Vanderbilt thinks it has a great chance to upset South Carolina in Tuesday night’s season-opener. Las Vegas doesn’t agree.
The No. 9 Gamecocks are a seven-point favorite, according to most odds makers, despite playing in the Commodores’ stadium.
In what will be a weekly feature for us, we sat down with a Las Vegas expert, David Purdum, an Atlanta-based journalist with years of experience covering the gaming industry. Purdum talks about the general feeling about South Carolina headed into the season. (Be warned: he uses the word “overrated.”) and how Las Vegas book makers set their lines on games and why. There’s also a little nugget on Clemson. Enjoy.
You can find more of David’s work at DavidPurdumSports.com and Covers.com.
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How does Las Vegas set its lines on games early in the season?
A lot of people believe (early numbers) lead to a lot of opportunities early in the season because their numbers are not as fine-tuned as they will be two to three weeks into the year. If you are close to a team and you know the health of Marcus Lattimore a little bit better than somebody, you have a little advantage there. They make their numbers to three things – statistical performance and they add those to the power ratings, then they add in the public perception. Is ESPN covering USC a lot and making them look better than they are? Then it comes into the money. Are people looking at ESPN and buying into USC?
Does Las Vegas really set the line with the main purpose of having half the bets on one team and half on the other?
In individual games, that is a very accurate statement. Ideally they want 50 percent of the money on South Carolina and 50 percent on Vanderbilt. Then they get what they call the 10 percent juice or vig. It’s just the percentage that it costs. To win $100, you have to bet $110. On game situations, almost exclusively, they want to generate equal actions. Now the futures bets or season wins totals, the odds makers will take a chance if they see another sports book down the road that has South Carolina listed at 8.5 wins on the season. Then they may think, “Hey we think a little more of South Carolina, so we want to set them at nine and encourage people to come bet the under at our book.” That’s when they will take a little bit of an opinion.
On the subject of South Carolina specifically, is there a general feeling among the gaming public or the gaming professionals about the Gamecocks and whether they are a good play or a bad play?
Right now, the theme with South Carolina is overrated. I have had an odds maker at the sports book for the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino tell me, “I am down on South Carolina. I think they take a step back. I think Lattimore’s injury is a two-year injury before he will get there.” So he adjusted his numbers. I have also heard some professional gamblers talking about how they bet against South Carolina against Vanderbilt when the line was a lot higher than it is now. The South Carolina-Vanderbilt line is pretty interesting.
This was one of the games that went up on the offshore books in early February because it was the best game on the opening night pretty much, and it climbed as high as 10.5. South Carolina was as much as a 10.5-point favorite at one point. Well, then, once that line got posted and all the guys that make the lines move, we are talking the big players here, they grabbed Vanderbilt plus the 10.5. When Vegas came out with their lines later in the spring, suddenly it was down to like seven and 6.5 so you can see the how much money came early on Vanderbilt that made that line drop all the way down to 6.5 or seven where it is now.
How much money has to move on a game to move a line?
The thing about it is that everybody’s money is not equal when it comes to the bettors. If there is somebody that has earned the bookmakers’ respect at a certain shop and he comes in, a so-called wise guy or somebody who always plays big money or is always getting the best of the line, he may bet whatever his amount is, $5,000 or $10,000, and it’ll move the line drastically. Now if you and I walk in there and we also bet the same amount of money and they have never seen us or they know we are not very sharp, they won’t budge the line. It’s all about who bets, not necessarily how much they bet.
Taking a little wide view, is there anything among the SEC teams this first week that surprise you or interest you?
I was kind of surprised with the Clemson-Auburn line that it has kind of stayed the same after Sammy Watkins got suspended. It was around 3.5 or four, Clemson being favored. Clemson loses their best playmaker, undoubtedly one of the best receivers in the ACC and in the country, and it didn’t really move much. The odds makers took it down for a little bit, but I think you can still find Clemson at 3.5 out there. There may be a few threes, but the lack of adjustment on that was kind of surprising.