Notable bets: Chiefs' win equals big loss for bookmakers

Harry How/Getty Images

The bookmaker's email had a joke in the subject field: "Know anyone who wants to bet the Chargers?"

The punchline contained in the email was stunning.

"Game kicks off in 55 minutes," Tom Gable, sportsbook director at the Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey, wrote of Sunday's Los Angeles Chargers-Kansas City Chiefs matchup, "and we haven't taken one single wager on the Chargers on the spread."

The action on the game at other sportsbooks around the nation wasn't quite as extreme, but it was close. It was all Chiefs, everywhere and every which way. People bet Kansas City to cover the spread, to win the game straight up, and on all kinds of different parlays.

The Chiefs didn't cover the spread in a 23-20 overtime win, but the victory still proved plenty costly for the bookmakers. Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill U.S. sportsbooks, said the Chiefs coming from behind to beat the Chargers caused a swing against the house of "several seven figures."

As bettors shed a collective tear for the sportsbooks (wink, wink), here are this week's notable bets, highlighted by a Sunday that saw 13 of 14 favorites win straight up and another epic collapse by the Falcons.

NFL notable bets

• On Sunday morning, 97% of the point-spread money bet on Chiefs-Chargers at William Hill books was on the Chiefs. By kickoff, according to Bogdanovich, 20 times as much money had been bet on the Chiefs as had been bet on the Chargers. For every one bet there was on Los Angeles, there were 11 on Kansas City.

• Sportsbook PointsBet reported 95% of money-line bets on that game were on Kansas City.

• John Sheeran, sportsbook director for FanDuel, said in a text message that a Chiefs comeback win caused a "big, multiple seven-figure swing" against the house. "Them not covering was huge, though, and eased the pain," Sheeran said.

• In the final hours before kickoff, the Borgata did manage to find some Chargers bets. "We definitely took some late Chargers money after customers started cashing tickets from the early games," Gable said. "That's the longest that I can remember going without attracting a single individual wager on a team. We actually lost on the game due to all the teaser liability built up on the Chiefs. We ended up needing the Chargers to win that game outright because the Chiefs were involved in so many teasers and money-line parlays."

Gable added that the Borgata suffered an overall loss on Sunday.

• The 23-20 victory ended the Chiefs' streak of covering the spread at 10 consecutive games, tied with the 2015 Vikings for the longest such streak in at least the past 19 seasons, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

• The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas had 12 times as many point-spread bets on the Chiefs compared to the Chargers.

"That Chiefs game was so big; it was the entire week," John Murray, executive director at the SuperBook, told ESPN.

• With the action so lopsided on the Chiefs, why didn't the point spread grow rapidly instead of sticking at -8.5 for much of the weekend? "You try to hold the line as much as you can, because any time you move the line it costs you money," Johnny Avello, a veteran Las Vegas bookmaker and now sportsbook director for DraftKings, said Sunday afternoon. "It can cost you money because it sets you for middles, being sided and everything else, so you try to keep that to a minimum."

Books get "middled" if a point spread on a game moves from, for example, Chiefs -8.5 to -10 and they end up winning by nine. Bettors who took Kansas City -8.5 win, and bettors who backed the other team +10 win.

Books get "sided" if a point spread moves, for example, from Chiefs -8.5 to Chiefs -9 and the game lands on nine. Bets laying 8.5 win, while those laying or taking 9 push.

• Another reason bookmakers might choose not to move the line, even when facing lopsided action like they were on the Chiefs, is because influential bettors might be on the opposite side of the one-sided action. Sometimes bookmakers will even move a number toward the underdog, even if inundated with money on the favorite. This is because managing the action at their book in a way that has them needing the same side of a game as the professional bettors is often more important than trying to balance the action, which is often impossible.

"We bumped [the line] up from 8.5 to 9 at the end, but that decision wasn't really about the point spread. It was all about the money line," Murray said. "Besides, the kinds of bettors who were taking Chiefs and Chiefs money line are not the players you move point spreads for. You just take bets and let the games play out. We will beat those types of bets in the long run."

