09/19/2005 12:00AM

Evidence is in: Bettors sting books


After enjoying a banner start to the football season, the sports books here got roughed up a little this past weekend.

Some sports book directors will come right out and say if they won or lost, but you sometimes have to take that with the proverbial grain of salt, especially with publicly traded casino companies. Sometimes, sports books directors will say "We had an okay week" when they've cleaned up and don't want to gloat and add insult to injury. Conversely, when they have a big losing week, they might say "We were a small loser" because they (or more specifically their bosses) don't want stock-holders to panic.

So with no black-and-white published earnings/loss reports, this is where gaming reporters turn to anecdotal evidence. The results of side bets don't always tell the whole story either, because parlay cards can play a big part in the books' bottom lines. Some weeks the books can hold 30 to 50 percent of the parlay card business, and other times they can see their whole profits negated by one huge ticket. But all in all, side betting can be a pretty good barometer.

Here are some indicators that the bettors beat the books this week:

* Professional bettors did very well when the first numbers were put up a week ago Sunday. For the most part, the "wise guys" who attack the early lines are shopping for the best number and will often shoot for middles when lines differ among books. So, in many weeks the bettors will have a winning week vs. a book or two but losers against the others.

This past week, the early bettors did well against all of them, showing that they were on the right side of the majority of games. Early bettors at the Stardust went 9-2 against the spread in the 11 college games that took enough money to move the line (the Stardust has a $5,000 limit on Sunday nights), and 7-1 in the NFL. At the Stratosphere, bettors were 8-5 against the spread in the colleges and 6-1 in the NFL. At the Las Vegas Hilton, where they post just the NFL lines on Sunday afternoon, bettors were 6-3.

That was all heading into Monday night. The books needed underdogs in both Monday games, as the early bettors pounded the Giants at -3 vs. the Saints and bet the Cowboys from -5 to -6 vs. the Redskins.

* Even the bettors who put in plays later in the week came out on top. In the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest, the consensus plays were 8-6 against the spread on Sunday, but more accurately reflecting public sentiment, were 3-1 in the top five consensus plays with the fifth being the Giants -3.

* In the Leroy's College Challenge, the top four consensus plays all won and the top 10 went 7-3, and the top 14 plays went 11-3.

When the public gets on that much of a roll, not even the vig can help the books.

This weekend's opening moves

If you're looking to follow the money (though I warn you that these things do tend to reverse quickly), here's the biggest line moves for the upcoming week:

* In Wednesday night's ESPN2 game, the Stardust opened Boise State as a 9 1/2-point favorite vs. Bowling Green and it got bet to 9 right away and then to 8 1/2 by Monday morning. The Stratosphere, which takes $4,000 on college games, had opened at 8.

* In Thursday night's ESPN game, the Stardust opened Utah -9 vs. Air Force and the Stratosphere opened at 8 1/2, and both got bet to 8.

* On Saturday, the Stardust opened Northern Illinois -8 1/2 vs. Akron and it got bet to 6 (the Stratosphere's opening number), Michigan went from -1 1/2 to -3 vs. Wisconsin at the Stardust (the Strat opened Michigan -2 1/2), and UTEP went from -3 1/2 to 2 1/2 vs. New Mexico (bypassing the Strat's -3).

* In the NFL, the Imperial Palace opened the Eagles -7 1/2 vs. the Raiders and saw it quickly get bet to 8 and then 8 1/2. The Hilton and Stratosphere opened at 9 1/2 and 10, respectively. The Stardust didn't have a line up because the Raiders were playing Sunday night when it put up its lines. On Monday morning, the Stardust put up 8 1/2 and that's where everyone else had it.

* The Hilton opened the Bengals-Bears game at pick-em and took Bengals action right away, as did the Stratosphere, which opened Bengals -1 1/2. Both got bet to 3, which was a solid number by Monday morning.

* Early money showed everywhere for the Buccaneers vs. the Packers. The Bucs opened -1 at the Hilton, followed by the Stratosphere at 1 1/2 and the Stardust at 2 1/2. All of them got bet to -3.

Favorites sweep at MGM fights

Bettors didn't fare as well on Saturday night's fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Marco Antonio Barrera and Sugar Shane Mosley easily won their bouts as big favorites over Robbie Peden and Jose Luis Cruz, respectively, after money showed for both underdogs.

The card was promoted as a celebration of Mexican Independence Day, but the size of the crowd and the level of excitement was down in comparison with previous fights held on days of Mexican celebration, such as on Cinco de Mayo or any time Oscar De La Hoya has been in the ring. Of course, that probably had to do with the fact De La Hoya was promoting the card instead of fighting.

But as boring as the Barrera and Mosley fights turned out to be, the low point of the evening was watching Leavander Johnson take a beating by Jesus Chavez in their IBF lightweight championship bout. Chavez was in control throughout the fight and many ringside observers felt the bout should have been stopped when Johnson was examined by ringside officials after the 10th round, but he was allowed to continue. Chavez pummeled Johnson with repeated blows to the head in the 11th round before referee Tony Weeks stopped the beating.

Johnson left the ring under his own power, but collapsed in his dressing room and went to University Medical Center for emergency brain surgery. He was in a medically induced coma but reportedly improving as of Monday morning.