Las Vegas Sports Consultants: The Polls


Should Vegas Take Over the BCS? — written by Dan Steinberg, The Washington Post.  Oct 2006.
If you’re a careful reader of this blog, you’ll recall that earlier this week I suggested oddsmakers might be best-positioned to provide impartial and accurate top 25 polls for college football. Well, today I figured I should call Vegas and see if they’d be willing to play along.


Turns out I’m more than a year late to this party. Las Vegas Sports Consultants, the leading consultant for Nevada sports books, started publishing their own OddsMakers Top 25 last year. The firm’s four college football oddsmakers were already preparing ratings for all 119 Division I-A teams, so they figured they would each submit “ballots” and calculate the results for use in their radio shows. The poll is also published every Monday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and there’s talk of getting the rankings into the Daily Racing Form. Who in the world wouldn’t want to see that every week next to the AP and coaches’ polls in every daily paper?


I talked to LVSC senior oddsmaker Mike Seba a few minutes ago, and told him that I thought the oddsmakers poll would likely be more accurate than the AP or the coaches or the Harris people.
“Good man,” he said. “You’re right. When you look at some of the polls from year to year, it just makes you sick sometimes to see where some of these teams are rated. Whereas we know if you matched two teams up on a neutral field, who would be the favorite. It depends on who they played, and where they played, and when they played. Our livelihood depends on it, whereas these guys voting in the AP, they may care less, they could spend five minutes looking at it. We want to send out the best possible number for these games to our clients, and to do that we really spend a lot of time looking at these teams and their results and their injuries and coming up with a value for each team….When you see the AP poll or the coaches poll, sometimes you just look at it and shake your head.”

I asked another LSVC oddsmaker, Sean Van Patten, whether the OddsMakers Top 25 would be a better guide for picking the national champion than the various polls.

“I would say so, yeah,” he said, “because theirs is basically based on record, and that’s pretty much it. Our guys, they rate out the defense, the offense, so really their numbers are more of an indicator of how good those teams are. And, of course, it’s all done for betting purposes, but that’s really the telltale sign: is a team three points better or is it three points worse?”

I think it’s genius. Many apologies if this has been extensively covered elsewhere, but I don’t see how you could argue with this. If the oddsmakers say West Virginia is the 13th-best team in the country (as they do), how can they possibly be considered for the national championship game? And if the oddsmakers say Texas is the second-best team (as they do), well, get ready for a Ohio State-Texas rematch.

Anyhow, here’s this week’s OddsMakers Top25, with AP rankings in parentheses.

1. Ohio State (1)

2. Texas (6)

3. Southern Cal (3)

4. Michigan (4)

5. Florida (2)

6. Cal (10)

7. LSU (14)

8. Louisville (7)

9. Tennessee (8)

10. Notre Dame (9)

11. Clemson (12)

12. Oregon (18)

13. West Virginia (5)

14. Oklahoma (23)

15. Nebraska (21)

16. Auburn (11)

17. Wisconsin (25)

18. Missouri (19)

19. Boise State (20)

20. Georgia Tech (13)

21. Miami (NR)

22. Virginia Tech (23)

23. Iowa (15)

24. Penn State (NR)

25. BYU (NR)

Not ranked by LVSC: Georgia (16 in AP), Arkansas (17), Rutgers (24)

My questions: Are Georgia and Georgia Tech really that overrated? West Virginia? The SEC as a whole? Are Cal and Oregon really that underrated? Am I right that oddsmakers do a better poll than writers or coaches? Should Texas get in the championship game over an undefeated West Virginia or Louisville?





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