Updated on 09/15/2011 2:01PM

As lines move, so move winners


The Stardust "lottery" is sports betting's equivalent to the New York Stock Exchange. Big bettors line up to get an early crack at the first spreads to go up in Las Vegas, wagering up to $5,000 on colleges and $10,000 on the pros.

Some are looking for value. Others are betting early in hopes that the public will bet the same team and move the line, allowing them to then bet the other side and go for a middle. You could say these sports investors are adhering to the time-honored advice of "buy low, sell high."

Bettors streamed to the window shortly after the kickoff of the Dolphins-Titans game Sunday at 5:35 p.m. Pacific. By halftime, lines on 24 of the 49 posted games had moved. There were 28 college line moves, including multiple moves on the same games, before the first NFL bet was taken.

No. 2-ranked Florida got its share of attention. Florida was bet from an opening 10 1/2-point favorite over Tennessee up to 12 points.

But a lot of the really sharp college football handicappers focus on teams from smaller conferences, hoping the homework will pay off against bookmakers who have to put up lines on 49 college games. Louisiana-Monroe was bet down from a 29-point underdog against Cincinnati to a 27-point dog, and Central Michigan and bet down from a 20 1/2-point underdog against Boise St. to 18 1/2 points.

Other moves included Duke (from a 26-point dog against Clemson down to 24) and Iowa (a 3-point favorite bet up to 4 1/2 at the lottery and up to 5 1/2 by Monday morning).

By halftime of the Dolphins-Titans game, only three NFL lines had moved. The Buccaneers opened as a 5-point choice over the Eagles, but Eagle money moved the line all the way down to 3 1/2 (and down to 3 by Monday morning). Another NFC East dog also got money as the Cardinals opened as a 5 1/2-point underdog to the Redskins, and that line was also bet down to 3 1/2 (and also down to 3 by Monday morning).

The only other line to move was the Saints, bet from an opening 6 1/2-point favorite over the 49ers up to 7.

Here's the importance of knowing the opening point moves: If you had been on the early line moves in Week 1 of the NFL, you would have been 4-1 against the spread, winning with the Colts, Raiders, Cowboys and Eagles and losing only with the Steelers. (If you had waited to get the Raiders -3 and the Eagles +3, those would have been pushes instead of wins). In the college games, line moves of 1 or more points were 11-6 against the spread.

Big weekend for bettors

As a group, Nevada's football bettors had a good weekend in their battle against the state's legal bookmakers. However, bettors ran into trouble on parlays, where one loss kills a ticket.

Among big college football winners for the players were Iowa (bet from 10 1/2 to 18), Miami-Fla. (bet from 41 to 44 1/2), BYU (bet from 1 1/2 to 6 1/2), and South Carolina (bet from an opening 3-point dog to a 1 1/2-point favorite).

The trend continued Sunday as bettors cashed big on the Colts (bet from a 1-point dog to a 2 1/ 2-point favorite), Saints (bet from a 1-point dog to a 3-point favorite), and Packers (bet from 5 1/2 to 6 1/2). Some books, such as the Stardust, got sided on games that were decided by 3 points. The Raiders opened as a 1 1/2-point choice over the Chiefs, the Seahawks opened as 4 1/2 favorites over the Browns and the Rams opened as 4-point favorites over the Eagles. All three games closed at 3, meaning early bettors won their bets while all action at 3 was refunded.

"If the Panthers hadn't beaten the Vikings, it would have been a disaster," said Joe Lupo, race and sports book director at the Stardust. "The Titans losing to the Dolphins also saved our bacon because we had a lot of late money on Tennessee. But the parlay cards helped us out again, especially since we had the Raiders and Rams both -3 1/2."

Hewitt upsets at +220

The U.S. Open offered thrilling tennis and attracted "decent" action according to a number of sports book directors around town. Lleyton Hewitt, who was a +220 (bet $1 to win $2.20) underdog at the Stardust and +210 at Stations Casinos, beat Pete Sampras 7-6, 6-1, 6-1 in the men's final and bettors fared well. However, the handle on the title match paled in comparison to the quarterfinal match between Sampras and Andre Agassi, which Sampras won 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6.

The Stardust didn't put odds on the championship match between Venus Williams and Serena Williams, but Venus was a -155 favorite at Station Casinos. She beat Serena, 6-2, 6-4.

Few believed in Bonds

Barry Bonds hit three homers (Nos. 61-63) Sunday to get back on pace to break Mark McGwire's record. Several sports books (Imperial Palace, Stardust, Station Casinos, Mandalay Bay) had prop bets earlier this summer on whether Bonds would accomplish the feat and most of them got a lot of money on the "no."

Bettors figured the pressure of the chase (not to mention the pennant race), the fact that contending teams will walk Bonds down the stretch, and the possibility of injury would not give the slugger enough chances to catch Big Mac. The bookmakers need Bonds to hit eight homers the Giants' last 18 games to bail them out.