Notable NCAA tourney bets across Las Vegas

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

In recent years, officials at the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas had to begin roping off the sportsbook at 3 a.m. on the Wednesday night before the first two full days of the NCAA tournament, after want ads were posted online offering to pay people to save seats overnight. Adult diapers were reportedly used.

March Madness, indeed.

This week, the sportsbook at the Mirage will open at 5:30 a.m. PT, Thursday and Friday. And there will be a line to get in.

In the meantime, follow along as ESPN Chalk covers all the action -- big, small, sharp or square -- with our updating NCAA tournament betting report.

Thursday's results

• Among the winning bets at William Hill on Thursday were two large money-line wagers on No. 1 seeds Gonzaga and Villanova. According to Michael Grodsky, vice president of marketing for William Hill, a bettor put $5,000 on Gonzaga to beat 16-seed South Dakota State straight-up. The Zags won, earning the bettor a net $50 profit.

Later in the day, Grodsky said a different bettor put down $5,000 on No. 1-seed Villanova at -15,000 odds. The Wildcats led by one only at halftime, but pulled away in the second half to secure the bettor a $33.35 profit.

• After a bumpy start, bettors finished strong in Thursday's late tournament games. The favorite-and-over combination, almost always the betting public's preference, went 7-1 at some shops to close out an up-and-down day for the books.

"We were sitting pretty until the 4 p.m. (PT) games started," Frank Kunovic, director of specialty games at Caesars Palace, told ESPN in an email. "(We) went from up seven figures to down multiple six figures with all late games."

In addition to Caesars, the books at MGM, Westgate SuperBook, CG Technology and South Point also reported tough finishes to Thursday.

• While Thursday's late results weren't kind to the books, the handle -- the amount bet -- on the tournament's first full day was enormous. "We wrote half the amount of our entire Super Bowl handle just yesterday," South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews said in a text message Friday morning. "I hope to match it today."


• Duke, the No. 2 seed in the East Region, had moved into the role of favorite at sportsbook operator CG Technology. Duke was 9-1 on Sunday but has been shortened to 9-2 over the last three days, thanks to a flurry of money on the Blue Devils to win it all.

• CG Technology reported taking a $4,800 bet on Duke at 9-1 and a $7,000 bet at 5-1, with several $1,000 bets in between this week. Since Sunday, 31 percent of all money bet on the book's odds to win the tournament has been on Duke. That's nearly triple the amount of the next closest teams, North Carolina and Arizona.

Other books also have seen notable bets on the Blue Devils, including William Hill, which on Monday took a $10,000 bet on Duke at 7-1. But North Carolina, at 5-1, remains the favorite at William Hill, the Westgate SuperBook and the Wynn race and sportsbook.

• Bob Scucci, director of race and sports for Boyd Gaming, said North Carolina had attracted the most bets to win the tournament since the bracket was released Sunday, but added that "Most of the exposure is on Arizona at 8-1."

• On Monday, the Westgate SuperBook took a five-figure bet on North Carolina to win the national championship at 8-1. The bet helped boost the Tar Heels into the role of favorites at the SuperBook. As of Tuesday morning, North Carolina was 5-1, followed by Kansas (6-1), Duke (7-1), Villanova (8-1) and Gonzaga (9-1).

• Villanova and Kentucky each attracted large futures bets at William Hill during conference tournament week. On March 9, a bettor staked $10,000 on defending-champion Villanova to win it all at 9-1. Another $10,000 bet came in on Kentucky at 10-1 on March 10.

• William Hill took a $1,000 bet on Michigan at 100-1 on March 11, a good price on the Wolverines, who enter tournament week at 60-1.

• There have been five bets on Mount St. Mary's to win the NCAA tournament at 2,500/1 at William Hill U.S. Seems risky.

• Eight teams received more national championship title bets than Duke this season at William Hill. However, more money was bet on the Blue Devils to win it all than was bet on any other team. The largest Duke bet reported by William Hill was $12,000 at 8-1 odds placed on Feb. 23.

• The South Point sportsbook in Las Vegas took a pair of $10,000 bets on Duke to win the national championship from the same bettor at 10-1 and 15-2 in recent weeks, making the Blue Devils a team to sweat for the house at this point.

