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Bettors, Rejoice! Baseball's Back; Bookmakers Are Not Quite as Happy

5 April 2002

Like eating chocolate-covered grasshoppers, listening to rap music or watching Dick Vitale, betting on baseball is an acquired taste. The massive popularity of football has conditioned players toward betting a pointspread, and the money lines used in baseball are off-putting, to say the least.

So by the time baseball season rolls around, the number of customers calling in action to sportsbooks drops dramatically. Which is a pity, since it is a beatable sport.

We're not suggesting that the rest of us can replicate B.W.'s success, 'cause we can't. But most of us can do better at bases than we do at football. In fact, some books try to discourage their customers from betting on bases.

One ploy is to offer a 20-cent line instead of a 10-cent line, because it keeps away a lot of sharp action, at least until the line has moved. The dime line reduces the house advantage and is the only line some players will bet into.

In reality, lots of books offer the 20-cent line and write plenty of business. Credit shops that also are post-up books and which take big action from wiseguys have different policies. Some blow off the syndicates with the 20-cent line. Others woo them with the 10-cent line.

But, as Carib's William J. Caesar told us, "The 20-cent line doesn't stop the wiseguys, it just slows them down a little."

A lot of self-proclaimed hotshots are quick to deride books that use the 20-cent line. But given the volatility of today's numbers - with the syndicates and the followers representing a small number of players but putting in play a large volume of dollars - a game that opens at -135 can close at -170.

Serious bettors with multiple outs know that shops with 20-cent lines on occasion will post a bettable number.

We wouldn't go out of our way to open an account to bet baseball with a book that runs a 20-cent line. But if you already have an account with such a book, by all means check its lines when you're shopping.

For what it is worth, we believe that handicapping baseball has more upside than football, even for recreational players.

Many sites offer baseball contests as a means to increase traffic or revenue. Whether or not you're an entrant, the picks of the top players can be observed. Surfing the web will turn up lots of sites with interesting contests.

One such site, which we mention because we are participating in its contest, is theUltimate Handicapping Challenge for Baseball. Seventy-four 'cappers are vying for a winner-take-all prize of a $5,000 betting account compliments of CRIS Sportsbook.

As is the custom in baseball contests, ranking is by units, rather than by simple W-L records. That's because giving out a play in baseball at -2.00 should reward or penalize the bettor proportionate to the risk.

This contest has some high profile services and some that are less well known. Of course, by the end of the season, all of the contestants' abilities to pick baseball should be well established, as this competition is very well conceived and executed.

Best of all, anyone can see the free picks made by the contestants every day. Since the 'cappers sell their picks, not all of them list comp plays. But there is a daily potpourri of plays at this site, which should satisfy most bettors. By checking out who is doing well in the weekly standings, a bettor should be able to follow some winning 'cappers.

The site even has last year's baseball contest standings listed. We were not surprised by the number of services that finished with negative units, or by the large number which apparently stopped submitting plays.

We look forward to the daily competition of this contest, and we do bet the plays we submit. Our goal is simply to try for consistency and finish with a profit. We'll let the services scramble for first place money and the bragging rights that go with it.

WINNING UGLY.

The term "winning ugly" isn't used for basketball very often. It is more often associated with football, and the NY Giants when they were coached by Bill Parcells, for instance. Actually, any team run by Parcells eventually gets tagged with that phrase.

But in the NCAA's Final Four, Maryland and Indiana playing in the Championship Game gave new meaning to the term winning ugly. After blowing much of a big lead in a semi-final game against Oklahoma with stupid decisions, bad shots, ridiculous clock management and sloppy ball handling, the Terps nonetheless hung on. They entered the final game as 7-point favorites.

Who would have thunk that two teams playing for the NCAA hoops title would display such utter ineptitude? There's not much left to say, since both teams have been trashed on the Internet by basketball purists who expect more from their championship contenders.

It's true, the game had elements of comic relief. But in the end, Maryland did assert itself. After giving away a sizeable lead and letting Indiana go up by a point, the Terps got down to business and put away the Hoosiers.

Dean Smith and John Wooden might have been cringing at the less-than-scintillating display of hoops skill, but at the end of the day, Maryland got the win and cover.

Indiana, a 100-1 shot at the future books in Vegas, has obviously resurrected its program from the Bobby Knight contretemps that marred his last years at the school. A tip of the Sportsbook Scene cap to the Hoosiers and its coach for almost being a Cinderella for the ages.

PAYING FOR PICKS.

The issue of paying for picks is ongoing and never-ending. While we understand the rationale of those who insist on ponying up a few quid for a tout's lock of the year, that point of view does not get any support in SBS.

In fact, our position was succinctly stated by a poster at a popular sports betting forum. Here is how the issue of paying for picks was articulated: "NEVER PAY FOR PICKS NEVER EVER !! If you feel the need to bet somebody else's picks, there are many solid players who give out their selections free of charge.

"Paying for picks puts you at a disadvantage right from the start Don't be lazy Stay focused "

Amen.

LINE SERVICE ANNIVERSARY. A popular and well regarded local line service here has celebrated its fifth anniversary of serving sports bettors.

G&J Update was five years old on April 1, and says it has finished phase one of its recently implemented Custom Computerized Line Service.

Phase two, an upgrade, will be released later this month, said G&J principals, Gil and Joe. "We'll be adding many new features, and more sportsbooks including some of the industry's premier shops."

Reflecting on how offshore sports betting has evolved during the last five years, they both agreed that, "The business has switched from live phones to the Internet. We had to switch with it or else we would be in big trouble."

Looking to the future, they are working on several revolutionary projects that they say will change the way the industry serves its customers. "Our goal is not only to offer a quality, affordable product for everyone from the Big Player to the Weekend Warrior, as well as for The Big Shop and the Mom and Pop store. We want to see this popular activity continue to enjoy spectacular growth, and to provide quality service that helps participants on both sides of the wagering counter," they stated.

G&J has established itself as a professional line service that understands the needs of both players and the books. It should be interesting to see how the business of marketing real time odds, which for a long time was pretty much the exclusive arena of Don Best, is handled in the months ahead. It is a competitive business in transition, which bodes well for bettors.

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