Aaron Kessler, college football oddsmaker for the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, admits it -- he underestimated TCU last year. It hurt.
Last June, Kessler, along with Nugget sportsbook director Tony Miller, opened the Horned Frogs as 10-point favorites over SMU in a Week 5 game in Dallas. By the time the game actually kicked off Sept. 27, TCU was a 32-point favorite and won 56-0. Whoops.
"They were 4-8 coming in and rebounded to have a great team," Kessler said of the last year's Horned Frogs. "We didn't quite have them rebounding as much. That didn't go so well."
It's one of the risks that come along with posting the first college football point spreads in town and letting experienced bettors take $1,000 whacks at them months before the games kick off. For the Golden Nugget, their popular "Games of the Year" are worth the risk.
On Friday, at 1:30 p.m. Vegas-time, Kessler and Nugget sportsbook director Tony Miller will post point spreads on 165 college football games. It will be the ninth straight year they've posted some of the earliest point spreads on the market. It's become an event that attracts bettors from coast-to-coast.
"It's our biggest day of the summer and of one our biggest days of the year," Kessler said. "I've had people contact me saying they're flying out. The first year, I think we put up 28 games. We just thought it was a fun little thing we put up."
Joe Fortuna, an avid sports bettor from New Jersey, is making the trek for a fourth time. He did well last year, especially on TCU.
"It's only a dime ($1,000) and ties up money for a bit. Most pros don't like that," Fortuna told ESPN Chalk. "But the value is really good. I got TCU minus-10 last year against SMU."
The Nugget took a loss on their "Games of the Year" last season, but has posted a profit more often than not, according to Kessler, the 32-year-old oddsmaker from Chicago.
Kessler had his power ratings completed by Sunday -- Ohio State is No. 1 by a significant margin -- and will set the initial lines this week. Miller and Kessler then review the odds together, make adjustments and then bring in veteran handicapper Bruce Marshall of the Gold Sheet to consult.
"Once we get all three of our eyes on them, we usually feel pretty good about them," Kessler said.
We'll see if the bettors feel the same way on Friday.
In the meantime, Las Vegas sportsbook operator CG Technology posted the first college football season win totals in Vegas on Monday.
The thrilling finish to the U.S. Open produced plenty of gambling drama.
More money was bet on Jordan Spieth to win the U.S. Open than any other golfer at William Hill. Spieth accounted for 10 percent of the money wagered in the William Hill futures book.
Spieth closed at around 8-1, the second favorite behind Rory McIlroy. Dustin Johnson's three-putt on No. 18 helped him capture his second straight major and turn a would-be win into a loss for the Westgate SuperBook.
"We lost a little with Spieth," Jeff Sherman, assistant manager at the SuperBook, said. "[We] would have won the same amount if Johnson won."
A daily fantasy sports contestant lost more than a little on the dramatic finish. Heading to No. 18, a contestant with the screen name "headchopper" was leading DraftKings' $1 million U.S. Open event with Johnson as his top guy. If Johnson would have made his 12-foot eagle putt, "headchopper" would have won, according to the site. When Johnson three-putted, first-time participant "carlbassewitz" moved into first place and won the $1 million. Second place paid $100,000.
A big longshot got into the mix and added drama to Sunday, as well. Louis Ooshuizen was listed at 1,000-1 to win the U.S. Open after shooting a first-round 77. He shot 29 on the back nine on Sunday and was tied for the lead at 4-under par with Spieth and Johnson headed to No. 18. Spieth birdied 18 to finish at 5-under.
MLS on sports betting
The MLS has not developed a position on sports betting legalization, president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott told ESPN Chalk in a recent phone interview. But the league is paying attention.
"We have a lot of faith in our players and everybody involved in our competition," Abbott said. "We don't have a problem with match-fixing. That being said, we've taken a number of steps over the years to insure that integrity."
We'll have more on this, including the MLS' potential future in daily fantasy, in the coming weeks, as part of our reaction coverage to the New Jersey sports betting case decision, which is expected any day now.
Odds to win conference championship games
*Courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
East Carolina 7-1
Central Florida 7-1
South Florida 50-1
Florida State 11-4
Georgia Tech 3-1
Virginia Tech 8-1
NC State 15-1
North Carolina 15-1
Miami (FL) 20-1
Boston College 100-1
Wake Forest 100-1
Ohio State 1-4
Michigan State 8-1
Penn State 25-1
Western Kentucky 2-1
Louisiana Tech 4-1
Middle Tennessee State 7-1
Florida Atlantic 25-1
Florida International 30-1
Old Dominion 60-1
Southern Miss 60-1
North Texas 100-1
Texas-San Antonio 100-1
Northern Illinois 9-4
Bowling Green 5-2
Western Michigan 4-1
Ball St 10-1
Central Michigan 75-1
Kent State 75-1
Miami (OH) 100-1
Eastern Michigan 300-1
Mountain West Conference
Boise State 1-2
Utah State 6-1
San Diego State 6-1
Air Force 12-1
Colorado State 12-1
Fresno State 15-1
San Jose State 100-1
New Mexico 100-1
Arizona State 7-1
Oregon State 200-1
Ole Miss 6-1
Texas A&M 20-1
Mississippi State 25-1
South Carolina 30-1