Updated on 09/15/2011 1:21PM

Bookies make right adjustments


The Steelers' 34-7 victory over the Titans Monday night helped the majority of bettors salvage a losing weekend. But it probably didn't bail them out for the month.

After a September in which NFL favorites covered at a surprising 26-15 rate (63.4 percent) - and cost Nevada's sports books a lot of money - chalk players saw a reversal of fortune in October as NFL favorites went just 18-36 (33.3 percent). The figures discount all pushes, which are refunded anyway.

We're talking in general terms here - obviously, no one bets only favorites or only underdogs - but the composite picture of John Q. Public is pretty accurate.

It also shows how adept bookmakers are at adjusting the lines to balance their books in the long run. What goes up must come down, and vice versa.

Take the over/unders in the NFL as another example. In September, the under was 24-18 (57.1 percent). When it looked like defenses might be dominant this year, books shaded the totals lower by a point here and a point there. In October, the overs had the egde, 30-25, a 54.5 percent winning margin.

After the recent offensive explosion (10 teams scored 30 points or more last weekend), during which the over went 11-3, there are five totals over 40 points this week and certain to be a sixth on the Colts-Bills line, which was off the board as of Tuesday morning, but will be posted later this week. It might be a good time to start looking at the unders again if the John Q. Public bets those higher.

Season-long contest updates

On Friday night, I will be going against Coast Resorts sports director Bert Osborne in the Stardust Invitational at 9 p.m. in the Stardust sports book, and broadcast live on KDWN-AM 720. The competition is a single-elimination tournament among 16 handicappers. Each week features a head-to-head matchup in which contestants make seven plays (college or pro, sides or totals), including a best bet for a tiebreaker.

Bob Donahue became the sixth contestant to move into the second round with a 5-1 record (his best bet was on East Carolina on Tuesday night) against Napoleon McCallum's 4-3 mark. McCallum hit his best bet with his former team, the Raiders, and also took his alma mater, Navy, to cover against Toledo. When the crowd good-naturedly booed him following his Navy selection, McCallum said, "Hey, I put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into Navy. Besides, you people should be more patriotic!" Navy easily covered the 29-point spread in a 21-20 loss.

Donahue advances to join defending champion Dave Cokin, Pete Korner, Tim Trushel, Peter Forsythe and Stephen Nover. The final first-round matchup is Friday between last year's runner-up, Stanford Wong, and Mike Orkin.

* Donahue also took the lead in the Sunset Station All-Star Handicappers Invitational. He went 4-1-1, including a best-bet winner on Florida State, in a contest that awards two points for a win, three for a best-bet win, and one for any push. Donahue entered the week in a tie with Rob Veno with 48 points. Donahue's 10-spot gives him the lead at 58 points, with Bryan Leonard moving into second with 54, followed by Veno (52) and Trushel (51), who went 6-0 last week.

* The Bud Man continues to handicap the competition under the table in the Las Vegas Hilton's SuperContest. He went 4-1 this past weekend to improve his overall record to 24-8-3 for 25 1/2 contest points (one point is awarded for a win and a half-point for a push). The Bud Man is hitting 75 percent of his selections - the Hilton awards a $10,000 bonus for anyone above 67 percent at the end of the season - and holds a one-game lead over Tony Salinas and JMP, who both are 24-10-1. Salinas is the hottest handicapper, with his second straight 5-0 week.

* Both survivors in the Eliminator contest lost with their picks last weekend. The contest, jointly run by Bally's Las Vegas and the Reno Hilton, cost $50. In it, contestants make one pick each week against the spread. You win, you stay alive. You lose, you're out. The contest drew 163 entrants, so the two finalists will split the $8,150 prize pool.

Bankrolls losing to the vig

My college bankroll, which started the season at 1,000 units and entered the week at 976, lost its first two games last Saturday, on Oklahoma and UCLA, and then bounced back with later wins by South Carolina and Washington. I was wagering 11 units to win 10 on each game, so I lost the vig to drop the bankroll to 974 on a season-long record of 14-15. Darn that vig. I have no plays for Thursday night's two games, though I lean toward North Carolina +4 and BYU -14.

In the NFL, I won a 22-unit play last Thursday on the Colts, and followed it up with a 22-unit best-bet win with the Panthers on Sunday.

In other early games Sunday, I lost 11 units each on the Jets-Panthers over, the Vikings, and the 49ers-Bears under. I then got back on the winning track with the Raiders and Dolphins. After all that, I was ahead 27 units for the week to bring the bankroll back up to 986 based on a season-long record of 18-17-1 on sides, including 4-4 on best bets, and 4-4 on totals.

Alas, hovering around 50 percent won't beat the vig.