Bad Beats: Can Subliminal Messaging Lure Browns Bettors?

A weekly look at smart plays, oddball propositions and all your tales of gambling woe.

After Derek Anderson's 2-for-17 performance last week against the Bills, bookmakers are desperate to find somebody — anybody — willing to take the Browns (+14) this Sunday at Pittsburgh. Such lopsided matchups are causing a headache for bookmakers; parity is vanishing from the NFL faster than they can accommodate with increasingly bloated point-spreads. With good teams routinely trouncing awful ones, sports books are struggling to come up with spreads big enough to attract two-way action on clear blow-out games like last Sunday's Giants/Raiders debacle (guess which team failed to draw its share of the action). Bettors laying the wood with big favorites this year are being rewarded at an astonishing clip: nine of 12 double-digit favorites have covered this season, with three of four — Minnesota, Philly and the Giants — covering last week (only the Steelers failed to cover). Meanwhile, bookmakers can't post big enough figures to turn the Bucs, Rams, Raiders or Browns into appealing plays.

Vegas is left reminiscing about the good old days when two-touchdown underdogs were actually playable.

"It used to be, taking 14 points in the NFL was considered value betting," Vegas oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro, director of sports for Lucky's Race and Sports Book tells Covers.com. "People aren't so quick to jump on it these days." For the betting majority, the 2009 NFL season "has been a bargain so far. People are going to bet these [top] teams, and I expect to see much of the same, particularly against the super bad teams."

It's much of the same this week, with three two-touchdown spreads and only one underdog — Detroit +14 at Green Bay — drawing significant action (53 percent, according to sportsbook.com). Ninety-one percent of the action in the Eagles/Raiders game is on the Eagles (-14); 83 percent of Browns-Steelers bettors are backing the Steelers (-14).

But the trend of favorite-dominance may be short-lived. Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Weekly says that big favorites often roll this early in the season before the league inches towards equilibrium: "It can pay not to fear laying a lot of points in the opening weeks. And it has paid handsomely in recent years. In the long term, though, it is a dangerous strategy."

History validates Wilkening's theory: In the opening five weeks of 2006, double-digit favorites were 6-3 against the spread; in 2007, they opened at 6-4. But stretched over three years, double-digit favorites are just 56-70 overall ATS. (The 2007 Patriots began 5-0 ATS, and finished the season 2-11 when opposing defenses and oddsmakers adjusted). Could this year be an exception, with a troupe of historically bad teams showing no signs of life? If the winless Chiefs, Bucs and Rams all lose, it will be the first time in NFL history that three teams have lost 10 games in a row.

Handicap Zone

My picks are underlined.

And then there are games getting plenty of two-way action, like the Giants +3 at New Orleans. "This looks like the game of the weekend," Vaccaro says. "We've all received money on these teams for the first five weeks. Now, the bettors have to make a decision." The Saints opened up a 3-point favorite (-120) and received heavy action, pushing the line to -3 (-125), "an obvious sign the books don't want to get off '3' in what will be a huge betting game," says Micah Roberts, per Vegas Insider.com.

Two teams moving the lines this week are the Broncos and Bengals, both whose naysayers appear to have finally backed down. The Broncos opened at +4.5 to San Diego before recent Bronco converts pulled the line down to +3.5 on a wave of early money. Is there an opportunity here? "It's the first time all season that the Broncos have been bet on which usually means the they'll be a good bet against with so much weight and opinion on their side," Roberts says.

Similarly, the Bengals opened a 3.5 home point favorite against the Texans and have since been bumped up to -5.5, where the line has frozen.

The lock of the week, in this sucker's opinion, smells like the Chiefs (+6.5) at Washington. The Redskins are charitable — the last time they were 6.5 favorites over a winless team, they wound up giving that team its first win in two seasons and lifting the spirits of a downtrodden city. Don't be surprised if they do the same for Kansas City.

Bad Beats: Readers Share Their Tales Of Woe

You hear lots of stories from gamblers about bad beats, here is one from the other side, a bad beat on a bookie.

