Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2017

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Columnist Jeff Haney: In baseball betting, dime is of the essence

MONEY LINE: A wager in which the winner of the game determines the winner of the bet, regardless of any point spread. This is the standard wager in baseball, which typically does not use a point spread.

PICK 'EM: A game in which the two teams are evenly matched according to the oddsmaker.

VIGORISH: The bookmaker's commission on a bet. On a typical straight bet, a bettor wagers $1.10 to win $1. The extra .10 is the vigorish, or bookmaker's fee. If the bet wins, the bettor collects $1 plus his original $1.10 for a total payout of $2.10. If the bet loses, the bettor is out $1.10.

Also called "vig" or "juice."

LAY: To wager a particular amount of money. Example: A bettor would lay $110 to win $100 on a football game.

DIME LINE: A type of betting line often used in baseball. Example: If the favorite in a game is priced at minus 150, the underdog in that game would be priced at plus 140. A bettor would wager $1.50 to win $1 on the favorite, or $1 to win $1.40 on the underdog. Because the difference between 1.40 and 1.50 is .10, the line is called a 10-cent line, or dime line.

20-CENT LINE: A type of betting line sometimes used in baseball. Example: If the favorite in a game is priced at minus 150, the underdog in that game would be priced at plus 130. A bettor would wager $1.50 to win $1 on the favorite, or $1 to win $1.30 on the underdog. Because the difference between 1.30 and 1.50 is .20, the line is called a 20-cent line.

Because of the extra vigorish that is built in, a 20-cent line is less favorable for the bettor than a dime line.

The standard betting line in football and basketball, in which a bettor must lay $1.10 to win $1, is a 20-cent line.

At the Stardust, sports book director Bob Scucci offers the most attractive form of baseball wagering in the business.

It's commonly called a 10-cent betting line, or a "dime line," and it keeps bookmakers on their toes, Scucci said.

"It's certainly not something that's advantageous for us," Scucci said. "The dime line is more to the consumer's, or the bettor's, advantage."

Dime lines are highly sought-after by baseball bettors, who see them as sports gambling's version of a Nordstrom red-dot sale -- an opportunity to wager at a hefty discount.

In sports such as football and basketball, bettors are required to lay $1.10 for each $1 they want to win. That form of betting, the industry standard, is known as a 20-cent line.

With a baseball dime line, however, the "vigorish" -- or bookmaker's commission -- is significantly reduced. Bettors can lay the equivalent of $1.05 for each $1 they want to win.

Dime lines, then, are of considerable interest -- or at least they should be -- to gamblers who collectively wagered $378 million on baseball in Nevada sports books last year. That figure is 21 percent of the $1.8 billion wagered overall in the state's sports books, according to the Gaming Control Board.

"If a person would always bet into a 10-cent line (rather than a 20-cent line), they would make out much better over the course of a season," said Michael Shackleford, a Las Vegas gaming consultant.

Betting into a traditional 20-cent line, gamblers have to pick winners 52.4 percent of the time to overcome the vig and break even. Against a dime line, they have to hit roughly 51.2 percent to break even.

So for many baseball bettors -- particularly those who are more skilled than a coin-flipper but not as talented as a professional gambler -- wagering into a dime line as opposed to a 20-cent line could make the difference between winning and losing money in a season.

There are 17 distinct sports books in Las Vegas offering a dime line this baseball season. Five books are dealing a 15-cent line, and three are going with a 20-cent line.

Of those offering a dime line, eight books deal the strongest version of a dime line, keeping it intact until the odds on the favored team reach the area of minus 180 to minus 200. Only then do they switch to a less favorable 15-cent line.

From a numbers standpoint, these books should be considered the best places in town to bet baseball. They are: the Golden Nugget, the Stardust, Mandalay Bay, the Las Vegas Club, Casino MonteLago, El Cortez, Cal-Neva and the Coast properties. (Cal-Neva, based in Reno, has local outlets at the Tuscany and at Thirstbusters in Henderson.)

"It's not just whether a place has a dime line, but it's also important how far they take the dime line," said Shackleford.

Two other books -- the Palms and the Station properties -- also offer a good dime line, generally "breaking" to a 15-cent line in games in which the favored team is minus 170 or higher.

Those that take their dime line to about minus 160 are Terrible's, Leroy's, Stratosphere/Arizona Charlie's, and Poker Palace.

Three books break their dime line early, in the range of minus 140 to minus 150: the New Frontier, Excalibur properties, and Cannery/Rampart. This is the weakest form of a dime line, but is still preferable to a 15- or 20-cent line.

Those offering a 15-cent line in baseball are the Imperial Palace, Harrah's, the Venetian, Jerry's Nugget and the Caesars Palace properties.

Books with a 20-cent line, the least favorable for bettors, are the Aladdin, the Hard Rock and the Mirage properties.

Like the Stardust's Scucci, Golden Nugget sports book director Chris Andrews said dealing a dime line can be a challenge for the house.

"The new owners of the Golden Nugget (Tim Poster and Tom Breitling) want to be very aggressive in all areas, whether it's blackjack, craps, the poker room or the sports book," Andrews said, "and the baseball dime line is something that's very visible to bettors.

"You work on a very thin margin, of course, but you hope to make up for it with excess volume."

Because the Palms sports book is prohibited from taking bets on the NBA (the Maloof family, the casino's owner, also owns the Sacramento Kings), it relies heavily on baseball bettors at this time of the year. And a strong dime line brings in business from baseball bettors, sports book manager Fred Crespi said.

"We want to be as competitive as possible in everything we do, to do whatever we can to give the players (bettors) a reason to come here and play," Crespi said.

While places such as the Stardust and the Golden Nugget draw a fair number of professional sports gamblers -- sometimes called "wise guys" -- the Hard Rock caters to recreational bettors, said sports book director Jamie Shea.

"We use a 20-cent line, and I haven't noticed it bothers my customers much," Shea said. "We see a lot of people who don't understand how to bet baseball, so we have to show them what 'plus' and 'minus' mean. ... We get a lot of people who just love their home team and want to bet on them."

Before the Mirage converted its dime line to a 20-cent line three years ago, the house was lucky to barely break even in baseball, sports book director Robert Walker said.

"Baseball is extremely difficult for us (the casino) to beat," Walker said. "In April, you have recreational players (bettors) mixed in with the pros (professional gamblers). By June and July, it's nothing but pros betting baseball.

"We decided a baseball dime line does not fit our business model. ... Football and basketball are our bread-and-butter."

Scucci also acknowledged that booking baseball is a game of inches.

"Baseball is not typically a high-hold percentage sport, and booking a dime line makes it that much more difficult for the book," Scucci said.

Indeed, the state's sports books held just 3 percent of the $378 million bet on baseball last year. By comparison, the books held nearly 6 percent of the total amount bet on football, 7 percent on basketball and 33 percent on parlay cards.

And baseball bettors are off to a hot start against the books this season, by most accounts. Walker called it an "abysmal" April for the Mirage, and Andrews also conceded the bettors have had the upper hand so far.

"Like most (sports books), we had a very rough April," Andrews said. "But we're hoping it works out in the long run."

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