There are few experiences that can match the excitement of a big time boxing event in Las Vegas. It goes far beyond the actual fight itself into the realm of ‘spectacle’. In a city that does ‘spectacle’ better than any in the world a big boxing match is one of the few things that can bring Las Vegas to a standstill with the attention of locals and tourists alike on the outcome. The most recent ‘big fight’ took place just last week as Tyson Fury defended his lineal heavyweight championship with a TKO victory over hard hitting Deontay Wilder at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The betting on the fight itself wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. That being said, there were quite a few bettors and even media analysts that completely misread the money movement on the fight. A couple of ersatz ‘sports betting experts’ in the mainstream media effused on Friday afternoon that the ‘sharp money’ was starting to come in on Wilder. That really wasn’t the case. Based on what I saw, there was no real unanimity among the so called ‘sharps’. Furthermore, the timing of the line movement was typical of many other ‘big fights’ in Las Vegas. Even though the money wagered in Nevada is just a drop in the International bucket the same patterns continue in the online betting centric marketplace of today.
BIG FIGHT WEEK BETTING IN LAS VEGAS
Here’s how the betting patterns for the Fury/Wilder fight went down. For most of the advance buildup of the fight the lines were near ‘pick’em’ or showing Wilder as a narrow favorite. One book I looked at on late Friday ahad Wilder -115 with takeback on Fury at -105. The line movement began on Friday night and eventually got as high as -145 in Las Vegas with higher prices found at more remote books throughout the US For example, New Mexico’s Santa Ana Star Casino Sportsbook got so much one sided action on Wilder that he would get as high as -220!
What many of the newly minted sports betting ‘analysts’ failed to ask themselves is ‘why would the ‘smart money’ get off the fence now to bet Wilder at a chalk price when he had been available at a better number for weeks?’ The answer: it wasn’t a ‘sharp’ line move. What frequently happens is that the betting on a big fight is fairly quiet until the Friday before right around the time of the weigh-in. That’s when out of town fans arrive in Las Vegas and collectively speaking one of the first things they do is get down on the fight. The same concept extends to fans all over the world who watch the fight on TV and bet at online sportsbooks. They’re not going to get involved until the final 48 hours before the fight.
WHO GETS BET AND WHY
There are exceptions, but more often than not these recreational fans bet on one fighter for pretty obvious reasons. Usually they wager on the favorite though the ‘public’ side can be determined by one fighter’s relative popularity or in some cases national origin. An example of this–there’s often a big fight scheduled in Las Vegas around Cinco de Mayo and/or Mexican Independence Day (September 16). With top Mexican fighters on the card and a flood of Mexican tourists in town the betting also follows the same pattern.
For some matchups, you’ll see the ‘public’ do what they did for Fury/Wilder: bet on the knockout artist. The more casual fight fan might not have a good understand of Tyson Fury’s amazing skill set and defensive prowess for a heavyweight. Wilder’s ‘calling card’ of a punishing knockout punch is much easier to understand. Likewise, when the ‘public’ analyzes a fight they frequently overestimate the importance of power. Starting with his bout against Diego Corrales, the ‘public’ always bought into the narrative that someone would eventually ‘catch Floyd Mayweather and rough him up’. It never happened, but the public never stopped believing to the point that they unloaded on Conor McGregor against Mayweather despite the fact that he’d never had a professional boxing match.
KNOW HOW THE SHARPS OPERATE
As noted above, there wasn’t any significant unanimity among the ‘wise guys’ on this fight. One commonality they do share is an understanding of the ‘big fight’ betting patterns described in this article. For this reason, it’s not likely that any ‘sharp’ would have stayed on the sidelines for weeks only to bet Wilder at the worst possible number. Wilder had been there for the taking at -115 or better for awhile and most expert bettors would have likely concluded that once he reached -140 or so the perceived value was no longer there. There was definitely some ‘sharp’ money waiting to bet Fury simply because the prices were likely to move in his favor closer to fight time. Furthermore, in what many boxing experts saw as a ‘pick’em’ fight there was likely some ‘sharp’ action on Fury based on the price alone.
One thing that many of the noob ‘sports betting experts’ in the mainstream media don’t realize is the significance of ‘beating the number’ in the marketplace. When I first started betting serious I repeatedly heard that to be successful you have to not only ‘beat the game’ but ‘beat the number’ by getting an advantageous price. A professional bettor would much rather pass on a wager than get down at a bad price. The most important takeaway is that the most basic narrative about ‘wise guy’ betting patterns is seldom the correct one.