Friday, January 30, 2004

Betting And Punting

The Stardust sports book in Las Vegas is considered the sports book, because it is traditionally the first to post the line on most sporting events, and many other books follow its lead. Bob Scucci, who runs the Stardust book, has been on my radio show many times (listen to our latest conversation here).

Two weeks ago, I was in Vegas and went to the Stardust because it was a great place to watch the AFC and NFC championship games. Naturally, I said hello to Bob and we chatted for awhile. He told me how much the north end of The Strip is changing for the better, thanks to Steve Wynn's new mega-resort and the Fashion Show mall being in the neighborhood. That's good for the Stardust, so I was happy for him.

He comped me breakfast at their coffee shop. I went to eat, then came back to find a seat in the sports book and put down a wager or two. Since I didn't have a hometown rooting interest, putting some money on the games would make them more fun to watch.

One of my bets was a parlay that included one of those proposition bets. It had to do with which team would punt first in the AFC championship game. Since the Colts hadn't punted once in their two previous games due to their high-powered offense, I bet that it would be the Patriots.

As the game went along, neither team punted for quite awhile. It was well into the second quarter before one of them got in trouble and had to kick it away. Unfortunately, it wasn't the Patriots. The Colts lined up for the punt that would immediately make my bet a loser -- but the ball was snapped over the punter's head! As it rolled deep into their own territory, the Colts' punter, Hunter Smith, ran back and kicked the ball on the ground out of his own end zone, for a safety.

Since I had money on this, I ran over to Bob and asked, "Does that count as a punt?" He replied with authority, "I don't know!" He explained that he didn't think so, that it would probably be considered a muffed punt, but that he'd have to wait until they got the official stats from the NFL.

After a safety, the team that was scored against has to kick off on the next play. But because their regular kicker doesn't do it (the punter does), I raised the question of whether the kickoff counted as a punt. This one, Bob knew: it's not a punt, it's a "free kick." In other words, as far as the Stardust was concerned, there had yet to be a single punt in this game, so my wager was still alive. Whew!

The game continued until more than halfway through the third quarter before the outcome of my bet would be settled. Unfortunately, it was the Colts who were forced to punt at that point, and this time the ball didn’t go over the punter’s head.

That killed my bet -- and made my earlier meal the most expensive breakfast I've ever had.