So a few years back I was playing poker to pay the rent. I was at a game 5+ nights a week and knew a pretty big circle of gamblers. Since I was around all these people who liked to gamble I decided I could make a nice profit by booking sports bets. There wasn't a bookie at the poker games so the market was wide open. I started up in January of that year mostly doing NBA and NCAABB with the occasional NASCAR, golf or tennis bet thrown in. Everything was going pretty well and the poker players liked being able to bet on the NBA game that they were watching while playing so I had a nice amount of bets coming in. One guy who was notably awful at poker decided to try his luck at sports figuring he couldn't do worse. He bet about 10 NCAABB games every weekend and usually went around .500 meaning after the vig he would lose about $50 betting $110 a game. He was pretty flush with cash from whatever he did for a living so I extended him some credit which he never stiffed me on.

One night he and I went to a local bar and decided to get quite drunk. This was Friday evening and 22 or 23 of the top 25 NCAABB were playing and he decided he wanted to bet every singe one of those games, it worked out to 20 games. I marked down his bets in my phone and wrote them out for him on a piece of paper. We called it a night and I went home to enter his and other bets into the database I used. The next day he texted me to make sure of the bets he has in play as he lost the paper. I watched a few of the early games and everything was going my way. My book was unbalanced on some of these games so I had a few that I actually cared about. After the early games I knew that even if I got hammered in the afternoon and evening games I was going to have a good profit and so I stopped watching and started getting ready for a concert I was headed to that evening. On the drive with friends (it was about 2 hours), I checked the scores for the day on my phone and saw I was killing this guy. My book was still new so on some of these games this guy was the only bet. By the time the next day rolled around he had gone 17-3. Visions of a new subwoofer for my car danced in my head.

On Monday I went to the poker game he always settled up with me at. Hmmm, no sign of him. I ask the guy who runs the game whats up and the whole table says, "He's dead." I presume this is a joke but nope they pull out the newspaper and show me the funeral announcement. This guy had gotten massively drunk and stoned on Saturday night, passed out on his back and drowned in his own vomit. The moral here is twofold. First, be careful extending lines of credit in your illegal bookmaking operation. Second, pass out on your stomach. (Brad C.)

The Pats getting shut out in the 2nd half and losing in OT coincided right about at that juncture where your Sunday Fundays start to fade into your Suicide Mondays. Fck that sleeveless hoodie wearing asshole.

Given I would have hedged the Sunday night game knowing I just needed the Colts to cover, but it would have turned my wknd around for sure.

Until next time,
Degenerates Anonymous

Wager details for ticket number 8321189-1:

Wager Type: Parlay (8 team)
Accepted By: Internet
Wager Status: Loss
Risk / To Win Amount: 25.00 / 1,619.27 (USD) Accepted 10/11/2009 11:10 AM - EST
Lost: 25.00
Item #1
Wager Type: Money Line
Outcome: Win
Sport / Period: NFL Football / Game
Selection:
Minnesota Vikings 10/11/2009 1:00:01 PM - (EST)
-600
* Event Notes:
NFL - Week 5

Item #2
Wager Type: Money Line
Outcome: Win
Sport / Period: NFL Football / Game
Selection:
Dallas Cowboys 10/11/2009 1:00:01 PM - (EST)
-400
* Event Notes:
NFL - Week 5

Item #3
Wager Type: Spread
Outcome: Win
Sport / Period: NFL Football / Game
Selection:
Cleveland Browns 10/11/2009 1:00:01 PM - (EST)
+6 -110
* Event Notes:
NFL - Week 5

Item #4
Wager Type: Spread
Outcome: Win
Sport / Period: NFL Football / Game
Selection:
Detroit Lions 10/11/2009 1:00:01 PM - (EST)
+10½ -110
* Event Notes:
NFL - Week 5

Item #5
Wager Type: Money Line
Outcome: Win
Sport / Period: NFL Football / Game
Selection:
Atlanta Falcons 10/11/2009 4:05:01 PM - (EST)
+105
* Event Notes:
NFL - Week 5

Item #6
Wager Type: Spread
Outcome: Loss
Sport / Period: NFL Football / Game
Selection:
New England Patriots 10/11/2009 4:15:01 PM - (EST)
-3 -110
* Event Notes:
NFL - Week 5

