-Journal; Patrick Everson, formerly of Covers.com and soon starting a new gig in the burgeoning sports betting world; and Doug Kezirian of ESPN Daily Wager and ESPN.com/chalk. I’m also proud that even though we’re basically competitors, all are also friends of VSiN and frequent guests on our programs.
We all shared from our perspectives how the industry has come to this point and how we don’t see its expansion slowing soon. I made the point that the pandemic slowed growth only slightly, but it is again gaining steam. We’ve all seen the sports world change to the point where it’s no longer surprising to see point spreads streaming across the bottom of our TV screens and those odds and Over/Unders no longer needing to be whispered vaguely under your breath like Musburger and Al MIchaels used to do.
As football season nears, we’ll also see an avalanche of sports betting shows on TV and radio as well as online. It was so exciting to see and hear so many sports editors from around the country interested in devoting staff to sports betting coverage in their states — especially where it’s legal, but even papers in other states see the interest in adding at least some sports betting content to their more traditional coverage.
We can’t wait to see what the future of sports betting journalism has in store.
Takes on MLB’s run of favorites
Another point I made is that as much as we talk about sports betting in general terms, such as whether the books win or lose on a given weekend or discussing betting trends, the public usually wants us to put that knowledge to practical use. So, though I hope some readers found this week’s intro interesting, I know more are looking for actionable information.
The hottest current trend in sports betting besides NFL preseason Unders is baseball favorites. If you’ve been following my nightly recaps on Twitter @ViewFromVegas, in the VSiN daily newsletter or on any number of our live programs, you know the gap between the haves and have-nots has been widening in MLB, with the chalk dominating almost nightly.
MLB favorites usually plateau about 57-59%. After faves got off to a bad start, it was a slow grind as they finally climbed to 58% by the All-Star break. But that was nothing compared with the recent run: Faves were 147-65 (69.3%, excluding pick-’ems and pushes) in August through Monday. That came after faves and dogs split 21-21 over the last three days of July, including dogs going 9-6 on July 31. After faves went 11-4 on Aug. 1, they split 4-4 on Aug. 2 and went just 8-7 on Aug. 3. But then they went 124-50 (71.3%) over the next 13 days.
And, yes, just like during the great NHL First-Period Over run of 2019, yours truly, Mr. Dog-or-Pass, has been playing favorites — though I justify it by betting them on the -1.5 run line and turning them into dogs at plus money, or parlaying them.
Popular favorites to parlay have been the Giants, Dodgers, Padres (until recently), Rays, Red Sox and White Sox. But it has actually been more profitable to bet straight or in parlays on whichever teams are playing the Cubs, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Orioles and Rangers.
This also ties in closely with what I wrote this summer about betting teams on winning streaks and fading teams on losing streaks. Entering Tuesday’s action, the Cubs and Orioles had lost 12 games in a row, with the Nationals on a seven-game skid. The winning streaks haven’t been as long nor do they consistently include the same teams like we see on the losing side, but the Cardinals were on a six-game winning streak.
We’ll keep pounding away on and against these teams as long as it works, especially when we see so many blowouts where we’re not afraid to lay the -1.5 runs on the chalk.
Takes on NFL Preseason Unders
The other hot trend last week was Unders in NFL preseason Week 1. Unders went 13-3 (81.3%) and improved to 14-3 (82.3%), including the Hall of Fame Game the previous week.
It was an incredible run watching game after game stay Under the closing total, highlighted by a 9-1 mark Saturday.
However, I believe this is a case of “let the bettor beware,” as I see less chance of this trend continuing compared with the MLB chalk trend. For one thing, in recent years preseason Overs were all the rage. This appears to be a cyclical thing. In fact, bettors jumping on the trend Sunday already zigged when they should have zagged as the Colts-Panthers’ Over/Under was pounded down to 32.5 points and the game went Over in the Colts’ come-from-behind 21-18 victory.
The fact that we saw an inordinate number of offensive starters, especially QBs, sit out last week certainly led to lower scores. I’m not so sure we’ll see that again in preseason Week 2 since it’s the next-to-last preseason game with the reduction this year from four games to three. So this could be the dress rehearsal when we see more starters play longer.
In addition, it doesn’t appear that the Under barrage has deterred oddsmakers from setting higher totals this week. Several are above the magic number of 37 discussed by PSW colleague Steve Makinen last week, so the books are not looking afraid to take more Under money.
Take on getting in football shape
OK, one final silly story to clean out the notebook.
I was thrilled to get a promo Monday from the New York Post that said, “Gaming can burn 200 calories an hour.” For a long time, the casino industry has used gaming as a euphemism for gambling, and I thought this story had to be great news, especially with my wife always giving me a hard time for spending my whole day on the computer in the Tuley’s Takes home office.
So imagine my disappointment when I clicked the link and the actual full headline read, “Video gamers may burn 200 calories in one hour of play: study.” It wasn’t about gaming or gambling at all, but about an activity more aligned with what my 12-year-old son Maddux does on his computer.
But then I really started to think about these disparate activities, and I couldn’t recall Maddux ever jumping out of his seat and doing a field goal kick or simulating a jockey whipping his horse down the stretch. I get far more exercise from my daily involvement with sports betting than any gamer I’ve ever seen. You all know how you feel after watching an exciting game; it’s like you’ve been through a three-hour cardio workout!
And there are other health benefits. The article said other “studies have shown marginal benefits to gaming, such as improved focus or spatial reasoning, and its potential as a diagnostic tool, including for autism-spectrum disorder in kids and Alzheimer’s in adults.” We all know the benefits of keeping our minds sharp, and we certainly do that with daily analysis of stats and betting lines.
So who’s with me as we get in shape for football betting season?