Notable Bets: Survivor contest disaster, plus another bad Sunday for betting public

Ryan Fitzpatrick came off the bench but couldn't lead the Dolphins back against the Broncos. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Las Vegas casino owner Derek Stevens took to the airwaves Saturday to deliver a public service announcement. He didn't want to see a repeat of what had happened earlier in the day.

Stevens' sportsbook, Circa Sports, is running an NFL survivor contest with a $1.39 million prize and a $1 million bonus for anyone who lasts all 18 weeks. The contest kicked off with 1,390 entries, each costing $1,000. Entering Week 11, only 301 entries remained.

At 3:08 p.m. PT Saturday, eight minutes after the deadline to submit picks, a contestant with three of the remaining entries emailed the sportsbook. He had overslept and missed the deadline. His three entries were finished.

"Pleasant, pleasant guy ... I just feel terrible for him," Stevens told the Vegas Stats & Information Network on Saturday. "My public service announcement, in this week of giving thanks, is simply this: If you are one of the remaining contestants in the Circa survivor [pool], we are talking about way too much money to potentially have a glitch, $1.39 million, possibly $2.39 million. Get your spouse, get your best friend, get your boyfriend, girlfriend, and promise them that if you win, you're going to take them out to dinner in January. And all they have to do is call you and do a welfare check at 2 p.m. Pacific on Saturday for the next five weeks. Just don't miss the deadline. I feel so terrible about the guy that missed this week. They made it through 10 weeks and then missed the deadline."

It was the beginning of another rough football weekend for the betting public, which, after a string of losing Sundays, is in need of a Thanksgiving break.

Here is this week's edition of Notable Bets, our weekly look at the sports betting story lines from around the nation.


• "Steelers and Browns only games public won," John Sheeran, sportsbook director for FanDuel, told ESPN via text message Sunday night. The Browns covered the spread in a 22-17 win over the Eagles, and the Steelers covered in a 27-3 rout of the Jaguars.

• The majority of bettors at BetMGM sportsbooks in Nevada flocked to four teams -- Bengals, Patriots, Lions and Browns -- in the early kickoffs Sunday. Only the Browns covered, jump-starting a big Sunday for the books. Things only got worse for bettors from there.

• On the afternoon slate, the betting public loaded up on the Dolphins, who were 4-point favorites over the Broncos in Denver.

Thirty minutes prior to kickoff, 92% of the bets and 93% of the money on the game's point spread were on the Dolphins. That's despite Broncos support from bettors in Colorado. PointsBet said that 79% of the money bet with its Colorado sportsbook was on Denver. "[Bettors in] New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa obviously disagreed," Patrick Eichner, communications director for PointsBet, told ESPN.

Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, FanDuel and DraftKings reported similar one-sided action on the Dolphins, with 80-90% of the money. The Broncos upset the Dolphins 20-13.

"Broncos were our best result of the day," John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, told ESPN. "Nobody wanted any part of Denver after that loss to the Raiders last week, and Miami had been such a hot team the last few weeks. The public always loves those cheap road favorites. They even came back for more Miami at halftime. That really carried us in the afternoon."

• The Packers, who were 1.5-point road underdogs to the Colts, also were a popular pick in the afternoon, with more than 70% of the money at multiple books backing Green Bay. Indianapolis won 34-31 in overtime.

"Solid Sunday for the house," Jason McCormick, sportsbook director for Station Casino sportsbooks in Nevada, told ESPN. "Texans, Broncos and Colts were the keys. Can still use the Raiders to put a cherry on top of it."

The Chiefs beat the Raiders but failed to cover the 8-point spread, winning 35-31.

• A bettor with William Hill U.S. hit a $206,100 seven-leg money-line parlay that paid a net $253,900 when the heavily favored Chargers finished the Jets. The other six legs were Florida over Vanderbilt, Ohio State over Indiana, Louisville over Syracuse, Texas-San Antonio over Southern Miss, Michigan over Rutgers and Steelers over Jaguars.

• The Buccaneers are 4-point favorites over the visiting Rams on Monday night. BetMGM reported taking a $110,000 bet on the Bucs -4 on Friday.

• "I had the Browns last week. I'm jumping up and down, thinking I'm going to get this cover, and when he ran out of bounds, I was like, 'Wait, did he just run out of bounds?' ... That was brutal, brutal to me. That hurt me. I'm not going to lie." -- Charles Barkley, on Nick Chubb's decision to run out of bounds at the 1-yard line instead of scoring a touchdown that would've covered the spread in the Browns' win over the Texans last week, on 850 AM ESPN Radio in Cleveland.

