How TCU's Alamo Bowl comeback saved Vegas sportsbooks millions

TCU players celebrate winning the Valero Alamo Bowl in triple overtime after trailing 31-0 at the half. The comeback tied the bowl record set by Texas Tech in the 2006 Insight Bowl. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It was a stressful start to the New Year for Las Vegas sportsbooks.

Favorites covered the spread in the first seven bowl games of 2016, and by the time TCU and Oregon kicked off Saturday night in the Alamo Bowl, millions of dollars were at stake, almost all of it relying on the favored Ducks.

Across town, approximately 80 percent of the money wagered on the game was on Oregon. A bettor at sportsbook operator CG Technology put $15,000 on the Ducks to win straight-up. William Hill took $10,000 and $8,000 moneyline bets on Oregon. Overall, 87 percent of the money wagered on Alamo Bowl money line was on the Ducks at William Hill; but that wasn't the books' biggest concern.

Because of the run of favorites, a large number of parlay bets were alive heading into Saturday night -- and Oregon was the final leg on the bulk of them. Several books faced significant six-figure decisions and were left pulling for undermanned TCU.

"At that point, there was just massive liability building," said Ed Salmons, assistant manager of the Westgate SuperBook.

The Horned Frogs, already without leading receiver Josh Doctson, suspended starting quarterback Trevone Boykin after he was involved in a bar fight early Thursday morning. After the suspension, the point spread grew from pick-'em to as high as Oregon -8. TCU was a 5-2 underdog to win straight-up and didn't get off to a good start.

The Ducks led 31-0 at halftime.

"They were dead," William Hill director of trading Nick Bogdanovich said of the Horned Frogs. "Oregon was doing whatever [it] wanted. All you can do at that point is get the money ready to pay."

"I turned it off," CG Technology vice president Jason Simbal said.

Down 28-0 late second quarter, Oregon's live odds to win were -6,000. TCU was a 25-1 underdog to come back at William Hill. Things were so lopsided by halftime that the book took down its live moneyline wager for a period of time. It reposted with Oregon as a -5,000 favorite after the Ducks' lead was cut to 31-10. A bettor risked $43.35 on the Ducks at those odds and would have won $0.85 -- if it wasn't for the second-largest comeback in the history of college football's top division.

TCU rallied behind backup quarterback Bram Kohlhausen to win 47-41 in triple overtime. Since the 2006 bowl season, FBS teams were 0-1,463 when trailing by at least 31 points at any point in any game, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The remarkable rally dramatically changed the fortunes of the books.

"It saved the day," said Chuck Esposito, sportsbook director for Station Casinos.

Jay Rood, vice president of MGM's race and sports book, said TCU's rally caused a "significant six-figure" swing in favor of his book. William Hill, CG Technology and the SuperBook also reported six-figure swings for the house.

"We actually had a couple players take a pretty good position on TCU in the first half," Rood said. "But they didn't play the game at all. So we lucked out there."

It wasn't just favorites on New Year's Day that hurt the books; the first four games all went over the total, too. The one that stayed under -- Ole Miss' 48-20 rout of Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl -- was devastating for one bettor at CG Technology, who needed over 68.5 to complete a $250, eight-team parlay that would have paid $45,000.

Early betting action in Alabama-Clemson

The early money on the national championship game is backing the Alabama Crimson Tide, including a six-figure bet at the MGM.

"We've only had a few small bets on Clemson," Rood said Sunday night, adding that 10 times more money has been bet on the Crimson Tide than on the Tigers a week before kickoff (8:30 p.m., Jan. 11, ESPN).

Alabama settled as a 7-point favorite, but the number could be on the move later this week.

"If money continues to come this week on Bama, I might go to 7.5 and deal with it on the vig," Rood said.

The Crimson Tide's blowout of Michigan State produced one of the MGM's biggest wins of an up-and-down bowl season for the book.

"Alabama was really good for us," Rood said. "It was mostly just public money [on Michigan State], really big public money. We took a lot of money really late, right before kickoff on Michigan State, a couple of six-figure bets."

Odds and ends

--Top 5 teams to win the Super Bowl by number of bets placed at the SuperBook:
1. Packers
2. Cowboys (eliminated)
3. Steelers
4. Seahawks
5. Patriots

--Top 5 teams by money bet to win the Super Bowl at the SuperBook:

1. Seahawks

2. Patriots
3. Packers
4. Broncos
5. Cowboys (eliminated)

--Complete updated Super Bowl 50 odds and wild-card lines can be found here.

--The 2016 PGA Tour tees off this week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Jordan Spieth is listed at 100-1 to win all four majors this season at the Westgate SuperBook, while Rory McIlroy is 150-1 and Jason Day is 250-1. Spieth is a 6-1 favorite to win the Masters, followed by McIlroy and Day, who are 7-1. Tiger Woods is 50-1.

--Most bets to win the 2016 World Series at the Flamingo Las Vegas sportsbook: Chicago Cubs -- 900. Next closest: San Francisco Giants -- 489.