• The Westgate SuperBook also reported taking an influx of larger wagers on Duke to win the national championship over the last six weeks, making the Blue Devils the SuperBook's worst-case scenario.

• The Westgate and Wynn have Duke as the favorite to win the tournament. MGM has Kansas, and William Hill has North Carolina. Duke and North Carolina are co-favorites at 5-1 at the South Point, and Caesars Palace has Duke, North Carolina and Kansas as co-favorites at 5-1.

• On Feb. 23, a bettor at a William Hill sportsbook placed a $12,000 wager on Duke to win the national title at 8-1. The bet would net $96,000.

• As of Sunday at the Westgate SuperBook, more money had been bet on Duke to win the national championship than any other team.

• As of Sunday at MGM's and Caesars Palace sportsbooks, more money had been bet on Kansas to win the national championship than any other team.

• On Jan. 19, a bettor at a William Hill sportsbook placed an $8,000 bet on Kentucky at 6-1. The bet would net $48,000.

• In January, Caesars Palace took a $350 bet on Maryland at 250-1. The bet would net $87,500. "On whole, we took a lot of $100 wagers and we stand to lose over half million if Maryland comes in," Caesars Palace director of specialty games Frank Kunovic said.

• On Sept. 1, a bettor at a William Hill sportsbook placed a $300 bet on Arkansas to win the national championship at 300-1. A Hogs title would net $120,000.

• UCLA is a concern for CG Technology. The Bruins attracted more bets than any other team during the regular season, including a $3,000 bet at 25-1 and a $500 bet at 60-1. "We have a big red number to UCLA right now," Jason Simbal, vice president of risk at CG Technology, said.

• CG Technology took a $1,000 bet on SMU at 80-1 to win the NCAA tournament.

• On Feb. 12, a bettor at a William Hill sportsbook placed a $398.50 bet on Nevada to win the national championship at 250-1. A historic run for the 12th-seeded Wolf Pack would net $99,625.

• Michigan winning the national title would be the worst-case scenario for Station Casinos as of Tuesday.

Other betting nuggets

• Caesars Palace took a $21,000 money-line parlay on Notre Dame and Virginia. The Fighting Irish are around -320 to beat Princeton, and the Cavaliers are around -360 to beat UNC-Wilmington in their first-round openers. The bet would net around $14,000.

• CG Technology took a six-figure money-line bet on Purdue beating Vermont. The bet would pay $40,000. The Boilermakers opened as -410 favorites to beat the Catamounts straight-up, but the price had grown to -600. William Hill also took a big money-line bet on Purdue, $7,800 at -410 on the Boilermakers to win straight-up. That bet would pay $9,702.45.

• The first-round game generating the most betting action at William Hill is the Thursday nightcap between Nevada and Iowa State. As of late Tuesday afternoon, the game had attracted nearly twice as many bets as any other first-round matchup. Sixty-five percent of the money bet on the game was on the underdog Wolf Pack. Iowa State was a 6-point favorite at the majority of sportsbooks Wednesday morning.

• Out of the most-heavily bet first-round games at William Hill, the Creighton-Rhode Island game had drawn the most lopsided action. As of Tuesday afternoon, 94 percent of the money bet on the game was on the Rams plus the points. Creighton opened as a 3-point favorite. The line was down to pick-em at several books as Wednesday morning.

• The sportsbook at Treasure Island put up money lines on two 1-seed vs. 16-seed matchups. North Carolina is listed at -18,000 to beat Texas Southern. The underdog Tigers are 60-1 to become the first 16-seed to win a game in the NCAA tournament. Gonzaga is -8,000 to beat South Dakota State (+3,000).

• A surge of action came in on 12-seed Middle Tennessee in its opening game against 5-seed Minnesota. The Blue Raiders opened as 2-point underdogs, but were 1-point favorites at CG Technology as of Tuesday. CG Technology vice president of risk Jason Simbal told ESPN that 10 times as much money had been bet on Middle Tennessee as had been bet on the Gophers. Station Casinos also reported lopsided action on the Blue Raiders.

Prop at the South Point Casino: Will a No. 15 or No. 16 seed beat a No. 1 or No. 1 seed? Yes +600 / No -800.

