Road Blog: The Sports Book

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Thom and I are in Las Vegas on an adventure I’ll describe later. We’re staying at Caesar’s Palace, right on The Strip. Our arrival last night coincided with the beginning of the NFL’s 2015 season, Pittsburgh Steelers visiting the New England Patriots, and when we went downstairs to dinner, we could hear cheering and shouting from people watching the game in the bars, lounges and restaurants around us. It was a mixture of one part fan enthusiasm, I think, and four parts monetary self-interest for the hundreds or thousands of bettors gathered on the premises.

After we ate, we went over to the Caesar’s Palace sports book, where the house entertains wagers on all manner of sporting contests. The room is the size of a small concert hall, with screens showing games, highlights of games, and the current betting line on upcoming events, especially college football. By the time we got there, it was already the fourth quarter, and the Patriots’ lead seemed secure. But while the game’s outcome was no longer in doubt, the outcome of many bets — whether New England would cover the 7-point spread, for instance — had not yet been resolved. So the throng in the sports book was still hanging on every play.

At some point, I went to the restroom. Most men maintain silence while they go about their business in such settings. But as I stood at a tastefully style urinal, the guy next to me asked, “You have any money on that game?”

“No — we got here too late,” I said.

“I’ve got three thousand bucks on the under,” he said. He was referring to the over-under, a proposition in which you can bet on the total points scored in the game. Taking the under means you’re betting the total points will be lower than the number set by the house; betting the over means you’re betting the score will exceed that figure.

“What’s the over-under tonight?” I asked.

“Fifty-one.”

The score at the time of the restroom visit was 28-14, meaning the guy would lose his bet if another 10 points were scored. The Steelers had been moving the ball, and this guy was nervous he was going to lose his three grand.

“Well, it’s raining, anyway,” I pointed out — rain at the game might make it harder to score.

“Yeah — let the rains come. Slow everything down,” he said.

On screen in the sports book a few minutes later, the Steelers were driving again. Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh quarterback dropped back to pass. He threw an interception that killed a potential scoring drive.

I saw the guy from the restroom. “There you go,” I said. He had already launched into a celebration. He was going to win his bet.

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