Bill Ordine has been writing about gaming since the days when folks stood in line to get into Resorts International, Atlantic City's first casino. Since then, he has covered the gambling industry from the drama of the World Series of Poker to the exhilaration of Triple Crown races to the giddy celebration of Super Bowl Sunday in Las Vegas. Along the way, he has learned that the smartest gamblers possess the patience to wait until the odds are in their favor and the prudence to quit while they're ahead.
This weekend's divisional playoff round stands apart on the NFL calendar because it is the one time during the season when scheduling rules seemingly give an entire group of teams a substantial advantage over their opponents, based on merit. The top two seeds in each conference earned the privilege of a bye week that has given them more time to rest, heal, and prepare for the survivors from the wild-card round.
Only the most rabid handicappers will try to dope out the NFL's final regular-season games given the inherent uncertainties of Week 17. With a few playoff teams locked into their byes or seedings and possibly resting starters, and some of the also-rans already packing their bags, questions about who will play and with how much purpose will force many prudent handicappers to sit this one out and wait for the postseason.
Two huge point-spread moves produced split results between bookmakers and bettors Sunday. Both the public and the professional bettors fell in love with Dallas in the Cowboys' game at home against Washington, driving the line from where the Redskins were getting 6 points at midweek to where they were 9- to 10-point underdogs by kickoff.
For the second week in a row, the Eagles delighted not only their fans but also the bookmakers. Among Sunday's early-afternoon NFL games, the Birds' home matchup against Atlanta was the most-bet contest at many Las Vegas casinos - and the money, both from the public and the professional bettors, was on the Falcons.
The bookmaker recalled the rueful gambler's expression. "The old saying is that 'I had the right team but I didn't get the right result,' " said Jay Rood, director of sports and race book operations at MGM Resorts casinos in Las Vegas.
When recent Temple University graduate Russell Thomas earned his diploma, his future was fairly well-defined. An actuarial science major, he had a job lined up, a job he planned to start right after he returned from playing in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.