College football

• Northwestern opened at 1,000-1 to win the national championship back in January at the SuperBook. The SuperBook took three bets at those odds: two for $50 and one for $5. The Wildcats, who improved to 5-0 with a win over Wisconsin on Saturday, are now 60-1.

• Other long shots that have seen their odds to win the national championship improve significantly at the SuperBook:

BYU: opened 1,000-1, currently 40-1
Cincinnati: opened 500-1, currently 30-1
Coastal Carolina: opened 1,000-1, currently 300-1

The SuperBook has taken one bet for $100 on Coastal Carolina to win the national championship at 500-1.

• Florida quarterback Kyle Trask has emerged as the consensus favorite to win the Heisman Trophy at sportsbooks around the nation. Trask is the favorite at +130 at William Hill, followed by Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (+200), Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields (+225) and Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (+800).

• Notable opening lines at Las Vegas sportsbook Circa Sports, the first U.S. sportsbook to post weekly college football point spreads and totals:

Auburn at Alabama (-25, 66.5)
Notre Dame (-4, 64.5) at North Carolina
LSU at Texas A&M (-12, 62.5)
Mississippi State at Ole Miss (-12, 65.5)
Ohio State (-30, 72.5) at Illinois
Pittsburgh at Clemson (-26, 58.5)
Oregon (-14, 59.5) at Oregon State

NBA draft

MW, a professional sports bettor who works with multiple betting groups, helped get more than $80,000 in bets down on the NBA draft during a wild, six-day stretch that saw the odds on the No. 1 pick move dramatically. For MW, it all began with a text message with bad information.

2:23 p.m., Nov. 13: A text from a respected sports bettor hit MW's phone, claiming knowledge of the first three picks in the NBA draft: "LaMelo Ball 1 overall, James Wiseman 2 overall, Anthony Edwards 3 overall."

At that point, Ball was a small underdog to be the first pick at most sportsbooks, with Edwards the odds-on favorite to go No. 1 overall. MW is skeptical of the validity of information when it comes to volatile betting markets such as the draft, but shortly after receiving the text message, he went to work.

By the end of the day, after placing bets at dozens of online sportsbooks, MW had gotten down $14,600 on a handful of draft props based on Ball going No. 1. "Basically, for four days, I was under the assumption the order was Ball, Wiseman and Edwards," MW said.

Nov. 17: On Tuesday night, the day before the draft, text messages started hitting MW's phone again, one after another, from several of his contacts. The instructions: Abort. Go all in on Edwards.

MW started calling his network of bettors again and spoke with roughly 10 people who said they were going to "get down as much as they could on Edwards."

MW scrambled, first buying out of his bets on Ball as best as possible and then getting as much down on Edwards to go No. 1 as he could at prices ranging from +102 to -210.

Nov. 18: On the morning of the draft, an influential offshore bookmaker moved Edwards' odds of going No. 1 all the way to -600, a commanding favorite. "When they went to -600, I was like, 'All right, this is stupid not to get as much money as I can on this,'" MW said.

When the draft began that night, MW had placed $68,480 in bets based on Edwards going No. 1. The Timberwolves picked Edwards No. 1.

"I did get a lot of money down," MW said, "but honestly, like 70% of it wasn't for me. It wasn't, like, a huge score. It was more about just keeping good connections for the next information, to be the person that they go to if they want to get a lot of money down."

Odds and ends

• Lem Banker, a longtime Las Vegas sports bettor, died Friday from natural causes, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The son of a candy store bookmaker in New Jersey, Banker arrived in Las Vegas in the mid-1950s and rose to prominence in the sports betting community. He became a popular betting personality in the media, writing syndicated columns and making regular TV appearances. In his printed columns, he correctly picked the winner against the spread in 20 of 23 Super Bowls, including 13 straight from 1973 to 1985, according to the Review-Journal.

In a 2014 interview with ESPN, Banker said the biggest bet he ever placed was on the Muhammed Ali-Larry Holmes heavyweight title fight in 1980. Banker said he got $250,000 in bets with a variety of Las Vegas sportsbooks and private bookmakers on Holmes, who defeated Ali in the 10th round.

• The college basketball season tips off this week. Villanova is the consensus favorite to win the national championship at sportsbooks around the nation, with Gonzaga, Baylor and Virginia among the other top contenders. At William Hill US books, Villanova is +900, followed by Virginia, Baylor and Gonzaga at +1000.