Item #7
Wager Type: Spread
Outcome: Win
Sport / Period: NFL Football / Game
Selection:
Seattle Seahawks 10/11/2009 4:15:01 PM - (EST)
-1½ -110
* Event Notes:
NFL - Week 5

Item #8
Wager Type: Spread
Outcome: Win
Sport / Period: NFL Football / Game
Selection:
Indianapolis Colts 10/11/2009 8:20:01 PM - (EST)
-3½ -110
* Event Notes:
NFL - Week 5 (Alexander)

In 2005, I went to Reno for my bachelor party, on the second day there i put $15 down on an eight team baseball parlay. The payout was $1150. The games were spread out the day and I didnt even really pay attention to it til I hit the first six. The last two games started at the same time so there was no real way to hedge. It was just $15 bucks, no big deal, right? So, i hit the seventh game and just needed the Seattle Mariners to beat the Boston Red Sox for me to hit the most amazing bet of my life. (I was still in college and that money could have gone a long way to paying for our honeymoon)

Ryan Franklin has started for the Mariners and had pitched pretty welk, he was lifted in the sixth inning with in a 1-1 lead. Richie Sexson and Raul Ibanez went back to back in the bottom of the sixth to give me a 3-1 lead. At this point i start getting completely excited and buy beers for the people watching the game with me at the bar. That was mistake # 1. The seventh inning rolled around and the red sox put together a rally. They had scored one and had the bases loaded with 1 out and Man-Ram up. At this point I am no longer thinking about losing $15 bucks I am thinking it as losing $1150. The Mariners go to the bullpen and bring in a young JJ Putz to put out the fire. After a long at bat he struck out Manny on a 3-2 pitch. Everyone around me went wild. I ordered up a second round of drinks. After all, Trot Nixon was next up. No problem. That was Mistake #2. I will let the play by play explain what happened next...

Top 7th: Boston
- B. Mueller singled to left center
- R. Villone relieved S. Hasegawa
- M. Bellhorn doubled to left, B. Mueller scored
- J. Damon grounded out to pitcher
- E. Renteria singled to right, M. Bellhorn to third
- D. Ortiz hit by pitch, E. Renteria to second
- J.J. Putz relieved R. Villone
- M. Ramirez struck out swinging
- T. Nixon homered to deep right, M. Bellhorn, E. Renteria and D. Ortiz scored
- K. Millar lined out to third

5 runs, 4 hits, 0 errors
Boston 6, Seattle 3

That's right, Trot Motherfucking Nixon hit a grand slam to crush my dreams. I was now out the $15 bucks plus the $50 in bar tab for two rounds of drinks. JJ Putz can still go fuck himself. After the game was over, I wandered down to the blackjack table to play off my troubles. That was mistake #3.

That little $15 dollar parlay ended up costing me about $450. Good times. (Luis)

Share your bad beat with the world. E-mail us at tips@deadspin.com. Subject: Bad beats.

Outlandish prop bet of the week: Garter Jeans Edition

Bad Beats: Can Subliminal Messaging Lure Browns Bettors?

Via Paddy Power:

A cheeky new fashion craze is sweeping the US and threatening to divide fashionistas worldwide. Garter jeans are proving hugely popular in the States and it's only a matter of time before the latest trend rears its head in the UK and Ireland!

"Who will be the 1st Celeb to wear Garter Jeans in public?"

Katie Price 4/1
Katy Perry 14/1
B*Witched 40/1
Jodie Marsh 6/1
Kate Moss 16/1
Beyonce 50/1
Lady GaGa 6/1
Pamela Anderson 18/1
Jennifer Lopez 80/1
Britney Spears 8/1
Peaches Geldof 18/1
Leona Lewis 100/1
Christina Aguilera 8/1
Lily Allen 25/1
Whitney Houston 150/1
Megan Fox 10/1
Shakira 25/1
Chelsy Davy 250/1
Rihanna 10/1
Rosanna Davison 25/1
Kate Middleton 500/1
Cheryl Cole 12/1
Victoria Beckham 33/1

Top image via Midwest Sports Fans