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Smart Bettors Beat The Books By Following Small Conferences Jeremy Martin
The start of the college basketball season is one of the best times to get an edge on the books and following some of the lesser-known conferences can be very profitable, according to Las Vegas bookmakers.
There is a lot of uncertainty for the sportsbooks at this time of the year. College basketball teams have high turnover rates for on-court personnel and even for coaching staffs. Bookmakers are consumed with the NFL, NBA and college football and just don't have the time needed to release solid lines - especially considering the high number of teams on the board each day. They will be the first ones to admit that their numbers are weak during the start of the college basketball season. And savvy bettors have been consistently beating the books by focusing their attention on small conference teams.
"(Bettors) can concentrate on those smaller teams -- they don't have to worry about all 191 teams," said Bob Scucci, race & sportsbook manager for the Stardust. "We don't have the luxury of deciding which conferences to focus on and say 'this is what we are going to dedicate all of our time to.' We are spread a lot more thin than some of the handicappers. So you've got a couple guys that are focusing on Big West and you have another guy that is focusing on the WAC and they can kind of just pick their spots. So when you have all these different people picking their spots in all the different conferences, you find yourself in a position where you are fending off shots from behind you, from the left and from the right. It makes it all very difficult."
Scucci, however, said that he has one of the best and most versatile staffs in Las Vegas and that some members of his crew are experts in college basketball. Each day, he consults with them before setting his number then he weighs his number against the numbers released by his consulting services. Knowledge is the key for Scucci when it comes to keeping up with the sharp bettors. Before the season starts his staff studies every college basketball publication available. He also uses the Internet to read newspapers from around the country in order to pick up information on injuries and other team developments.
"The more reading you do, the more you are bound to pick up some information," commented Scucci. "It's just a matter of whether you find out before the bettors find out. In most cases, it seems like the bettors have more of a network on a lot of those smaller schools than we have."
Although Scucci has a large staff and can afford to hire individuals who are specialists in different sports, there are some sportsbooks in Las Vegas that are smaller and have fewer resources. These operations rely heavily on services like Las Vegas Sports Consultants to keep them informed of developments involving small conference teams.
"(LVSC) does a very good job, even with the smaller teams and conferences," said Doug Beil, race & sportsbook manager for Terrible's Hotel/Casino. "It's obviously harder to find information as readily on the small conferences and there there's always a certain number of bettors who can really do well with certain small teams and small conferences."
In order to reduce liability - especially early in the season - some sportsbooks may lower their limits on certain games. According to Scucci, there are times when he will have three vastly different numbers when comparing his number against the two he gets from his consultants. In cases like these he will reduce the amount he will allow people to bet on that particular game.
The problem for most books on games involving small conference teams is that -- although there isn't a large volume of action on the games - most of the money comes from smart bettors. Most people that are visiting Las Vegas for a leisure vacation aren't going to bet on a game involving Sacramento State and Portland State, but a smart bettor who closely follows the Big Sky Conference can beat the book bad if that number is off.
"There is probably a higher percentage of smart money that is bet on smaller games than on the bigger games because the big games and the big teams are public betting events," said Beil. "Whereas you may have the same amount of smart money on the big games as compared to the small games, but a much higher percentage (of smart money bet) on the small games."
Because the numbers tend to be weaker for the games involving small conference teams, they are inclined to move more frequently. Bookmakers must constantly stay on top of whom the professionals are betting on and they must change their lines accordingly.
"I think that's why we have to respect their opinions a lot more because we know they have been following these conferences for years and years," added Scucci. "They know the history. They know who is valuable and who is not. They have kept track of the coaches probably a little better than we have in a lot of those smaller schools. Especially at the beginning of the year, they have a much bigger edge."
Even though the sportsbooks have a weakness in college basketball when the season is just getting underway, they more than make up for it towards the end of the season when the conference tournaments and the NCAA Tournament get underway. The "Big Dance" is one of the biggest betting events of the year and the sportsbooks generally make a killing.
"College basketball can be tough to win money at (for the sportsbook)," concluded Beil. "I would say that it is right up there with the NHL and baseball. It's tough to profit in. One of the things that's nice is at the end of the year you get March Madness. By the time the conference tournaments and the big tournament roll around you have so much action and the lines tend to be solid by then and you usually win a lot of money during that time of year. But November through January can be very tough."
For tips from Doc's Sports on how to track the small conference teams, please Click Here.
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