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February-17-2007,
The Price of Everything - Offshore Vig Levels, Post-Pinnacle...By Nelson Lardner

Other than our lone, conservative, restrained reaction (published here) to Pinnacle Sports' abrupt withdrawl from the United States market five weeks ago, we've watched most of the chips settle. The abject pain clearly felt by so many of Pinnacle's long-term stateside clients was a one-two punch . . . knowledge that Pinny's 24/7 bargain vig was unmatchable by any outfit not quite as sharp and well-capitalized - and the rueful awareness that without the presence of Pinnacle's competitive price pressure, other outfits might look for excuses to widen their margins, pronto.

The single immediate effect for the most adept speculators was the abrupt removal of the siding and middling opportunities facilitated by Pinny's low-rent vigorish - especially in basketball, the most middle-friendly sport of all, given its scoring system. Granted, -105/-105 on both NBA and NCAA sides and totals was frequently a mirage, with Pinny boosting the retail prices on wiseguy sides -- and on positions favored by popular, skilled touts with loyal followings. But the ebb and flow of bucks during daily wagering sessions consistently opened up middle/side opportunities for well-capitalized pros with multiple outs and sharp senses of how lines were likely to move.

With that on the record, we're looking at this primarily from the perspective of the serious fan who's more interested in isolating winners than in exploiting market variations. For many of those remaining in the game either offshore, in Nevada, or with street operators, this college basketball season has been a good one for those with a basic understanding of the competitive realities inherent in an overlong season with a single-elimination tournament at the end of the rainbow. The market continues to be kind to those that recognize that conference-season basketball can be a markedly-difficult challenge for road teams, and those playing home teams in the right spots can frequently find real value.

This market can be cruel to tardy followers of obvious syndicate moves and/or hot public handicappers with copious groupies. In terms of predictive value, b-ball numbers have never been tighter. Blindly chasing 1 1/2-point+ line moves off openers in hoops is an utter waste of time and energy.

As glaring a loss as is Pinny's reduced vig on individual games, Pinny's future-book offerings have been spectacular since inception, in terms of providing players all they can ask from the marketplace - a fair shot. All you need do is look at their MLB divisional odds (already up) now. Trust me - hundreds of statesiders are staring at them, wistfully. In contrast, current postings by competitors are rather ugly; price comparisons are most striking when you're comparing divisional 4- or 5-team fields (and comparisons between books in NFL divisional races will be equally painful, when they're posted after the weather warms).

An interesting, sustained example of long-term checks and balances evidenced during a market's evolution would be horse-vs-horse thoroughbred-racing matchups. As in many markets, the typical prop gets largely one-way activity. The Vegas heyday of this business came and went a decade ago, as such managers as Robert Walker (Mirage) and Will Hall (MGM Grand) reached out for this kind of action, with a twenty-cent line. Walker candidly labeled such offerings a "loss leader", as sharpshooters typically got the best of the prices. The vig eventually rose, before such opportunities finally disappeared in Southern Nevada. Offshore, Pinnacle dealt (to the utter astonishment of most), a -105/-105 line on this product for eons, before finally going to -108/-108 a couple years back.

As usual, Pinnacle plays clever defense, offering many matchups involving grass horses breaking from extreme-outside posts, state-breds in conditioned races, and other situations likely to produce extremely random results. CRIS dealt -110/-110 for years, but abruptly went to a 30-cent line shortly after Pinny bid the Stars and Stripes adieu - before abruptly snapping back to -110/-110 on February 15. -115/-115 is obviously the point of resistance in this sector. There's a lesson to be learned. If you're confident in your opening numbers and adjustments, why chase away casual players by posting bustout-retail prices?

Pinnacle's -104 in the NFL demonstrated what a monster book with a good opinion can accomplish. I understand that with the absence of Neteller from the US, hands-on costs of processing offshore deposits and withdrawls have increased, but with the current diminished pie isn't there an opportunity for one of the more highly-regarded, established operations to make a move towards expanding market share? CRIS, WSEX and The Greek are all charging -110 for baskets -- but at least they're all posting overnights, so such pricing caution can be understood. But of these books big enough and sufficiently confident in their numbers, I'm surprised that none of the biggest boys on the block have made a move towards -108 in baskets.

If there's apprehension about getting hammered on a bad opener . . . then what about opening the overnights at -110 - then shifting to a -108 standard at, say, 11:30 AM EST? Surely the technology's there, and I'm certain such a move would receive considerable acclimation in a marketplace eager to restore shaken levels of confidence.

Hell, it ain't my money, and I can understand relative conservatism given the climate, but if sharp thinking outside the box is good for players, it might be good for a brave layer as well.

02-17-07
Nelson Lardner
MajorWager.com
lardner@majorwager.com



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