Singing the Vegas Wagering Blues

October 03, 2007 | Ed Frankovic

So this past Friday I am on a plane to Vegas for my annual weekend of great sports watching and wagering. Anyone who has ever been to Vegas during football season knows how much fun it is to sit in a sports book or bar with a whole bunch of other people who are rooting and wagering on the games. With multiple games on at once and money on almost every team it is rare to go a couple of minutes without a loud cheer or groan. It is great theater and I can only imagine how crazy it must be in Vegas during March Madness.

I don’t consider myself much of an expert on picking college football – I focus mainly on the pro game – so this year I decide to arm myself with the 10 picks Todd Helmick provided on his WNST blog last week (see Now I’ve heard Todd on Bob Haynie’s show numerous times and he seems to know college football so I figured, why not play all of his picks and see how I do with the so-called expert’s choices in my hip pocket in Sin City? I get up early Saturday morning and am able to play 9 of Todd’s 10 picks (they aren’t taking any wagers on the over/under for the LSU/Tulane game). I also decide to take Miami (-24.5) against Duke and play a parlay card with 3 of Todd’s picks (Oklahoma, Michigan, and USC). Being a major puckhead, I also place a small wager on the over (6 goals) in the NHL season opener in London, England between the Ducks and Kings that is slated for 9am Vegas time.

Usually you can count on having ups and downs during a day but it becomes apparent really quick that this might not be my day, especially when the hockey game is DELAYED 33 minutes because they can’t get the stinking lights on!!!

Here are some of the highlights (or lowlights) on the games Todd picked that I wagered on:

Penn State-Illinois (Under at 44.5) turns into a first half shootout with 38 points total in the first half. When you need the under a kickoff return for a TD is never a good sign. So much for Penn State’s lousy QB and good defense. The final score is 27-20.

Mississippi State, who supposedly has a really good defense, and South Carolina (another supposedly good defensive team) get into a shootout that Spurrier and Co. (who I affectionately call “Chuck and Duck” from his Redskin head coaching days) win 38-21 (Under at 41.5).

Michigan (-17), after a horrible first half , puts in Chad Henne and rallies back to take the lead, 28-16, against Northwestern and is deep in Wildcat territory with 2 minutes left. At this point I’m thinking Lloyd Carr can get a lot of Michigan boosters off his back if he scores again and covers the 17 point spread. Instead he takes a knee.  Bad move Lloyd, you need all the support you can get after the loss to App State. I hope the Michigan boosters eat you for lunch this week.

Baylor (+17) plays Texas A&M tough for  much of the game but starts folding in the 4th quarter and the Aggies, unlike Michigan, throw the ball deep with a 17 point lead with 3 minutes left to extend their lead to 24 points (I bet those Aggie boosters are happy with that!). No problem I surmise, I can still get a push if Baylor gets a consolation TD and sure enough they start driving but on 4th and 15 at midfield the Baylor coach decides to punt. PUNT??!! Who the heck punts down 24 points at midfield with under 2 minutes left??!! This is becoming a horror show, I scream “Fire that coach!”

Oklahoma (-24.5) is cruising in the first half up 24-7 over Colorado. This looks like a sure win but Colorado goes nuts in the second half and actually WINS the game 27-24 on a last second field goal!! Bye-bye national title hopes for the Sooners.

USC (-21) at Washington is up 14-7 and driving late in the first half when a 3rd down pass goes off the hands of a USC receiver directly to a Washington defender who takes it all the way to the house to tie the game at 14. So much for covering the spread after that play and USC barely survives the game with a 3 point win. The Trojans look like No. 1 frauds to me. (LSU is the best team in the country in my opinion at this point).

Virginia Tech (-19) home against UNC plays great defense but has an offense that rivals the October 2000 Ravens and barely hangs on to win 17-10.

Air Force (+2.5) has no defense or place-kicker and falls to Navy 31-20.

Nick “I’m staying in Miami” Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide (+2) have no offense in a pitiful display at Tallahasse as they lose 21-14 to the Florida State Criminoles.

So believe it or not, I manage to lose EVERY SINGLE ONE of the above Helmick wagers!! I understand the “expert” having a bad day, but how does he lose all 10 of the games he blogs about (LSU and Tulane go under 49 points to round out the 10 Helmick picks from his blog)??!! Helmick is no longer referred to as “expert” when his name is mentioned the rest of the day.

