In this week’s What Vegas Thinks, David Purdum and I talk about the South Carolina-Vanderbilt line and how much difference a half-point can make for folks looking to wager on the game. We also look at Texas A&M vs. Alabama, and he tells how one sportsbook changed the odds on the game dramatically one week before the ESPN story about Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel broke.
The State: Let’s talk about the South Carolina-Vanderbilt line this week
Purdum: It opened at 14.5 at the Wynn. Been bet down to 13.5. I believe a few offshore shops had it a little lower earlier in the week, but 13.5 seems to be the consensus right now.
The State: Is the fact the line was bet down a reflection of South Carolina’s showing against Georgia or just the natural course of events?
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Purdum: Probably a little bit of both. I think even though Vanderbilt lost in their opener, I thought they looked impressive. South Carolina is probably a little bit deflated coming off that loss to Georgia. When it’s over two touchdowns like (it was), it’s not unusual for the bigger bettors, who actually move the money, to go ahead and grab that half point, which gives them over two touchdowns. We’ll see what it does throughout the weekend.
The State: Those half-point swings may not seem big but can actually make a big difference in where the money goes, right?
Purdum: The more I have reported on these industry, the more of the wise guys and sharp bettors say those key numbers are the most important thing. They are going to take 14.5. Now that it’s at 13.5, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them bet South Carolina at minus-13.5. They’ve already got Vanderbilt at plus 14.5. That way if the game were to land right on 14, they would win both sides and they are only risking a minimal amount of money.
The State: Now, let’s talk about Alabama-Texas A&M. I know that line went off the board for a while when Johnny Manziel’s eligibility was in question, but he’s back on board now. What’s it look like?
Purdum: It’s one of the craziest line movements I have seen in the last five years. It opened at 6.5 (Texas A&M getting the points) way back in June, goes up a little bit to 7, and then a week before the Manziel allegations came out in the ESPN report about the alleged illegal signings, it shot up to 9.5 at one of the prominent offshore books. Everybody was like, ‘What’s going on there?’ Then the story breaks a week later. It has know come back down a little bit, but it has really teetered back and forth. It is a very interesting line.
The State: You talk about the line moving a week before the story breaks. Clearly, they knew it was coming right?
Purdum: They usually find out from the bettors. Some big respected player will come and make a large bet, and they’ll go, “Hmm, something is up, and they’ll start looking into it.” I emailed with the oddsmaker at this offshore book, Pinnacle Sports, it’s one of the most prominent offshore books in the world, and they said, “Big money came in just before this announcement that forced us to move that line 2.5 points.” That story dealt with a lot of tickets brokers, memorabilia people, so it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the memorabilia dealers involved in that said, “You know what? I’m going to try to make a little money on this. It looks like Manziel is going to get suspended. Let me put all I’ve got on Alabama.”
The State: You can see how the system could be manipulated can’t you?
Purdum: Without question. You think about the reporters who were involved, the editors who were involved, the sources that were involved. Very easy if some kid is getting suspended and you know it’s going to happen before everybody else does and you get your bet down. It’s a shady part of the industry.
Purdum: Let me leave you with a nugget. South Carolina fell all the way to 60-to-1 to win the national championship. If you want to bet South Carolina still has a chance, now’s the time to grab them. (The Gamecocks were 20-to-1 before their 41-30 loss to Georgia.)