10/28/2003 1:00AM

Dolphins-Chargers move stirs chaos

Email

Sunday evening, when it was announced that Monday night's Dolphins-Chargers was being moved from San Diego to Tempe, Ariz., because of the wildfires in Southern California, there was a lot of confusion in the sports betting industry as to whether or not bets on the game would be valid.

The line on the game originally opened with the Dolphins -4 1/2 and it had pretty much settled at -3 1/2 everywhere. When the announcement came, the game was taken off the betting boards in Las Vegas, and the line was adjusted to Dolphins -6.

Taking a game off the board in uncertain circumstances (injuries, player suspensions, weather concerns, etc.) and posting a new line is fairly common. But with a change of venue, many people had questions if earlier bets would be honored.

Most people assumed bets would be refunded, and in fact that's what Mandalay Bay, the Imperial Palace, and the Stardust and its sister Boyd Gaming properties decided to do. Their house rules, posted clearly in the sports book, state that a game must be played on the date and at the site specified or it is no action. Most offshore books handled it the same way, often citing "Las Vegas rules" in making the decision.

However, there are no across-the-board Las Vegas rules. Each book sets its own, and in fact, when a lot of Las Vegas books checked their house rules, the situation wasn't specifically addressed, and covered only a date change. Those books include the Park Place group, MGM Mirage, Coast Casinos, Station Casinos, Harrah's/Rio, and the Leroy's outlets.

It was interesting that for every criticism I heard about "how could they not cancel those wagers?" there were as many people saying, "a bet is a bet; they should count all bets as action."

Kudos to Station Casinos sports books, which allowed Charger bettors to come in and void their tickets at +3 1/2 and take the new number at +6. It's assumed no one came in to change their Dolphins' bets, so Station Casinos sports books were taking a risk at getting middled.

Ultimately, the Dolphins rolled to a 26-10 victory, so it was pretty much a case of "no harm, no foul." Here's hoping that all the sports book directors in town come together and establish a uniform set of house rules so we can eliminate confusing situations like this one in the future.

NFL betting stats

Because the Dolphins-Chargers game was played on a neutral field, I won't be using it in home/away betting stats (be aware of that if comparing stats here with those you might see elsewhere).

For instance, home underdogs went 2-1 against the spread this past week. Other stat-keepers might have it at 2-2 with the Chargers losing their "home" game. Road favorites still have an impressive record of 22-9 (winning 71 percent). Favorites as a whole went 8-6 last week and are 61-50 (still 55 percent) with three pushes against the closing Stardust line.

As mentioned in this space last week, we might be seeing the oddsmakers shade numbers toward the road teams as home-field advantage seems to be less and less of a factor. Road teams were only 5-8 last week to make their season-long record 64-48 (57 percent) with three pushes.

The NFC went 2-1 in interconference games last week to cut into the AFC's edge, now at 13-9-1. There are six interconference games this week.

Double-digit underdogs are now showing a profit at 5-4 against the spread after the Texans lost only 30-21 as a 13 1/ 2-point dog vs. the Colts last Sunday. There are no double-digit dogs this week, unless the Buccaneers get bet up from their -8 1/2 line vs. the Saints (Note: the Bucs did lose outright as a 9 1/2-point favorite over the Panthers in the second week of the season).

Looking at the spread records of individual teams, the Vikings' loss to the Giants dropped them to 6-1, moving them into a tie with the Patriots, who have covered six straight since their season-opening blowout loss to the Bills. The Colts and Cowboys, the only other teams at 5-1 entering last week, both failed to cover.

The Raiders (0-7 against the spread) and Falcons (1-6) maintained the worst spread records by far during their bye weeks. The Cardinals, previously 1-5, picked up a win over the weekend.

Thanks to hardly any scoring in the second half of their 38-5 blowout loss to the Chiefs Sunday night, the Bills improved to 7-1 with the under. The Dolphins also barely stayed under (thanks to a missed Olindo Mare field goal) on Monday night and are 7-1 with the under. The Texans are 6-1 with the over, while the Rams, Falcons, Jaguars, and Panthers all at 5-2.

Overall, the overs went 8-6 last week, but unders still hold a slight 59-55-1 edge for the season.

Early football lines moves

For the second straight week, only seven college lines moved Sunday night at the Stardust lottery for this weekend's games (see chart). Maybe that's not surprising since the early bettors went 1-6 against the Stardust openers last week and haven't been faring well all season. The biggest move was on home underdog Southern Methodist, which opened +18 vs. Fresno State and was bet down to +16, though probably more significant was the move on Rice, which opened at +7 1/2 vs. Nevada and crossed the key number to +6 1/2.

Despite only nine games on the NFL board, four of them moved, as early bettors went with three underdogs (the Redskins +4 1/2 down to +3 1/2 at the Cowboys, the Cardinals were taken at +3 vs. the Bengals until the book made bettors lay -120 on the Cards +3, and the Steelers from +4 1/2 to +4) and backed the Broncos, who opened at pick-'em in next Monday night's game vs. the Patriots, to a 2-point favorite. No totals moved.

Tackling the trends

Oregon State has covered its last four meetings with Arizona, but I'm not sure I would back Oregon State as a 22 1/ 2-point favorite. As bad as Arizona has been, an equally inconsistent Oregon State team could have trouble covering so big a number

Toledo is 10-1 against the spread in its last 11 regular-season Mid-American Conference games (Note the wording of that sentence conveniently excludes a push in last year's MAC title game vs. Marshall). But only once in that string has Toledo been asked to lay more than the 26 points it is giving to Buffalo this week. I will pass.

Virginia Tech has covered six of the last eight meetings with Miami. The Hokies were exposed in last week's loss to West Virginia, however, and I would pass with only getting +3 1/ 2 points on Saturday. Each of the last times Virginia Tech covered vs. Miami was when it was getting double-digit points.

NFL bankroll growing

The NFL bankroll plays continue to be red-hot, going 5-1 last week with wins on the Rams +1 1/2 at the Steelers (a comfortable 33-21 win), Giants +6 at the Vikings (a 29-17 outright upset), Titans -3 1/2 at Jaguars (an easy 30-17 win), Cardinals +7 vs. the 49ers (a 16-13 outright upset), and Dolphins -3 1/2 over the Chargers (an easy 26-10 win). The lone loss was on the Bills +6 1/2 at the Chiefs (a 38-5 blowout).

For the season, my NFL bankroll is 24-14 (a 63 percent win clip) with four pushes, for a net profit of 8.6 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).

I suffered a minor setback in the colleges, going 1-2. The winner was Oklahoma State -6 over Texas A&M (an easy 38-10 victory); the losses were Texas Tech -3 over Missouri (an embarrassing 62-31 loss - ouch!) and Boston College -4 over Notre Dame (a bad beat with BC leading 24-6 late in the third quarter only to give up two TD passes and then having a blocked punt run back for a Notre Dame TD - a late field goal gave BC a 27-25 win but not enough to cover).

The only problem is I pointed out five favorites that I liked but felt were laying too many points (Florida State, Kansas State, Nebraska, Southern Cal, and Kentucky): All five won and covered double-digit spreads. Avoiding those huge favorites is better in the long run, so I'm not kicking myself too hard. Besides, three underdogs I also mentioned went 1-2 against the spread, so I'm glad I passed on those.

For the season, my college bankroll plays are 23-19 for a net profit of 2.1 units.

Combined, my NFL and college bankrolls are 47-33-4 for a net profit 10.7 units. Note that the record is 14 games over .500, but there's the equivalent loss of 3.3 units with the 10 percent vig on losing wagers.