Sunday would've been a lot louder but, like the roars at a crowd-less Augusta National, the sounds coming out of sportsbooks these days are tempered by social distancing and limited occupancy. However, the disbelief of the betting public, if not heard, was clearly felt coast to coast after two dramatic NFL endings.
A collective moan rang out from bettors at the Mirage in Las Vegas, and there was a bit of an uproar at the Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Each reaction was caused by the same sudden left turn by Browns running back Nick Chubb.
Chubb's decision to run out of bounds instead of scoring a touchdown that would've covered the spread in the Browns' 10-7 win over the Texans is one of the wild stories that emerge from the sports betting world and produce such emotional reactions at sportsbooks.
On one side of the betting counter, you had bookmakers pounding their fists on their desks and yelling as Chubb broke free down the sideline. They needed the Texans to cover the 4.5-point spread in their biggest decision of the morning slate.
"We were yelling and then, unbelievable, he runs out of bounds," Jeff Stoneback, director of race and sports for BetMGM in Nevada, said. "That was our biggest game of the morning."
On the other side of the counter, you had bettors expressing their displeasure about Chubb's decision to step out of bounds at the Texans' 1-yard line with 56 seconds left.
"It certainly helped us and ... broke quite a few hearts," Tom Gable, sportsbook director at the Borgata, told ESPN.
Approximately three hours later, the gambling gods struck again, when Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins leaped high above several Bills defenders to haul in a 43-yard game-winning touchdown pass from Kyler Murray with two seconds remaining. Arizona, which closed as a consensus 3-point favorite, elected to forgo the extra point to avoid any risk of a blocked kick returned for a game-tying two-point conversion. The Cardinals won 32-30.
The reaction from the betting public to the Hail Murray was more mixed than with Chubb. The action was much more evenly split on Bills-Cardinals than on Texans-Browns at most sportsbooks. Still, the thought of being inside a packed sportsbook and hearing the sounds caused by both events brought a big smile to my face.
Here's hoping we're all back in stadiums and sportsbooks to enjoy these kinds of Sundays as soon as safely possible. And here's this week's edition of Notable Bets.
• The Browns not covering against the Texans was one of the very few games that didn't go the betting public's way on a Sunday that saw 10 of 12 favorites win outright.
"Safe to say, bettors took this round," Patrick Eichner, communications director for sportsbook PointsBet, told ESPN.
• It could've been really ugly for the books, if not for an old nemesis coming through late. The Patriots covering the spread in a 23-17 upset of the Ravens on Sunday night avoided what would've been the largest loss on a single game this season for the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas.
BetMGM reported taking two large bets on the Ravens prior to kickoff: $280,000 on the Baltimore money line at -300 to win $93,333, and $110,000 on the Ravens -7.
Every live bet New Jersey sportsbook Tipico took in the first half of the Ravens-Patriots game was on the Ravens, according to a sportsbook employee.
• The Hail Murray prevented a bettor with William Hill from completing a $2,000 six-team parlay featuring: Dustin Johnson to win the Masters (-300); Aryna Sabalenka (-180) over Elise Mertens in tennis (-180); Giants (+185) over Eagles; Buccaneers (-5.5) over Panthers; Steelers (-7) over Bengals; Bills (+125) over Cardinals.
The parlay offered a potential $96,947.11 payout.
• With Buffalo leading 16-9, a customer at the Borgata bet $100,000 on the Bills +3 in the second half. The Hail Murray cost the big bettor their wager.
• Remember, for every bad beat caused by Chubb's choice, there are some who came away winners -- including one bettor at FanDuel who placed a $103,000 bet on the Texans +4.5.
• The Packers were the biggest favorites on the board Sunday, laying -13.5 to the Jaguars. Aaron Rodgers rallied Green Bay from behind for a 24-20 win and saved a couple of large money-line bets at William Hill U.S.
The book reported taking a $99,000 money-line bet on the Packers at -1100 to beat the Jaguars straight up. The bettor won a net $9,000.
William Hill also reported taking a $102,318.41 money-line parlay at its Indiana sportsbook on the Packers (-1100), Buccaneers (-250) and Browns (-215). All three came through, and the bettor won a net $126,632.54.
