Friday, February 20, 2009

They're On To Us

The Venetian is the first major sportsbook to post over-under numbers for MLB season wins that are actually open for betting, and I'm surprised on many levels. Firstly, I expected these to show up on BetCRIS or The Greek before any live books. What's really stunning, however, are the numbers themselves.

I copied the teams in the exact order they're listed on the betting sheet. Ordinarily, you expect some logical pattern to the teams' order: they could be sorted alphabetically, or from most wins to least, or by their 2008 records. The sheet doesn't follow any of these conventions; top-to-bottom, it resembles a set of 2009 power rankings written by an unsophisticated analyst. Notice that the win totals jump up and down almost haphazardly.

Furthermore, the win totals are inconsistent with the futures odds offered by the very same book. To wit:

O/U wins: 84.5
Odds to win NL: 18-1
Odds to win WS: 55-1

O/U wins: 72.5
Odds to win NL: 14-1
Odds to win WS: 40-1

Now, I understand that these are two separate betting markets, and the sports betting market as a whole is certainly not efficient. Still, there's no way the same oddsmaker could come up with such inconsistent odds for two teams in the same division--unless he had a big change of heart.

So what happened here? The World Series and Pennant odds were released last October, and while they've moved in response to bets and free agency, for the most part they haven't changed much. The season wins lines, however, came out this week. During that four month gap, it appears the Venetian was influenced by, ahem, an unpaid consultant.

I don't know why the Venetian is suddenly paying attention to Baseball Prospectus this year, but the evidence is too damning to ignore. I'm interested to see how other sportsbooks will handle their season wins markets: do they post similar numbers to avoid arbitrage, or shade the lines closer to where the public feels they should be? Only time will tell.

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