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Cracking the code of common sportsbook refrains

After Philadelphia’s 41-33 upset of New England in Super Bowl LII, South Point oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro reported, “We ended up winning a ham sandwich on the game.”

Likewise, after taking action on a sumo wrestling tournament in March, William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said, “We won a peanut to it.”

The old-school analogies mean the same thing: The book won small.

“Whatever the food reference, it means the book won,” veteran Las Vegas oddsmaker Dave Sharapan said. “One of those weeks where the book lost some decisions but still came out ahead.”

Every NFL Sunday, I check in with Las Vegas bookmakers to see how their book fared. It’s a more delicate situation than you’d think because, as Sharapan noted, “Nobody wants to hear that the book won. People don’t need a reminder that they lost.”

It’s also tricky for the books when they have a bad day because oddsmakers don’t want to come across as complaining when Nevada sportsbooks have had one losing month in seven years.

“There’s more sympathy for the devil than the bookmaker,” said Sharapan, 50. “And they don’t need to shine a big old Bat-Signal light on the fact that the book lost because the bosses read the paper, too.”

A Pittsburgh native, Sharapan, aka the Sportsbook Consigliere (@SportsbkConsig), worked in the sports betting industry in Las Vegas the past 15 years for CG Technology and the Golden Nugget. He revisited a story with us that he wrote last year for Sports Handle in which he translated common refrains from bookmakers describing how the book did.

“Morse code”

“I don’t know of any other business that gets put out on the street regularly, where everyone wants to know how they did,” he said. “It’s a fun thing to do, but it’s almost like Morse code.”

We already covered “We won small,” which is essentially the same as “We broke even” and “We lost small.”

“Nobody breaks even,” Sharapan said. “When the book tells you they broke even, it usually means the book won small.”

And when the books say “We lost small,” Sharapan said that probably means it was a small winner or small loser.

“The old-timers say ‘grocery dollars,’” he said. “This was one of those weeks where the books and the players trade grocery dollars. A stalemate.

“In the old days, the book would just carry the balance to the next week.”

“We had a good week”

Last week, the books said “We had a good week,” in large part because of outright upsets by the Raiders (over the Chiefs), Dolphins (over the 49ers) and Panthers (over the Falcons).

“This means people got crushed,” Sharapan said. “Books would love to have weeks like this every week, but then nobody would have any money to bet.”

When the books say “We did OK,” Sharapan said that means the book won pretty good.

“Not as good as having a good week, but still a solid winner,” he said.

“We got destroyed”

On the flip side, there are rare weeks when the books report, “We got beat up a little.”

“Cry me a river. The book actually lost. It happens sometimes,” Sharapan said. “People that haven’t won in weeks won this week. Back in the day, the phone wouldn’t stop ringing trying to set up a meeting to settle up the figure. Usually on Monday night before the favorite covered and the game went over.”

Week 2 of the NFL this season was a dream come true for teaser and money-line parlay players, as favorites won 14 of 16 games. Over bettors also cashed in, as 11 games surpassed the total. This was the week books said “We got destroyed.”

Sharapan joked that “Even the Mush wins this week.” The reference was from the movie “A Bronx Tale,” in which Eddie Mush was a degenerate gambler who was called mush because everything he touched turned to mush.

“This is the Armageddon that happens once or twice a season,” Sharapan said. “Almost all the favorites cover, teasers win every which way and every game goes over. Stevie Wonder hit an eight-teamer this week — full disclosure, I love Stevie and his music.

“This is the week that leaves a mark. Like back in the day maybe bookies had to cancel their trip to the Caribbean next month or maybe they had to eat fast food for dinner instead of steaks. But nobody cries for the book. The lights come on and the windows are open the next day. There are more games to bet. Enjoy the win.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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