• Notable opening lines at Circa Sports, the first U.S. book to post weekly college football numbers:
Indiana at Ohio State (-21, 64.5)
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (-10, 57.5)
Wisconsin (-8, 46) at Northwestern
Clemson (-29.5, 66.5) at Florida State
Cincinnati (PK, 67.5) at UCF
• Florida State has never been this big of a home underdog. By Sunday night, the line on the Clemson-Florida State had grown, and the Seminoles found themselves as 32.5-point home underdogs. Since 1978, Florida State has been a 20-plus-point underdog only three times, and all three games were on the road. The Seminoles were 18.5-point home underdogs to Clemson in 2019.
• FanDuel reported taking a $158,620 bet on Wake Forest +11.5 against North Carolina. The Tar Heels scored 28 straight points to open the fourth quarter and took a 59-45 lead with 2:39 left. Wake Forest scored with 57 seconds remaining to cover the spread in a 59-53 final.
Booking the Masters
Eric Osterman strolled into the SuperBook for his Sunday shift at 6 a.m., Las Vegas time. His job was to book the live betting on the final round of the Masters.
Osterman turned on the television broadcast, pulled up his screen showing him the market odds on one computer monitor, and the scoreboard from the official Masters website on another.
Here's how his shift went:
• 7 a.m.: By the time leader Dustin Johnson was teeing off, Osterman had examined the global market and his book's position on the contenders. He made slight tweaks to Patrick Reed's odds, the only contender whom the book didn't have a good position on, and Cameron Smith, the contender who was a best-case scenario for the book.
• 8 a.m.: Johnson entered the final round with a 4-shot lead. He was -300 to win the tournament after the third round at the SuperBook, but experienced some early hiccups. After a bogey at No. 2 and early birdies by Smith, Johnson's lead was down to 1.
"It never got to a point that [Johnson] wasn't favored," Osterman said. "I believe the shortest we were on him at any time was two-to-three, and that was after he dumped that chip shot into the bunker on [No.] 2. We basically cut his odds in half at that point, so that's a pretty significant move."
• 10:15 a.m.: Johnson settled down and took command on the back nine, but bettors were still willing to take some chances on the contenders trying to chase him down.
"I took a bet on Cam Smith when he was on No. 12. I believe he was about 25-1 at that point," Osterman said, also noting that betting on Sungjae Im, who was also in the hunt, had stopped around the turn.
• 10:30 a.m.: Osterman continued to shorten Johnson's odds, making him a commanding favorite at -5000 as he teed off on No. 13.
"I believe I took a bet on him, right when he hit his tee shot on [No.] 13," Osterman said. "I believe he was -5000 at that point. It was a small bet, like a hundred bucks to win like $2. It's funny that people make those types of bets, but we see them all the time."
• 11 a.m.: Osterman, an executive manager at the SuperBook, halted betting on the tournament after Johnson made birdie on No. 14 to take a 5-shot lead with four holes to play. Johnson was -8000 to win the tournament at that point.
"It just wouldn't have made any sense to put a line on him at that point," Osterman said. "It would've been just too high."
• 12 p.m.: Johnson has finished off his first Masters victory.
"Even going up against college football yesterday, and the NFL today, I felt like the betting [on the Masters] was really good," Osterman said. "We ended up doing very well on DJ. He was a good decision for us."
• 12:45 p.m.: Osterman's shift has ended, and he has returned home for his Sunday afternoon.
"I've been a golf fan for a long time now, so when I get to book action on the sport that I really enjoy watching anyway, it's pretty cool," Osterman said.
More on the Masters
• FanDuel's New Jersey sportsbook reported taking a $25,000 bet on Johnson to win the Masters prior to the tournament at +800. The bettor won a net $200,000. A bettor at BetMGM had $10,000 on Johnson at +1200 and won a net $120,000.
Odds and ends
• $803.1 million: The amount wagered with New Jersey sportsbooks in October, a record for a single month in any state with a regulated sports betting market.
• $230.9 million: The amount wagered with Indiana sportsbooks in October, a record for that state.
• -200: LaMelo Ball's odds to be the No. 1 pick in Wednesday's NBA draft at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Ball is the consensus favorite to be the top pick. Anthony Edwards is next at +150, followed by James Wiseman at +650.