Oddsmakers Dealing with Strasburg-Mania



Oddsmakers have a love-hate relationship with mega-hyped events. They love having a lot of traffic in the sportsbooks because their employers NEED that traffic. They hate the possibility of getting one-sided in the game and taking a loss that really hurts the bottom line.

It's been a while since anyone can remember so much buzz about a baseball event. The debut of Steven Strasburg certainly created that around the country and in Las Vegas. In fact, people were talking all day Tuesday about how to bet his first Major League start. As soon as he finished his seven innings of spectacular work, oddsmakers started thinking about how to price him the next time he took the mound.

Here's how it played out:

The early line for Strasburg's opener was around -165 to -170 (Washington to defeat Pittsburgh). It got bet up past -200 by the time the first pitch was thrown. Sharps (professional wagerers) have actually been waiting a long time for Strasburg to come up. They LOVE betting on strikeout pitchers because big arms have such an influence on the field. Remember, squares (public bettors) don't bet early. Sharps drove the line to -200 in early action. Some were taking positions for, in essence, a "free bet"on the dog (lay -165 on Washington, take +185 on Pittsburgh after the line move...and you're risking nothing to win +20 on the Pirates). Others felt they had the value on Strasburg at less than -200 given his talent and the fact that Pittsburgh was throwing a very bad pitcher.

Square action was actually kind of mixed. Squares are funny in that they'll load up on a mediocre pitcher if his recent numbers look good, but they'll talk themselves out of a GREAT pitcher because they want to look smart.

  • How can a guy be laying -200 in his first Major League appearance?
  • You know he's going to be nervous, what a terrible line!
  • Even if he's good, he'll only pitch five innings.
  • Do you want to trust Washington's bullpen at -200?
  • You know Pittsburgh hates hearing the hype, they'll try to kill the guy.

It was like that all afternoon. This is why the line didn't go too much higher once it reached -200 or so. Sharps bet early at the best prices (like they always do). Squares invented reasons to bet on one of the worst teams in baseball with the awful Bob Karstens pitching for them.

  • I saw a lot of guys betting Strasburg on the five-inning line figuring he'd be great, and the "first half"bet would take the bullpen out of the equation. Sound logic. But, ironically, the two-run homer he allowed (his only blemish) turned the 5-inning result into a 2-1 loss.
  • You'll often hear "insiders"suggesting you should bet the Under with great pitchers on the mound. That way you can ask them to throw a good game for you without laying a huge price (which we talked about some in my last article on Ubaldo Jiminez). This strategy worked in both the 5-inning option and the full game this particular time. Karstens wasn't a disaster for Pittsburgh. Strasburg was historic for Washington.
  • Some places were offering prop bets on Strasburg. I heard a lot about this offshore. Wouldn't you like to be the guy who cashed a 20-1 return on "Over 13 Strikeouts?"You can bet this is going to be a lot more common in Vegas and Reno. If people are excited about something, oddsmakers will create prop bets for it! There's a chance this story will blow up into a true sensation that lasts weeks. Vegas wants to profit from it.

What should oddsmakers do going forward? For now, you have to assume Strasburg is going to be great and price accordingly. If he shows he's human in future outings, you bring the number back down. That means:

  • Strasburg will be very expensive to back from this point forward. The "right"line in terms of his potential dominance might have been more like -240 or -270 the other night given that 14K, 0 walk performance. Remember, he turned about 90 pitches into 7 innings. That's enough to get you to the best relievers. That might strike you as crazy. Just remember home field advantage was involved, and a very bad team with their worst starter was the opponent. What would C.C. Sabathia at his best be at home if he pitched for Washington and was facing Pittsburgh with Karstens?
  • Those 5-inning lines are going to be expensive too.
  • Totals will come down, as Strasburg will be treated like Tim Lincecum or Ubaldo Jiminez with Over/Unders. You'll see 6's and 6½'s in pitcher's parks, 7's and 7½'s elsewhere.
  • Prop bets will be available all over the place, because sportsbooks want to give squares ample opportunity to bet. Some squares get scared off by games with huge moneylines.

Again, all this can change if he has a bad game in Cleveland this weekend. Just remember that the squares went from thinking he'd be nervous and overrated to saying "Oh my God, this guy is incredible!"Squares like betting on incredible, then cheering after strikeouts.

Like you, I'll be watching his next performance with great interest. Strasburg not only gives Major League baseball a big boost, he may be the greatest thing to happen to Nevada sportsbooks over the summer in quite some time. 

While the media is focused on the new phenom, I'll be focused on picking winners all over the board! We have a huge weekend of Interleague Play on tap...plus more from the NBA playoffs. Call 1-877-822-2276 to sign up. You can also purchase my BEST BETS here at the website with your credit card.

You're going to be seeing a lot of, and hearing a lot about Steven Strasburg in the coming weeks on ESPN, the MLB Network, and the usual media sources. Just remember that the BEST information about Strasburg will be coming to you DIRECT FROM NEVADA!


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