• The Falcons-Cowboys game featured the largest line movement of the week. Dallas could be found as high as a 7-point favorite to start the week, but as numerous injuries for the Cowboys surfaced and influential bettors began to back Atlanta, the line began to shrink. It closed at Dallas -3 at most shops. The Cowboys erased a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit and won 40-39, recovering an onside kick that set up a 46-yard game-winning field goal by Greg Zuerlein as time expired.

According to Elias Sports Bureau research, teams were 440-0 when scoring 39 points with no turnovers since 1933.

• Trailing by 15 points midway through the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were 25-1 underdogs to come back and win at William Hill sportsbooks in Nevada. Three bettors took a chance on Dallas at that point, the largest wager being $20.

• Sportsbook Circa Sports said the Falcons-Cowboys game, along with Vikings-Colts, attracted the most limit bets this weekend. Circa sportsbook supervisor Chris Bennett reported taking limits on both sides of both games: Falcons +4.5, +4, +3.5 and +3, and Cowboys -2.5 and -3. Circa also took limit bets on the Vikings +3.5 and +3, and on the Colts -3. Indianapolis won 28-11.

• The Rams were the only underdogs to win straight up on Sunday. They closed as 1.5-point underdogs, and beat the Eagles 37-19.

• More money was bet on the Lions-Packers game than any of the other early kickoffs at BetRivers/PlaySugarHouse sportsbooks, with the Packers money line (-265) the most popular single bet on Sunday. Green Bay pulled away from Detroit, winning and covering the 6.5-point spread in a 42-21 win.

• The Dolphins covering the 5.5-point spread in a 31-28 loss to the Bills produced FanDuel's biggest win on Sunday.

• Right before kickoff of the early games on Sunday, a bettor at a BetMGM sportsbook in Las Vegas placed three $150,000 bets. The bettor took the Lions +6.5, the Dolphins +5.5 and the Buccaneers -8, and went 2-1 with the Dolphins and Bucs covering the spread.

• Those weren't the only big bets BetMGM took on Sunday in Las Vegas. In the prime-time game, the book reported taking a $450,000 bet on the Seahawks -4 (-120) against the Patriots, and a $225,000 bet on under 45 in the Seahawks-Patriots game. Seattle won 35-30.

• The Raiders are 5.5-point underdogs to the Saints on Monday night in the first NFL game in Las Vegas.

• The Ravens opened as 3-point favorites over the Chiefs in next week's Monday night showdown.

College football

• Big Ten teams are back on the betting board after the conference announced it would kick off its season in late October. Ohio State is the second favorite to win the national championship at 3-1, behind Clemson, at the SuperBook. Penn State re-opened at 30-1, with Michigan and Wisconsin each at 40-1.

The SuperBook also installed Ohio State as an odds-on favorite to win the Big Ten championship game. The Buckeyes re-opened at 4-9, followed by Wisconsin and Penn State, each at 7-1. Minnesota is next at 16-1, followed by Michigan at 20-1.

• Circa Sports opened with Miami as a 9-point favorite over visiting Florida State on Saturday.


• The SuperBook is now offering odds to win next season's NBA championship. Here are the top seven favorites:

Lakers 7-2
Clippers 4-1
Bucks 6-1
Celtics 12-1
Warriors 12-1
Nets 14-1
Heat 16-1

• FanDuel estimated that Game 2 of the Western Conference finals between the Lakers and Nuggets attracted roughly 50% of the betting handle compared to the Sunday night NFL game between the Patriots and Seahawks.


Bryson DeChambeau won the U.S. Open, his first major title. He closed at 25-1 and attracted limited support at the SuperBook. Jeff Sherman, vice president of risk at the SuperBook, described Chambeau winning as a "solid" result for the book.

• At William Hill U.S. sportsbooks, 29% of the money bet on the odds to win the U.S. Open ended up on Phil Mickelson prior to the tournament teeing off on Thursday. Mickelson was 13 over after two rounds and missed the cut.

• DeChambeau is now the favorite to win the Masters at 10-1 at the SuperBook.