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Hot Hot Vegas Report: Unofficial Gambling Holiday

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The Las Vegas Hilton's Sportsbook is slightly bigger than my den


A few nights ago, with a little help from my friend Basil Hayden, I thought up an excuse to garner some much needed attention from the blogisphere. The idea is a Vegas-themed post that I could sprinkle in between Mike's well-versed ramblings on all things Louisville throughout the football season. The Cards will still be my main focus but Vegas will be the canvas. If it stinks, I'll cease fire...if Mike hasn't pulled the plug already.

During my still ongoing 2 weeks leave from work, bookended by visits from family and friends, I exercised a little free time to play some poker and check out my favorite Vegas Sportsbooks before college football kicked off. And if you didn't know already, the first weekend of college football is an unofficial holiday in Vegas. Sure, March Madness will always reign king but for us locals, college football is the undisputed champion of sports betting and the first weekend of CFB is where you stand to make the most money for your bet and thus stands to be one of the most exciting weeks (see: App State over Michigan) of the season. Why? There's 5 times as many games listed on the board as a standard NFL weekend, meaning myriad more research and predictions that have to be made by oddsmakers. Also, fans who follow one certain conference, geographical area or team will likely have an advantage over John Q. Bookmaker in week one due to how much has changed over the offseason for each team and the fact that the bookmaker doesn't have any previous games or preseason action on which to base their spreads.

Anywho, nothing's really changed much with the casinos or sportsbooks, except there are noticeably more penny slots which is no doubt due to the recession...the Hilton still has the largest sportsbook (best for fantasy football drafts and watching March Madness), Caeser's the classiest with most knowledgeable fans, the Wynn the most upscale and the local Station casinos have the best odds and accessibility. The most disturbing thing I've noticed is that at no casino or online site could I find the Louisville v. Indy State game available for wager. I asked 3 sportsbooks (Hilton, Aliante Station, Wynn) if they thought the Louisville game would be put on the board by Friday or Saturday (games are often added if there's increased interest) and they all said "no chance" and that I was the first one that had asked about the game.

To give you a little perspective, each casino I visited lists the following games: UTEP v. Buffalo, Idaho v. New Mexico State, Stanford v. Washington State, Toledo v. Purdue, and Rice v. UAB....so it's not exactly as if they're limiting their brainpower to working spreads on the best 20 games. Furthermore, on opening weekend, sportsbooks typically cover 90-95% of all CFB FBS games being played. How are we supposed to take this game seriously if Vegas doesn't acknoweldge that we're playing Indiana State but yet they're giving me 6 points for UAB over Rice? I can't remember ever not seeing Louisville's spread on vegasinsider.com's Las Vegas Odds page or in a sportsbook. The guy at the Hilton looked stumped that Louisville was playing this weekend and yet it wasn't on his board...he asked me if maybe UL's first game wasn't until next week but I assured him that indeed UL is playing this Saturday. That's called being humbled.

If I were to guess the spread, I'd give 28.5 points to Louisville. If this were 2007, it'd be at least twice that. Other notables: Kentucky is a 15 pt favorite over Miami (OH), Rutgers 5 pt favorite over Cincy, Syracuse is a 7 pt underdog to Minnesota and UCONN is a 3.5 pt favorite over Ohio (OH).