LAS VEGAS — “Be my guest,” Paul Stone said as he waved pal Jim Schrope ahead of him in line at a South Point sportsbook ticket window a bit past 11 a.m. May 21.
Book director Chris Andrews had just released the spreads of 97 college football Games of the Year, and Stone and Schrope were some of the sharp bettors eager to take positions.
Schrope put a grand on Alabama, giving 13 points to Miami in a Sept. 4 game in Atlanta. The line moved to 14. Stone still saw value and put $1,100 on the Crimson Tide.
It had eked to 16 by Wednesday. At some shops around the country, it climbed to 17.5. Says Schrope, “That’s a lot of one-way action.” Of his dozen tickets, he coveted ’Bama -13 against the Hurricanes.
“When they put that up at under two touchdowns, I think a lot of people were salivating,” Schrope said. “If I hadn’t been one of the first two people in line, I would not have gotten that number.”
A recent swing through the usual troika — Circa Sports downtown, the off-the-Strip Westgate SuperBook and the South Point, at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard — was anything but common.
Football is king. It doesn’t kick off for another few months, but pigskin wagering is in full swing. The earliest birds savor the sweetest rewards. In one case, thanks to a friend of 10 years, that meant giving 13 points instead of 14.
“Usually, I let Paul go in front of me,” Schrope said. “He does so much for me. But he said, ‘You go first this time.’ I was grateful. I got the best number available.”
CIRCLE OCT. 17
Money has been trickling in at Circa on the Bears, moving their Super Bowl-title odds from 50-1 to 40-1 over the last three months.
Part of the property’s allure is yes/no proposition offerings, allowing patrons to wager, say, on the Bears to win Super Bowl LVI and the Packers to not win a fifth Lombardi Trophy.
The odds of the Bears not winning the next title are -7200, or wager $7,200 to earn $100 — also the Steelers’ figures.
Green Bay, meanwhile, the site of the daily Aaron Rodgers drama, is -2200 to not claim the crown. To win it all, the Packers are +1200 (bet $100 to win $1,200).
At the Westgate, SuperBook chief Jay -Kornegay and his staff produced spreads and totals on every game of the 18-week NFL season, an epic achievement.
An intriguing tilt is Packers-Bears on Oct. 17 at Soldier Field. The SuperBook installed Green Bay as a 2.5-point favorite.
Rodgers is 21-5 against the Bears. That game’s complexion changes considerably, though, if he retires or is traded this summer.
The Bears getting 2.5 at home possibly against a Rodgers-less Packers squad would seem to be value. However, Long Island handicapper and nationally syndicated SportsGarten radio host Tom Barton never indulges in such early NFL lines.
“Too much can happen” he said. “Sure, Rodgers might not be there. But what if he is and they are unbeaten? What if Allen Robinson or [Khalil] Mack goes down? Too many injury variables in [pro] football.”
FADE AUBURN, IOWA STATE
At 10:19 a.m. May 20, Andrews released those 97 college games, blank spaces where spreads belong, on Twitter, noting, “Time to do some homework, fellas.”
Schrope, a 56-year-old aerospace engineer for the navy who lives in San Diego, drove to Vegas that day and went to work.
He had handicapped, via his power ratings, dozens of games. He jettisoned the ones that weren’t on that list. He attacked the ones that he hadn’t handicapped.
His day job affirms his affinity for numbers, and he has profited on his college GOY endeavors each of the last six seasons.
The 59-year-old Stone provides a handicapping service, college football being his wheelhouse, to select clientele from his east Texas residence. When he and Schrope discuss games, people listen.
Last Friday morning, Schrope saw that his lines on nine Notre Dame games matched, almost exactly, what Andrews had produced. He moved on.
Alabama-Miami was a no-brainer. Out of Schrope’s next 11 wagers, six entailed fading (betting against) programs that he believes have inflated statures; three against Auburn, three against Iowa State.
“Part of my usual strategy,” he said. “In all six of those cases, I felt like I got a very reasonable number.”
He is on Oklahoma State (Oct. 23) and Texas (Nov. 6), each getting 10 points at Iowa State, and he has West Virginia +8 at home Oct. 30 against the Cyclones.
“Iowa State will be very good, I just don’t think it’ll contend for a playoff spot,” Schrope said. “Those lines are a little bit out of whack. I think they all should have been under a touchdown.”
Schrope got LSU -3 at home against Auburn (Oct. 2), Georgia -4 at Auburn (Oct. 9) and Ole Miss +6 at Auburn (Oct. 30).
He views new Tigers coach Bryan Harsin, a former quarterback and coach at Boise State, as a regional misfit.
“He’s a West Coast guy,” Schrope said. “To me, it’s a really strange hire.
“Quarterback Bo Nix has completely underperformed there. Maybe this new regime turns him around, but I see this as a transition year for Auburn.”