Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

It’s March Madness like no other, an NCAA tournament held in one state while everyone hopes it’s the end of a pandemic.

Each game was played in arenas in Indiana, the first state with regulated sports betting to host the NCAA tournament. Spectators in arenas – and sports betting venues across the country – were limited and masked, and an outdoor game was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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But the madness was unmistakable. There were problems with the bow coupling everywhere. No. 1 seeded Illinois State, which had more bets on winning the tournament than any other team in some sports offices, did not participate in the opening weekend. Both had two setters with Ohio State and Iowa and three setters with Texas and West Virginia. Just like many other lotteries.

The underdogs have an impressive 28-15 record against the spread in the first three days.

The first three days of the tournament were probably the best of my life, said Jeff Stoneback, a veteran Las Vegas bookmaker at BetMGM.

By the time the favorites started losing 7-1 on Monday, many bookies had either left Las Vegas or ran out of money to bet.

But not everyone was surprised by the series of early disturbances. Eli Sawajid, a 29-year-old pharmacist from Colorado, has seen several high rollers cash in on picks, turning a $10 daily price into $33,000.

The secret of success? Pure luck, he said. March madness, I think.

Lottery ticket

Saturday night, about halfway through a late-season battle between Abilene Christian and Texas, he went on DraftKings. He recently deposited $50 into his account. It took him five minutes to submit his board, a mix of underdogs and favorites that began with Abilene Christian, a nearly 4-1 live underdog, beating Texas outright.

A daily sports betting news and information program (6:00-7:00 p.m., ESPN2) designed to better serve the millions of sports fans who participate in sports betting, and to educate sports fans in general through in-depth analysis. clock

Then he turned his attention to Sunday’s games, betting on the underdogs UCLA, Loyola Chicago, Syracuse, Arkansas, Oral Roberts and Oregon State. He added a few favorites to balance it out: Baylor vs. Wisconsin, Villanova vs. North Texas and Houston vs. Rutgers.

There was no super heavy thinking, he said with a chuckle.

The odds are good: 3,320-1.

One by one, the games began to fall on him. Abilene Christian destroyed Texas. Loyola Chicago destroyed Illinois. It got serious after 15th-seeded Oral Roberts beat Florida 3-1 on Sunday night.

After the Oral Roberts stunt, I told my mom: Saw.

He watched the games at home before the stress became too much for him. He drove to his uncle’s house near Oregon State, Oklahoma, the last stop on his strike.

DraftKings offered him various amounts of money for an advance. When Rutgers took over Houston late, the book offered only $100. The Cougars came back to win and the DraftKings bid was raised to $23,000.

In his uncle’s house, Sviged was not allowed to eat or drink. He declined the offer and put his phone away to focus on the Oregon State game. He began to doubt his decision when Oklahoma State caught up with him in the second half. However, the Beavers were spared the Cowboys’ comeback, and the turnaround put the Hangman in celebration mode.

At the end of the game, I hugged my mom because I felt good and I dressed everyone. It was great, Saw said.

Return from Las Vegas

A year ago, when the pandemic swept across the United States and the NCAA tournament was cancelled, Las Vegas was dark and silent. This year, the lights are back on, and all questions about the return of the people have been answered. With attendance limited to 50 percent under coronavirus protocols, the March Madness crowd at Las Vegas sportsbooks was not as large as in previous years, but it was just as passionate and eager to try its luck.

The bet, co-directed by Joe Fortenbaugh and Tyler Fulghum, is available live and on-demand on the ESPN app, as well as on ESPN’s social media channels on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Clock

Gamblers lined up early in the morning for the Mirage sportsbook, which opened at 6:30 a.m. Seats in the new three-story sports club at the center of the Circa Resort were sold out, as were those in the massive Stadium Swim amphitheater.

We had a gentleman sitting on one of the upper booths, and after [UCLA] won in overtime, he jumped on the table in his retro UCLA Russell Westbrook jersey and led the crowd in a UCLA fight song until security covered him and cleared the table, said Jeffrey Benson, director of sports betting at Circa. It was cool to see, just getting that fan vibe back and selling in sports betting. The energy and atmosphere was really electric.

Stonebeck, BetMGM’s director of sports betting at the Mirage, said the casino was busy and bookmaker activity at the counter was fast and furious. He said the bid amount of the NCAA tournament on Friday matched the bid amount on the first day of the 2019 tournament, and on Saturday, the second day of the final tournament, the bid revenue exceeded the bid amount.

There hasn’t been anything like this in the city since the last March Madness, Stoneback said. You would think it would be no different than in 2019, except that everyone is wearing masks now.

Notable Mises

– While this year’s tournament had many unique elements, one thing remained constant: the bookies won early and often.

The biggest win of the early season came at Loyola Chicago, an outright victory over Illinois, the first game on the schedule for Sunday.

John Murray, general manager of the popular Westgate SuperBook, compared the profits of his Loyola book in Chicago to the amount of a primetime NFL game, which is probably a six-figure multiple. Huge, Murray added.

Bookmakers PointsBet, BetMGM and William Hill also named Loyola Chicago as the home team’s biggest win in the first two rounds. On Sunday, more than twice as many bets were placed on Illinois than on any other team at BetMGM.

In that one game, we won half of what we won in the first two days of the entire tournament, Stoneback said. He was tall.

– New Jersey’s William Hill Sports Book bet $10,000 on a Gonzaga win at -15,000 over Norfolk State (16 points) in the first round. Gonzaga emerged as the winner of the draw, earning $66.

– On Friday, a bookmaker at the William Hill Sports Club at the Silver Seven Casino in Las Vegas wagered $100,000 on a win in the NCAA Tournament against 20-to-1 odds. Later in the day, the Buckeyes lost to Oral Roberts in the first round.

– Sportsbook PointsBet reports that the total number of bets on the NCAA Tournament over the first three days was three times the total number of bets on the LV Super Bowl.

– The PointsBet bookmaker hit a 5-pair machine for $65 that netted $11,026. Maryland’s offer to UConn, Ohio’s offer to Virginia, UCLA’s offer to BYU, Oklahoma’s offer to Missouri and Abilene Christian’s offer to Texas. The odds were 16,963-1

– The start of the tournament is as good as it gets for sports betting across the country, and PointsBet is no exception, Patrick Eichner, director of communications for PointsBet, told ESPN.

– Our retention rate from Friday to Sunday [the number of books recovered via settlement] was over 11%, said Murray of SuperBooks. There will be a few less on Monday, but that should give you an idea of where the books are.

– It’s been a strange year for college basketball, according to Stoneback of MGM. We usually have a hard time the first few months. But this college basketball season has been strong all year. I think it was just a harder season for the bettors. It was tough on the effort, but obviously good for the books.

– The first-round match between Virginia Commonwealth and Oregon was cancelled and declared non-competitive following numerous positive tests for coronavirus in VCU’s program. VCU came away with a 600-1 win in the tournament. Betting on the Rams’ future has been considered equity and has not been reflected in most sportsbooks. Bets on the game have been returned.

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