Wiseguy look at college football Week 1 

August, 26, 2010

By the time I arrived at Roadrunners on Flamingo, 20 minutes from The Strip, the meeting had already started. Teddy Covers was there. So were Fezzik and Bryan Leonard and Jim Kruger and Arne Lang and a half-dozen other longtime sharps. They were seated in the cowboy-themed back room, where they are every Tuesday afternoon, at three circle tables pushed together. Hammered to the bright red walls were cowboy boots, longhorn skulls and paintings inspired by the Wild West.

This is the weekly wiseguy lunch. Around these tables, every theory, stat, number and maxim is debated in a language studded with so much betting lingo that, if the words were strung together end to end, they'd reach the top of the Stratosphere.

"It's no fluff, nothing personal," says Fezzik. "We just come in and get down to business."

The agenda every week is simple: After someone announces a game and the spread -- Kansas State minus-2.5 over UCLA -- the guys go around the table, say how they power-rated the game, if they bet it, at what price they got it or if they are passing. They run through both the college and pro schedules, talking about sides, first halves, money lines and totals. There's one guy who, whenever it's his turn, just announces his projected total for the game, blurting out digits like an auctioneer -- 59.6, 46.7, 64.2. Talking too much is a no-no, but if someone has a particularly smart theory or insight it gets shared, praised debated and knocked around.

It's the Vegas equivalent of Linux.

When I got there the tables were littered with plates of chili and salads and chicken club sandwiches, jug-sized glasses of iced tea and a library full of betting aides: Don Best booklets that list all the matchups for the season, college and pro, Phil Steele's college football annual, reams of paper that each guy had printed out with notes handwritten in the margin. Fezzik, sitting in the middle and facing the door, was the only guy with a laptop open. He was picking green grapes from a bag he had brought from home. The whole scene looked like a bunch of frat guys cramming for the final in a class taught by Lefty Rosenthal at the old Stardust.

This session was dedicated to breaking down Week 1 of college football. Lines for the games had been up for a while and most of the wiseguys rushed to get their piece as soon as they opened. But that didn't mean there weren't still some opportunities worth discussing -- or opinions to be dissed. Take the Texas-Rice game being played at Reliant Stadium in Houston, which was listed as Texas minus-29. Rice is located in Houston, so one of the sharps, who power-rated the game with Rice as a 27-point underdog, said, "I'm giving them another point for being in their hometown, so I've got it at 26. I took Rice plus the 29."

"What?" another sharp said skeptically while peering over his glasses. "This game is still being played in Texas. There are going to be more Longhorn fans there than Rice fans. This is not a home game for Rice."