10/22/2006 11:00PM

When favorites flop, books flourish


When stories are written about how badly the sports books got beat on a given day, there is never any sympathy from the public. Everyone assumes that in the long run, the books will do just fine and end up with most of the money.

Sunday was one of those days where the books made up for a lot of their previous losses and frustrating break-even days (which books don't like because they still have to pay the staff and all their bills), with one book reporting it held 30 percent of wagers made when factoring in sides, totals, parlay cards, off-the-board parlays, and teasers.

The main reason that the majority of bettors did so poorly was that favorites went 4-7-1 against the spread. The biggest money-burners were the Chargers, Steelers, Eagles, and Seahawks, who all lost outright after being heavily backed. The Jaguars, Dolphins, and Cardinals also lost as favorites. Even when the Colts, usually a popular public play, came in, it didn't help most bettors as the public was all over the Redskins, betting the line down from 9 to 7 1/2 before Indy's 36-22 victory.

What made those results even better for the books was that in addition to not covering the spreads, all those teams lost outright and didn't cover in teasers, either. Pittsburgh, which lost 41-38 in overtime as a 3-point favorite to the Falcons, was the only losing favorite to get so much as a push on a 6-point teaser.

Bettors were saved a little by the Bengals-Panthers game landing on the closing line of 3 in the Bengals' 17-14 victory. Many people were on the Panthers +3 1/2 when that was available, and the vast majority of bettors pushed.

Also, the ever-popular favorite/over parlay only came through in two games - the Jets' 31-24 win over the Lions, and the Colts-Redskins game - and even people who looked to the dog/under only hit one with the Raiders' 22-9 upset of the Cardinals. The mixed results of favorite/under and dog/over usually work in the books' favor, too.

Opening lines for this weekend

Just because bettors in general lost on Sunday doesn't mean that there wasn't anyone looking to bet this weekend's games. Professional bettors are usually fading the public, and they did well and were looking to fire away again when the lines went up late Sunday afternoon.

The Las Vegas Hilton saw several lines take early pops as the Eagles were bet from -4 1/2 to -5 vs. the Jaguars, the Falcons were bet from +5 to +4 1/2 at the Bengals, the 49ers were bet from +17 to +16 1/2 at the Bears, and the Packers were bet from -2 1/2 to -3 vs. the Cardinals.

The Stratosphere put the Eagles up at -5 and it got bet to -6, which is where it sat everywhere as of this writing Monday afternoon. The Bengals opened -3 and that got bet toward the Hilton number and moved to 4. As of Monday, that number was wavering between 4 1/2 and 5.

After the Hilton opened the Broncos -3 at home vs. the Colts, the Strat put it at Denver -2. That number looks it will settle right in the middle at 2 1/2.

Most of the other numbers appeared pretty solid.

The Stratosphere's college numbers had more movement than in recent weeks, all moving in the direction of the offshore numbers that were available at the time. Mississippi State opened a 2-point favorite vs. Kentucky, and Kentucky was bet to 1-point favoritism. North Carolina State was bet to a 2-point favorite over Virginia, and Washington State was bet to -1 1/2 vs. UCLA after both games opened pick-em.

The biggest disparity locally was when the Stratosphere opened Colorado State -8 1/2 over New Mexico and the Palms opened it at -5o1/2, creating a 3-point middle for anyone able to grab both.

Coast Casinos contest update

The Hawthorne Pick 5 Contest comes to a close this Thursday at the Coast Casinos on the last five races at the Chicago track, races 5-9, with an estimated first post of 1:02 p.m. Pacific. With the South Coast being sold to Michael Gaughan and being renamed the South Point, that property will no longer be part of Coast contests. The remaining properties are the Orleans, Gold Coast, Barbary Coast, Suncoast, and Sam's Town.

The contest, which has a $10 entry fee and is limited to 10 entries per person, has a first-place prize of $1,500, with $700 for second and $300 for third for the highest mutuel points. But the top prize is the progressive jackpot for going 5 for 5, which will have a mandatory payout this Thursday. If no one has a perfect card, the pool will be split by the people with the most winners. The carryover, including the $2,500 that Coast kicks in each week, is $38,070 and will have all the $10 entry fees added to it. Based on previous entries, the pool should top $45,000.

* Next Thursday, Nov. 2, the Coasts will start a new contest on the first five races on the night signal from Delta Downs. The format and daily prizes will remain the same, with the progressive jackpot growing by $3,500 each week in addition to the entry fees. That contest will run every Thursday through Dec. 21, with the exception of Thanksgiving.