Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2017

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Best bets in baseball

Jeff Haney crunches the numbers to help bettors pick the right casino

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Jack Dempsey / associated press file

Boston Red Sox pitcher Jonathan Papelbon leaps into the air after the Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies last year to win the World Series. According to Las Vegas sports books, the Red Sox are favored to repeat as champions.

House edge

Charting the house edge in 2008 World Series future books (the bigger the house edge, the worse it is for gamblers):

Las Vegas Hilton, 28 percent

Cal Neva, 32 percent

Palms, 35 percent

Venetian, 36 percent

Wynn, 37 percent

South Point, 47 percent

Plaza, 47 percent

Coast/Boyd, 49 percent

Harrah’s/Caesars, 51 percent

Station Casinos, 51 percent

Leroy’s, 51 percent

MGM Mirage, 52 percent

All other factors being equal, baseball bettors looking to invest a few dollars on their team to win the World Series this year will find the most value at the Las Vegas Hilton sports book.

They can expect the least bang for their buck at MGM Mirage properties, according to a survey by the Sun of the World Series championship odds at 12 major Las Vegas sports books.

We calculated the theoretical hold percentage — or house edge — of the casinos’ World Series future books, or the listings of odds on each major league team to win the 2008 title.

Contrary to what outsiders or nongamblers might think, there is no single “Las Vegas line” on a team’s odds to win the World Series. Take the reigning champion Boston Red Sox, who are favored to repeat. They can be found at odds of 5-2 at the Plaza, but also at odds of 5-1 at Boyd/Coast properties — a 100 percent better return for gamblers.

House edge expresses, as a percentage, the amount of money a sports book is expected to keep after paying out winning wagers.

The lower the house edge, the more favorable it is for bettors. The higher the house edge, the worse it is for bettors. (See “Determining house edge” for the formula online at lasvegassun.com.)

House edge is a useful tool because it provides an overall picture of how attractive a future book’s odds are, from top to bottom. A casino could offer extremely low odds on a particular team, but still give gamblers a fair shake by raising the prices on other teams. A high house edge, however, indicates a casino is offering poor odds throughout its future book.

The Las Vegas Hilton is employing a 28 percent theoretical hold percentage in its World Series future book, the best in the city from a gambler’s perspective. Hilton oddsmakers manage the future book aggressively, routinely raising prices on some teams whenever the odds fall on others to maintain competitive prices across the board. One highlight is the Los Angeles Angels at 14-1, nearly 300 percent better than the 5-1 found at several other properties in town.

Although it’s a minor consideration, it doesn’t hurt that Hilton oddsmakers do not cap long shots at 150-1 or so, as some of their competitors do. They’re offering 300-1 on a couple of teams and 500-1 on the Orioles.

The Cal Neva sports books also scored well in the survey, with a house edge of 32 percent. Based in Reno, Cal Neva has several Southern Nevada outlets, including the Tuscany, Binion’s and the Four Queens. It earned a good grade by offering a lot of solid value on midpriced teams in the range of 30-1 to 50-1.

The Palms, the Venetian and Wynn Las Vegas also performed well (see accompanying chart) before the rest of the scores drifted into mediocrity. The house edges of seven major sports books were bunched in the lackluster range of 47 percent to 52 percent, with MGM Mirage bringing up the rear.

MGM Mirage was hampered in the survey partly because its oddsmakers drastically lowered the odds on a handful of teams but failed to raise the prices on other teams enough to compensate.

For example, the Tigers are listed at 2.8-1 at MGM Mirage properties (they call it “14-5,” but they can’t fool me), the Cubs at 7-2, the Dodgers at 6-1 and the White Sox at 10-1. At those prices, oddsmakers are essentially announcing they don’t want any more money on those teams. Oblige them.

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