by Robert Ferringo - 02/09/2006
Besides the literal hangover that usually follows the Super Bowl, there's often a figurative one that gamblers must deal with. After months invested in football, the time between The Big Game and March Madness is generally a No Man's Land for bettors of American sports. But like my father always told me: the best way to kill a hangover is to start drinking again.
So where is the oasis to be found in this icy desert of February? Try Turin, Italy, the site of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.
(Oh, and in case you were curious, you hear everyone calling it the "Torino Games" because that's how they pronounce the city's name in Italian. But since I don't live in Italy, don't speak Italian, and am not some media hack trying to sound sophisticated, I'm sticking with Turin.)
"(The) Olympics is generally a niche event," said Bodog Spokesman Greg Jorssen of Winter Olympics betting. "However it comes at a time when there really is not much going on. Now that the Super Bowl is over and that March Madness is still a month away, bettors that are not interested in the day-to-day grind of the NBA or college action may throw some money down. Particularly if they have good enough sources of information and also if an athlete has connected with them on an emotional level."
The first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France in 1924 and the Turin Games mark the 20th Olympiad. The opening ceremonies will be held on Friday, Feb. 10 and the closing ceremonies will be Sunday, Feb. 26.
In that two-week stretch more than 2,500 athletes from 85 countries will compete in a series of fascinating arctic events. Fifteen sports will be represented in Italy, with a total of 84 specialties.
Jorssen stated that Bodog's handicappers spent "the better part of a month" researching the various Olympic events before posting their lines. However, unless you've been following the sport for years it's still very difficult to predict who's going to win the Men's Giant Slalom or the Women's Biathlon. That means there's ample opportunity out there for sharps to profit.
"There generally is a lot of risk involved when offering these type of events," Jorssen said. "Lines are generally weak and there are a lot of sharp guys out there, waiting for the right moment to take advantage of a bad line. We generally lower our limits on these events to minimize any exposure."
Just the fact that the books have to post low limits on their Winter Olympics betting lines because they know that they're vulnerable should be music to a bettor's ear.
One square bet on The Games is for the United States to win the overall medal count. The books have clearly shaded the lines - we're currently listed at 6-to-5 - to feed off our jingoism and nationalism. Norway is currently the favorite (11-to-10), with Germany third (5-to-4).
Though we Americans clearly hold ourselves in the highest athletic regard, the United States has actually never won the Winter Olympics. We've finished in second place four times, most recently in Salt Lake City in 2002. However, as long as the IOC continues to let us stuff the schedule with make-believe events like skeleton and competitive eating, it shouldn't be too much longer before we claim our rightful place on top.
Even though the Norwegians are the favorites, I think that the Germans offer excellent value when it comes to the overall medal count. They have won three of the last four overall titles dating back to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Just in case some of you are still skeptical about laying some dough down on the Olympics, here are three reasons why it's actually a much better idea than it sounds:
1. You'll feel more cultured. Like that time that you ordered Russian dressing on your salad because the restaurant was all out of Ranch.
2. As much as they posture, the books are in the dark on this stuff. They don't have nearly the advantage that they do with major American sports. Besides, the chance to fleece your bookie out $100 on the Women's Snowboard Cross is an opportunity that only comes around once every four years. How could you pass that up?
3. Odds are you're girlfriend or wife will suddenly become a "figure skating fan". Even though she never mentions or even thinks about the sport at any other time, chances are you're going to get roped into watching. Now, the real reason for her newfound affinity will really be spite and revenge for her having to watch so much football, basketball and baseball year-round. However, when you bring that theory up she's probably going to start an F-3 argument, tell you that she hated her Valentine's gift and threaten to go stay with her mother.
Wait, where was I? Oh yeah, figure skating. You know that you're going to get suckered into watching at least some of it over the next two weeks. Avoid the fight, bite the bullet and drop $40 down on some obscure event to make it interesting.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at email@example.com or check out his Insider Page here.