by Jeremy Martin
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While most bettors are familiar with NFL future pools, which involve picking a team to win their division, conference or even the Super Bowl, not everyone knows that they can also bet the 'over' or 'under' on the number of games a particular team will win over the course of its season.
This betting option is becoming increasingly popular with players in Nevada and on the Internet. According to Richard B. Dressler, race and sports book manager for the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas, there are three types of individuals who bet on NFL season totals.
The first and largest contingent is the recreational bettor that is on vacation and wants to have action on their favorite team for the entire course of the season. The second type is the savvy bettor who has an educated opinion on the potential outcome of a team's season. The third type - which Dressler said he turns away at the IP - is the "scalper" or "middler" who is trying to take advantage of different numbers at competing books in an attempt to cash in at the expense of the casinos without taking any financial risk.
While most professionals stay away from NFL season totals, there are some inherent advantages for potential profits. As with any form of betting that involves a large group of recreational bettors, going against the public can be a good idea in certain situations and that certainly applies to this form of wagering.
"I'll tell you why (recreational) bettors love them," said Dressler, the first bookie on The Strip to post numbers for NFL season totals. "Lets say a guy comes in here from Pennsylvania. He knows he is only here (one) week. He knows he is going to watch (the Pittsburgh Steelers) every week so he takes the 'over.' That one ticket is like having a bet on 16 individual games."
Since there is no one to compare its lines to, releasing the first numbers for season totals exposes the IP to some risk, but Dressler is confident in the strength of his oddsmaking team. In order to come up with the numbers, he and three other members of his staff split up and individually make a number for each team. Then, during a roundtable discussion, the group hammers out a consensus number. He says that his team usually comes up with similar numbers that rarely differ more than ½ a game. In extremely unusual cases, however, members of the group may differ as many as two full games.
Several factors go into the formulation of the numbers at the IP, the most important being the team's personnel. Betting patterns of sports book patrons is also an important factor. Dressler said his staff also looks at the schedule, although that is not important as some people may think.
"With so much parity, the schedule doesn't weigh as much as it used to," he said. "And it's not like the team that wins the division now gets to play the tough schedule - they have changed that up a little bit too."
Most seasons there is one team that is projected to be way ahead of the competition at 11 or 12 wins. This year, however, the top two teams - New England and Indianapolis - are listed at only 10 ½ wins. Most of the league is bunched up between 10 and seven wins and perennial cellar-dwellers like Arizona and San Diego are at the bottom of the list at 5 ½ and 4 ½ wins, respectively.
Of course, there are going to be teams that win more than 10 games during the upcoming season just as there will likely be teams that will win less than five games. That proves that there are some opportunities for the savvy handicapper to make some nice profits playing these season totals. Most professionals, however, stay away from them because they can win money each week of the NFL season without having to wait until the end of the regular season in order to cash their tickets. The 30-cent line that is regularly used for these betting options also ensures a healthy profit for the books and a small margin of error for even the sharpest of bettors.
For the most part, the actual number of wins posted at a book will not change from the time the numbers are put up until they are taken off the board at the start of the regular season. Bookmakers balance the action by adjusting the money line according to the action that is coming in. If an influx of bettors is heavy on the Patriots 'over,' for example, they will lower the price on the 'under' in order to make that side more attractive.
"There is not a single team (on our board) that has not had a (money line) movement," said Dressler. "We do not move off the number. If I put up a nine on a team, I put them at a flat minus 115. If I take 'over' or 'under' money, I will go to minus 125 or 130 (on that side). (Former IP oddsmaker) Ed Salmons said he could only remember once in the past four or five years that we took so much money on the 'under' that we had to move (a team) from six to 6 ½."
Another situation that could cause a number to move is a preseason injury to a key player. Dressler said, however, that it would take an injury to a starting quarterback or a superstar running back in order to move the line. If there is a major injury, Dressler will take the number down right away and post a new number. Any bettor who placed a wager with the original number, however, gets to keep that wager.
"It would have to be someone really major," he added. "(In certain cases) a star wide receiver goes out and people (who bet the over) start to panic. It's only someone the caliber of a starting quarterback that would make the number come down and be changed. Even if a team's head running back goes down; unless it is a guy like (Eric) Dickerson when he was running for the Rams at his peak; most don't have a superstar at that position. Most teams have a (quality) backup (RB) that will step in."
Dressler has already faced a similar dilemma this offseason because of the surprise retirement of Dolphins RB Ricky Williams. After the announcement the IP took their number from nine with money on the 'under' all the way down to eight. While most bettors probably believe the loss of Miami's most notable player would bring the number down even further, Dressler said he feels that action was not necessary.
"I think they can get another decent back and just plug him into that offense - that offense is pretty vanilla," he said. "He's not that easily replaced but he is not a key cog to the ignition. If they can pick up (another solid RB), I think the offense will run the same. (Williams) didn't play hard. You could see it earlier in his career and this past year also. He gets a good run and he goes for it. But there's something missing in him as a player - the drive."
In cases where a starting QB does go down, that does not always guarantee that it is an automatic win for 'under' bettors. The perfect example of this was in 1999 when St. Louis starter Trent Green was injured in the preseason on a hit by Chargers safety Rodney Harrison. Green was out for the season with a damaged knee and the starting job was handed over to Kurt Warner, an unknown from the Arena Football League. At this point the 'under' bettors were already counting their winnings while the 'over' bettors were chalking it up as a loss. Of course, Warner stepped in and led the Rams to a 13-3 regular season record and an eventual Super Bowl victory.
Betting on NFL season totals has been swift at the IP, according to Dressler. But he expects the bulk of his business to come in the last two weeks of this month. This wagering option can be a fun way to have action throughout the course of the NFL season and it can be a profitable opportunity for those who do their homework and pick their spots carefully.
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NFL 2004 Regular Season Wins from the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas
|New England Patriots||10 1/2||-115||-115|
|Indianapolis Colts||10 1/2||+105||-135|
|Philadelphia Eagles||10 1/2||-105||-125|
|Kansas City Chiefs||10||EV||-130|
|St. Louis Rams||9 1/2||EV||-130|
|Green Bay Packers||9 1/2||+115||-145|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||9||-135||+105|
|New York Jets||9||+125||-155|
|Carolina Panthers||8 1/2||-120||-110|
|Minnesota Vikings||8 1/2||-145||+115|
|Oakland Raiders||7 1/2||EV||-130|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||7 1/2||-130||EV|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||7 1/2||EV||-130|
|New Orleans Saints||7 1/2||-115||-115|
|Cincinnati Bengals||7 1/2||-120||-110|
|Buffalo Bills||7 1/2||-110||-120|
|Cleveland Browns||7 1/2||+115||-145|
|New York Giants||6 1/2||+110||-140|
|San Francisco 49ers||off||off||off|
|Houston Texas||6 1/2||-120||-110|
|Detroit Lions||6 1/2||-145||+115|
|Arizona Cardinals||5 1/2||-135||+105|
|San Diego Chargers||4 1/2||-110||-120|
Jeremy Martin is the newest member of Doc's Sports, which will be starting their 33rd year of service. For more articles and free picks visit www.docsports.com To contact Jeremy e-mail Jeremy@docsports.com.