Most sports bets in Las Vegas are settled in a matter of hours. One wager, though, has taken nearly two full years to be decided.
In July 2010 the Miami Heat acquired LeBron James. Almost immediately, the Lucky’s group of sports books posted a proposition at its locations throughout Nevada. It asked whether James would win an NBA title in either of the next two seasons (2010-11 and 2011-12). The line opened at minus 200 on the “yes” side, plus 175 on “no.”
Within the next week, the prop will finally be graded as the Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder wrap up their NBA Finals series.
To turn a profit on the proposition, Lucky’s spokesman Jimmy Vaccaro told me, Lucky’s needs the Heat to win. The prop attracted a handful of $1,000 wagers and a flurry of smaller bets, Vaccaro said, with most of the action occurring soon after it appeared on the board. The larger wagers, and the bulk of the money overall, came on the “no” side of the prop.
I publicly went on the record in July 2010 stating that “no” was the way to play it, given the price. I estimated the Heat had about a 30 percent chance of winning the 2010-11 title, and about a 30 percent chance of winning the 2011-12 title.
If you’ve ever analyzed a similarly structured prop, you know that you don’t merely add 30 percent and 30 percent and use 60 percent in your subsequent calculations. (Think about it: If it was for each of the next four seasons instead, that method would give the Heat a 120 percent chance of winning a title during that stretch, which obviously can’t be right.) One way to do it instead is to take the odds of not winning expressed as a decimal (.7), square it and subtract the result from 1, which yields 51 percent, or about a pick ’em on a betting line. That made plus 175 on the “no” side look good to me at the time.
In other words, my willingness to fade James has nothing to do with any ill will toward him or the Heat. I don’t see James as a villain, or as the obstacle between a likeable, small-market Oklahoma City franchise and an NBA championship. That’s talk radio blather. I simply see James as overvalued in the betting market.