Now I have a mathematics background so I don’t know how much the average guy knows about statistics but the odds on picking 10 games and losing all 10 of them are 1023 to 1!! Todd manages to do this on this day. Oh and did I mention I lost the Miami, hockey, and parlay wagers so I am 0 for 13 on my Saturday morning bets?? I also lose on Clemson and the Florida Gators with additional wagers. My only win is taking California on the money line over Oregon but that was just piggybacking on the bet of a friend of mine who was making Helmick look like the village idiot because he was winning left and right. Throwing more salt in the wound that same friend flips over a parlay card and shows me that had I bet the opposite on the 10 Todd Helmick games I would have gotten 700 times the amount I bet (Vegas never pays true odds)!!!!  Luckily I am cheered up by the fact that Maryland upsets Rutgers (thanks to Turner coming in for Steffy at QB). After a long day I think to myself: Sunday has got to better.

As you all know I am a HUGE Ravens fan but one thing I never do is wager on my team. Thank goodness I stick to this axiom today. If you read my blog last week you would know that I wrote that Cleveland LIVES to play the Ravens and the Ravens rarely get up for the Browns. From the opening kickoff on it is apparent that this trend will definitely continue. Once again the Ravens fail to match the energy level of the Browns in Cleveland and are blown out despite having a huge time of possession advantage, 26 first downs, over 400 yards of offense, and never having to punt. I’ll talk more about the Ravens problems and issues later in the week.

Back to my wagering…after the Saturday holocaust I decide to play it closer to the vest with the NFL. My only wager on the 1pm games is a 3 team parlay. I take the Cowboys (-13.5) against the Rams, Brett Favre and the Pack (-1.5) against the Vikes, and the Bears (-3) at the Lions. Hitting on all 3 teams pays 5.5 to 1 so I am hoping to cut into some of Saturday’s losses. Shortly after I make my bet a Bears fan from Chicago sits down next to me and tells me he just bet a ton on the Lions because the entire Bears secondary is out and 2 other key defenders are hurt. Here we go again I mutter, but I do remind myself and the guy that Brian Griese is taking over for Rex Grossman. The Bears fan tells me it won’t matter. For 3 quarters it looks I might be okay with the Bears up 13-3 but then Griese starts throwing to the guys in blue allowing the Lions to score an NFL record 34 points in the 4th quarter and win 37-27. The losing streak continues.

No problem, time to regroup for the 4 o’clock games. I take the Colts (-10) straight up and play a 3 team parlay of Steelers (-6), Colts (-9.5), and Chargers (-12.5). At halftime the parlay looks great, I even bet the Charges in the 2nd half wager, but it all goes to hell in a handbag in the 2nd half and I lose on both the Chargers and Steelers. The only solace I have at this point is enjoying that the large throng of Pittsburgh fans around me are now just as miserable as I am today. Me and my friends do enjoy several laughs at the expense of Norv “how to take a 14-2 team and turn it into an 8-8 one” Turner.

I then receive a text message from Nestor. I tell him I’m in Vegas and losing. He texts me back with “ouch…but it can’t get much worse than being stuck in Cleveland for 3 more hours.” I inform Nestor that the Steelers lost. Hopefully that makes his wait more tolerable.

I take my only winning ticket (the Colts -10) and roll into a final bet on the Sunday Night Game taking the over in the Eagles/Giants game. The week before McNabb and Philly put up 56 and the Giants scored 24 so at 48 I’m thinking this is like shooting fish in a barrel. Little did I know Brian Westbrook decides not to play and the Giants record 12 sacks in a 16-3 win. Sadly I now have to leave Vegas on Monday before I can try and make money back on the dazzling and scary New England Patriots.

Overall on sports wagers I go 2-17 and that doesn’t count the money I lose betting on Street Sense, the 2007 Kentucky Derby winner, in a 4 horse race at Turfway (he only had to beat Hard Spun and couldn’t do it)!!!

All in all the Vegas wagering weekend is a disaster. On the positive side though, perhaps ESPN’s Nick Bakay will hire me and Todd Helmick to be his new sidekicks on his “Livin the Dream” skits on ESPN?? LOL!!! Oh well, wait until next year Vegas!!