05/11/2005 11:00PM

Plaza gets a jump on the NFL action


For years, the Imperial Palace was the first to post NFL over/under season win-total proposition wagers. But this year, Lou D'Amico of the Plaza, located at Main and Fremont streets in downtown Vegas, beat the IP out of the gate.

While the IP and the Hilton are expected to post their over/under win totals this weekend, the Plaza has had its up since last Saturday.

"We knew we would have a big crowd here for the Derby," D'Amico said, "so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of football for them to bet."

That's an understatement, as the Plaza also has point spreads on every single NFL game this season, a total of 256, from the opening game on Thursday, Sept. 8 - the defending champion Patriots are -7 at home vs. the Raiders - to the regular-season finale on Sunday night, Jan. 1 - the Cowboys are -2 at home vs. the Rams.

D'Amico did the same thing last year when he took over the Plaza right before the season started (and he also did it for the Arena Football League), but to put up every game four months before the opening weekend is really ambitious.

"These are mostly aimed at people who can't make it back to Vegas during the season and want to bet their favorite team," D'Amico said. "We had one guy last year who bet $500 on each of the Falcons' games."

As for the over/under season win totals, the Plaza has the Colts with the highest total of 12. With a 30-cent line, bettors thinking they'll exceed that total have to lay -120 (risk $1.20 for every $1 you want to profit) and those thinking they won't reach 12 have to lay -110. If the Colts win exactly 12 games, it's a push and all bets are refunded.

D'Amico said setting the numbers is a mix of evaluating the talent and looking at each team's schedule. It probably also helps that he has set a line on every game for the season.

D'Amico said the Plaza assigned the Colts the highest total "because they're obviously very talented - there's no secret there - and they seem to be in that three- to four-year window that a lot of top teams get in. Peyton Manning will be doing his thing, and this could be their year."

Last year's two Super Bowl participants, the Patriots and Eagles, are both at 11 1/2 wins, though the over is a steep -150 favorite on the Eagles, while the under is at -150 on the Pats. D'Amico said his staff didn't worry too much about the Terrell Owens contract controversy.

"We knew it was out there," he said, "but we figure it will be resolved and he'll be playing. The Eagles have a lot of talent and have had a taste of the Super Bowl and look like the top team in the NFC again."

D'Amico said action has been a little slow on the over/under season win totals, but expects it to pick up when the Hilton and IP post theirs.

"We've taken some bets, but not too much," he said. "People come in and look at them, but, as you know, the professionals like to compare the numbers before betting so they get the best possible number, and they even shoot for middles with these bets."

D'Amico said he doesn't have a betting limit posted, but that he'll take bets of a few thousand and is willing to take more from regular casino customers.

Being the first to post odds such as this always carries some risk. Last year, most books kept the 49ers off the board because quarterback Jeff Garcia had left, and his replacement, Tim Rattay, had undergone off-season groin surgery. And no one saw the August retirement of Ricky Williams coming when odds were posted in May. But D'Amico said that's all part of the game.

"We feel pretty confident with the numbers where we have them," D'Amico said. "Of course, we have to look out for injuries and keep on top of the news every day, just like the bettors do."

As is usually the case in the NFL's parity era, the vast majority of teams have totals within a few games of .500. Only five of the 32 teams have totals of 10 or higher, and just four have totals below six. In fact, exactly half (16) of the league's teams are listed between seven and nine wins. It seems a little strange, however, that only one team - the Chargers - has a total of exactly eight.

A sign that the numbers are pretty solid is that when I look at a team's win total before looking at the odds and go with my gut reaction, it invariably seems that the side I like is favored. The Broncos over 8 1/2? I would have to lay -125. The Rams under 9? I'd have to lay -145. The Bills over 7 1/2? That's -135. The Bears over 5 1/2? That's a steep -160.

I prefer to take plus-prices when the opportunity presents itself, and the best appear to be the Packers over 8 1/2 at +110 and the Saints over 7 1/2 at +105.

Of course, that's before seeing what else is going to be available this weekend. Let the NFL shopping season begin.

NFL over/under season win totals
Courtesy of the Plaza

Team# winsoverunder