• Last year at William Hill, 35 percent of the money bet on game days during the tournament was placed on the opening Thursday and Friday.

Prop bet at Station Casinos: Will the "Wildcats" win the NCAA tournament? Yes +300 / No -400. Teams included: Villanova, Arizona, Kentucky, Kansas State and Northwestern.

• Last year at William Hill, the second-round matchup between Kentucky and Indiana attracted more bets than any other game in the tournament, except for the championship game between Villanova and North Carolina.

• Ed Salmons, college basketball oddsmaker for the Westgate SuperBook, has North Carolina at the top of his power rankings, but says Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Villanova are all within a few points of each other. "Louisville is almost in that tier, too," Salmons added. "Louisville was favored over Duke (in the ACC tournament)."

• The South Point, the first book to post lines on the opening-round games, was taking bets within 30 minutes of the matchups being released Sunday. The First Four matchup on Tuesday between USC and Providence generated the most early action. "It's really getting a lot of wiseguy business," South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews said. "Most of the sharp money is on USC."

USC opened as a 1-point favorite. The line had grown to Trojans -2.5 by Monday afternoon.

• Don't call it an upset: No. 10-seed Wichita State is a 6.5-point favorite over No. 7-seed Dayton. That is the most a lower-seeded team has been favored over a higher seed in the first round going back 12 years. Since 2005, a lower-seeded team has been favored over the higher seed 42 times. The favorite in those games went 21-21 against the spread, according to sports analytics site, BetLabsSports.

• Derek Stevens, owner of The D Casino in Las Vegas, placed an $11,000 bet on each of the 32 round of 64 games and First Four matchups that were set Sunday night. Stevens placed the bets at the South Point Casino as part of a live broadcast on Brent Musburger's "My Friends in the Desert" on the Vegas Stats and Information Network.

Stevens is known to make big bets. Two years ago, he had a $20,000 ticket on Michigan State at 50-1 from the Golden Nugget to win the tournament; it would have paid $1 million. The Spartans made a surprise run to the Final Four before losing to Duke.

"It actually worked out well for everyone," Stevens said. "[Golden Nugget owner] Tilman [Fertitta] didn't lose the million, and I was able to hedge out on Duke.

Here are Stevens' 32 bets, each risking $11,000 to win $10,000: UCLA -17, Rhode Island +2, Oregon -15, Michigan State +1.5, New Mexico State +13, Wichita State -6.5, Northern Kentucky +19, Jacksonville State +22, Michigan pick 'em, Arkansas -1, Texas Southern +25, Marquette +2.5, Troy +19.5, Providence +1, North Carolina Central -2, Wake Forest +1, New Orleans -1.5, Maryland -1, Virginia Commonwealth +3.5, North Dakota +17, Vanderbilt pick 'em, Gonzaga -22, Winthrop +12, Nevada +6.5, Florida Gulf Coast +14, East Tennessee State +12, North Carolina Wilmington +8, West Virginia -14, Notre Dame -7.5, Virginia Tech -6.

• MGM assistant sportsbook manager Jeff Stoneback on the betting crowd for the opening week of the NCAA tournament: "You get a good mix. You get the people with money who come out here and want to bet on it. And then you have kids are out here for spring break and the tourists who haven't followed college basketball all season long. But everybody wants to bet on it, from the $5 eight-team parlay player to the guy who bets $50,000 a game."

• The most common size of a bet during the first two days of the NCAA tournament at MGM's and CG Technology sportsbooks is $20, with a lot of parlays.

• Last year at Caesars Palace, 54 percent of the action bet on the NCAA tournament was placed on the first Thursday and Friday. The first-round days accounted for 81 percent of the action, according to Kunovic.

• The amount wagered on the first three full days of the 2016 NCAA tournament at William Hill's Nevada sportsbook, was equal to the amount wagered on the 2015 Super Bowl, including all proposition and futures bets.

• The game that generates the most bets is shown on the primary TV screen with sound at the Mirage.

• The last game on the schedule often is among the most heavily bet. "If you took a survey (in the sportsbook) after the last game has tipped off, I would guess you have would have at least 95 percent of people would have a bet on that game," Stoneback said.