12/13/2012 3:54PM

Tuley: Vegas sports books feel pain after Marquez's KO win


LAS VEGAS – Juan Manuel Marquez knocked out the great Manny Pacquiao last Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

After the referee counted Pac-man out, doctors rushed in to make sure he was okay. He slowly regained consciousness. Meanwhile, all over town, sports books directors were feeling just as woozy. Marquez might as well have landed his strong right hand upside their heads.

Sports books took a bath on the fight. Pacquiao opened as high as a –370 favorite (risk $3.70 for every $1 you want to profit) with Marquez around +300 (odds of 3-1). The line slowly came down the past few months as it often does in big fights with Marquez closing as just a +180 underdog. Now, what usually happens is that the big bettors will wait for the favorite to be bet low enough where they feel there’s value on them and they end up helping the casinos balance their books with big bets on the chalk. Well, that didn’t happen last Saturday. Pacquiao went down as low as –210, and there were still relatively few takers as wiseguys also had jumped on the underdog.

The knockout result also hurt the books as “Marquez by KO” was offered around 6-1 in the five-way betting prop that also included “Pacquiao by decision,” “Pacquiao by KO,” and even “Marquez by decision.” It was the longest shot on the board, except for the draw at 12-1.

But the losing day for the books isn’t anything new this fall. After winning a record $43.5 million in September (according to figures released by the Nevada Gaming Control Board) when the underdogs ruled in the NFL and every major decision seemed to go their way, the books have slowing been giving it all back.

The sports books lost $6.2 million in October on football (the GBC doesn’t separate college from pro), and we’re still waiting for the November figures which will be coming out the first week of January. Some of the casinos are privately held and aren’t about to share their exact wins and losses, and the public companies also don’t like to discuss these things so as not to panic stockholders. That’s why you’ll often see in my stories or from other sports gaming journalists that the books “pretty much broke even” or “had a small win.” If anything approaching dollar amounts are used, it’s usually in a vague or colloquial sense like “we won a ham sandwich” (that’s a favorite of Jimmy Vaccaro, who is now with William Hill) or “we lost six figures.”

Even so, in talking to sports book directors and conversations with other journalists who have done the same, November could be a record-setting losing month. It all started with the games of Sunday, Nov. 4, where every major decision went against the books (favorites were 10-4 against the spread that week, and all the underdogs that covered (like the Steelers as an underdog to the Giants, and the Buccaneers vs. the Raiders also were heavily backed).

It mostly continued like that the rest of the month, and don’t forget that the favorite and over cashed on all three Thanksgiving Day games.

Hopefully, you as a bettor have done well this season. I’ve done well in my picks in other outlets such as my ViewFromVegas.com and ESPN Insider, though I’m pretty much break-even with my bets in this space.

But as bad as it’s been for the sports books, another favorite Vaccaro saying still applies: “None of us have closed the doors. We’re still open for business.”

Back to the NFL betting board

I went 1-2 last week with an outright win by the Eagles over the Buccaneers as a 7.5-point underdog, but then lost with the Cardinals +10 vs. the Seahawks (uh, not even +57 would have helped in their 58-0 loss) and Dolphins +10 vs. the 49ers (that was a tough one to swallow as the Dolphins played them tough all game only to have Colin Kaepernick run 50 yards for a TD in the closing minutes when a first down and three kneel-downs would have iced it).

Giants +1.5 vs. Falcons

I’ve long said the Falcons aren’t as good as their record, and they showed it again last week with a 30-20 loss at Carolina (and, really, they should have been swept by them this year). The Falcons also narrowly escaped at home against the lowly Raiders and Cardinals, so their home-field advantage isn’t as strong as once believed. The Giants have seen their lead in the NFC East shrink, but this veteran team tends to play better with their backs against the well (and also on the road), so they’re not as likely to let the Falcons off the hook once they get a lead.

PLAY: Giants for 1 unit.

Jaguars +7 vs. Dolphins

The Jaguars, for as bad as they are, keep giving their all. And they step up the most as big underdogs, as the two games they’ve played as underdogs of a touchdown or more were against the Packers and Texans, and they covered in both of those. Should the Dolphins be this big of a favorite? I certainly don’t think so. And the last time they were favored by a touchdown, they lost 37-3 to the Titans five weeks ago. Seriously, I don’t see why this line is more than 4, but I’ll gladly take the additional points.

PLAY: Jaguars for 1 unit.

Bills +5.5 vs. Seahawks

This game is actually at a neutral site in Toronto, so I’m not giving the Bills anything for home-field advantage, but it’s still a road trip for the Seahawks. Granted, Seattle went to Chicago two weeks ago to get a road win, so this team isn’t as poor on the road as past teams (though they did lose at St. Louis and Miami), but I still feel they’re laying too many points in this spot. I was a little discouraged with the Bills’ performance last week in their 15-12 loss to the Rams, but they still have enough to keep this close.

PLAY: Bills for 1 unit.

Last week: 1-2 for a net loss of 1.2 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 21-19 for a net profit of 0.1 units.