11/02/2004 1:00AM

Rotation helps bettors stay organized

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LAS VEGAS - If you're like a lot of football and basketball bettors, you probably got your schedule books this past week with the Don Best Official International Rotation.

The basketball books coincide with the start of the NBA season on Tuesday, and the current football books - which are produced in four-week segments to stay on top of day/time changes - also started Tuesday.

They're available in most every sports book here in Nevada, and are also printed and distributed by offshore books. You might also see some with ads from touts such as Jim Feist.

In fact, Feist's company, National Sports Services, used to set the rotation - the order in which the games are listed, so there's continuity when you go from one book to another, or look at a betting list like the one in Daily Racing Form by Las Vegas Sports Consultants - during the 1990's.

"Around five years ago, our company wanted to be a one-stop shop for bettors, so we decided to get into the rotation business," said Rick Allec, general manager of Don Best Sports. "It was a competition at first, but after six months or a year, Feist realized it would be cheaper for him to just buy the list from us instead of devoting his staff to it."

Allec said three employees put the rotation together. He said the pro schedules are much easier, with the leagues pretty much setting their schedules in stone months in advance. A lot more time is devoted to contacting colleges and confirming games.

"There's a lot of cross-reference that has to be done, especially when we have one school saying a game is on one day or a certain time and their own opponent tells us something else," Allec said. "When it comes time to finalize the list, there's still a lot of double-checking to make it as accurate as possible."

One question I've always had, and I've heard others wonder the same thing, is how is the order of games determined?

"We put them in time order," Allec said, pointing out that a lot of conference games are bunched together simply because schools in the same time zone will usually start around the same time. "But this is proprietary information and we're selling the list, and we don't want people to know how it'll come out, so we do randomly switch some games around."

Late time changes after the rotations are set are inevitable - especially with the growing influence of TV on when games are played - so changes are updated at DonBest.com. The core business of Don Best is its line services, in which bettors (and sports books) can monitor live line moves at a lot of different books and use that information as they see fit.

"As I said, we want to be a one-stop shop for our clients," Allec said. "We have the official rotation, people can check all the lines to get the best number out there, they can use our matchup stats to do their own handicapping, or can buy selections from our experts, and then they can get all the scores to see how they did."

NFL betting trends

Many times, I've written that NFL betting trends almost always regress to the mean, or come back to .500, because oddsmakers tend to adjust until they can suck all the value out of one side and make everything a 50-50 proposition - whether it's sides, totals, or any other category.

Anyone who has heeded that advice should have done very well the past few weeks. Too bad I don't practice what I preach.

Through the first six weeks of the season, home-field advantage hardly existed in the NFL as road teams were 51-33-4 (61 percent) against the spread with four pushes. Over the past two weeks, home teams are 18-9-1 against the spread, including 9-5 this past weekend. Road teams are still at 60-51-5 (54 percent) overall, but much less profitable, especially when the 10 percent vigorish is factored in.

Home underdogs have really benefited from that reversal in fortune. Through six weeks, they were 11-16-1, but they've been 6-1 the last two weeks (4-0 two weeks ago and 2-1 this past Sunday, with wins by the Chiefs and Steelers and a loss by the Redskins) and have evened the ledger at 17-17-1 overall. There are six home underdogs this week: Bills +3 vs. the Jets, Steelers +1 1/2 vs. the Eagles, Bengals +1 1/2 vs. the Cowboys, Buccaneers +3 vs. the Chiefs, 49ers +6 1/2 vs. the Seahawks, and the Rams +2 1/2 vs. the Patriots.

Underdogs as a whole had been faring well, winning the battle over the favorites in each of the five previous weeks, but favorites went 8-6 this past weekend and dogs only lead the season by a 58-53-5 margin.

Through the first four weeks of the season, unders were hitting at a 60 percent clip at 36-24. Since then, overs have gone 32-22-2, including 11-3 this past weekend, to trim the unders' lead to 58-56-2.

There were no double-digit favorites, but again the teams with the highest point spreads failed to cover. Of teams favored by 7 or more, the Jets were the lone exception as the Eagles, Vikings, Broncos, and Seahawks all failed to cover (and the Vikings and Broncos lost outright).

The AFC continued its dominance, going 2-1 last week to improve to

15-10-1 (60 percent) on the season. There are eight interconference games this week.

Who's hot, who's not

The Chargers have taken the lead as the NFL's top point-spread team at 6-1-1. The other top teams all lost, as the Patriots are now 4-1-2, the Eagles 5-2, the Colts 4-2-1, and the Jaguars 5-3.

The Bengals are the worst spread team at 1-6, while the Dolphins and Raiders are 2-6, and the Redskins and Saints are 2-5.

In totals wagering, the Steelers are 6-1 with the over, with the Colts, Rams, and Saints at 5-2.

The Panthers finally had an over (by one point) but are still 5-1-1 with the under, followed by the Jaguars at 6-2, the Ravens, Bears, and Redskins at 5-2, and the Broncos at 5-2-1.

College, NFL bankrolls slip

My college bankroll plays went 1-2-1 with a win on Oklahoma St. +13 vs. Oklahoma, losses on Colorado +14 vs. Colorado and Arizona St. +15 1/2 vs. California, and a push on Florida +7 vs. Georgia. That drops my college season record to 17-16-1 for a net loss of 0.6 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).

In the NFL, I went 2-3 with wins on the Packers -2 over the Redskins and Ravens +7 1/2 vs. the Eagles, but lost on the Jaguars +1 vs. the Texans, the Patriots -3 vs. the Steelers, and the 49ers +2 vs. the Bears. My NFL season bankroll stands at 17-22-1 for a net loss of 7.2 units.