The Wizard of Odds
I just returned from an overnight business trip to Las Vegas and thought I would share the baseball odds posted at Caesars Palace and all the other (Toby) Harrahs properties (such as Paris, Flamingo, Imperial Palace, Bally's, Harveys, and the Rio).
Odds to Win the 2007 World Series
Line Opening Current Team 10/9/06 8/16/07 New York Yankees 4/1 7/2 New York Mets 9/2 4/1 Chicago White Sox 5/1 2000/1 Minnesota Twins 6/1 40/1 Detroit Tigers 6/1 7/2 St. Louis Cardinals 7/1 25/1 Oakland A's 8/1 300/1 Los Angeles Dodgers 10/1 40/1 Boston Red Sox 12/1 5/2 Los Angeles Angels 12/1 4/1 Philadelphia Phillies 12/1 22/1 Florida Marlins 12/1 300/1 San Diego Padres 18/1 18/1 Toronto Blue Jays 20/1 250/1 Houston Astros 22/1 500/1 Cincinnati Reds 25/1 750/1 Atlanta Braves 35/1 15/1 Cleveland Indians 40/1 8/1 Colorado Rockies 50/1 45/1 Chicago Cubs 50/1 4/1 Texas Rangers 60/1 2500/1 San Francisco Giants 60/1 2500/1 Arizona Diamondbacks 75/1 12/1 Seattle Mariners 75/1 18/1 Baltimore Orioles 85/1 2000/1 Milwaukee Brewers 85/1 10/1 Washington Nationals 100/1 2000/1 Pittsburgh Pirates 150/1 2000/1 Kansas City Royals 200/1 5000/1 Tampa Bay Devil Rays 200/1 5000/1
None of the above lines are particularly appealing in my judgment. As with all futures bets, the odds are stacked against the bettor and in favor of the house. Assuming equal money is wagered on all teams, the book has about a 90% profit margin built into the cumulative lines (vs. a more typical 10-20% for individual games).
The Chicago White Sox have been the biggest disappointment in 2007, going from the team with the third-lowest odds in the opening line to 2000/1 with a month-and-a-half still to go. The Oakland A's have also failed to live up to expectations this year.
All has not been lost on the Windy City as the Chicago Cubs have arguably turned in the biggest positive surprise of any team in baseball, going from 50/1 longshots last October to a one-in-five chance as the season hits the three-quarters pole. Cleveland, Milwaukee, Arizona, Atlanta, and Seattle have outperformed initial expectations as well.
At 3/2, the New York Mets were favored to win the National League Championship. The line on the Cubs (8/5) seemed a bit short to me, probably reflecting the hope of the fans more than the sentiment of the professional bettor. The other teams with a reasonable shot include the Brewers (9/2), Diamondbacks (5/1), Braves (6/1), San Diego Padres (9/1), and the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals (both 10/1).
Over in the American League, the Boston Red Sox (6/5) were almost odds-on to win the ALCS. The New York Yankees (9/5), Detroit Tigers (9/5), Los Angeles Angels (2/1), and Indians (3/1) were the only other clubs given much of a shot at winning the pennant. If the season ended yesterday, the Mariners (8/1) would be the Wild Card team and would have a one-in-four chance of representing the AL in the World Series if you believe, like Billy Beane, that the playoffs are nothing more than a crapshoot.
On the non-baseball side, you can bet $50 to win $20 on Roger Federer winning the U.S. Open Tennis Championship for the fourth consecutive time.
Get this, the AFC team is already a seven-point favorite to win the Super Bowl. Based on the odds to win the conference championships, the New England Patriots (6/5 to win the AFC and 5/2 to win the Super Bowl) and Chicago Bears (7/2 NFC, 7/1 Super Bowl) are favored to oppose each other in Glendale, Arizona on February 3, 2008. The over-under is 47.
For the patient, you can place a futures bet on the Men's NCAA basketball tournament (March 18-April 7) or the 2008 Masters golf tournament (April 10-13). The favorites? North Carolina at 7/2 and Tiger Woods at 9/5.
If you've got money to burn, Las Vegas stands ready to take it with the odds clearly stacked in favor of the house. Before you place that bet, take a deep breath and decide where your money could be better spent.