Betting syndicates have become gambling warfare -- organized attacks that require extreme precision and timing. It's basically a hedge fund where they do the analysis and you do the leg work. When the command is given, you have about 15 seconds to make the bet. Otherwise, the entire odds market changes and the strike price vanishes.
Let's flash back to 2009. I was living in Las Vegas and had friends immersed in a well-known syndicate. They were instructed to be ready at their computers at a specified time on a Thursday as well as Saturday mornings. When they were in position, the plays would follow.
Syndicates have evolved over the years with technology, but cellphones are still avoided. Group texts reveal personal numbers.
MSN Messenger was the method of choice for this specific outfit. Random handles in chat rooms do not reveal identifying information. Thus, no one knows who else is participating, except for the organizers.
At the appropriate time, the syndicate would reveal the desired actions. All those involved would line up their plays on the screen, waiting for the "go" or "cancel" directive. That next message is then posted in the chat and the syndicate participants make their moves.
All players would then get down as much as they could on all their accounts before the market moved. The plays of every individual were submitted in the chat room, and someone at the home base of the syndicate would document all wagers into a ledger. Then another play would follow. Rinse and repeat.
The pay structure varies. This particular group allowed its "runners" 25 percent of all the action. If you can get down $4,000 per play, then you have a $1,000 bet of your own money on what is considered an "advantage play." In return, you are placing a $3,000 bet for the syndicate's operators.
One item of note is that no bet could be placed at any established sportsbook -- in Vegas or offshore. Players were mandated to bet on "skins," which are websites that these days have replaced your corner bookie. Skin operators don't make or adjust point spreads; they merely copy the world's major sportsbooks. So, if all these syndicate bets avoid the core books, then you can theoretically place unlimited wagers on skins without moving the market (within reason).
Long gone are the days of "Zeke", the neighborhood bookie who takes your phone call and wagers. Instead, guys like Zeke pay a company based out of Costa Rica or another foreign country to run a website and handle all the minutiae. The skin's website posts all the spreads and allows a bettor to log in with his personal code and place wagers. Zeke just pays the skin a weekly fee that is typically about $12 per account.
Zeke is still booking all the action on credit and collecting from clients stateside, but he never has to manually take bets throughout the day. More importantly, he doesn't have to worry about monitoring injuries or any other line movements. He pays a company for all that expertise -- or to copy the world's major sportsbooks.
Unfortunately for Zeke, he might not realize the accountants, doctors and bartenders on his client list are not really recreational bettors. They are actually "beards" for a sharp, sophisticated syndicate.
Here's what I like this week (2-3 last weekend):
Alabama -18, first half (vs. Missouri) -- I am not jumping off this gravy train. The Tide are 6-0 ATS in the first half this season, outscoring opponents 238-34. The concept is pretty simple -- you get Bama's starters and max effort in the first half before Nick Saban plays his reserves in garbage time. Until oddsmakers adjust enough, that's where the line value exists. Plus, as Phil Steele explained on the "Behind the Bets with Doug Kezirian" podcast (I am not above plugs), Missouri QB Drew Lock has thrown more interceptions than touchdown passes when facing Power 5 teams that reach a bowl game. Essentially, he struggles against good teams.
Missouri/Alabama over 40.5, 1st Half -- See what I wrote above, then consider that the Tide are a historically great offense that is basically unstoppable. Last week, Tua Tagovailoa threw more touchdown passes than incompletions. He leads the country in QBR, and Alabama leads the nation in offensive efficiency. Missouri's biggest weakness is pass defense. Alabama could cover this total by itself.
Michigan -9.5 (vs. Wisconsin) -- I am always intrigued with a "reverse line movement" on a favorite. Oddsmakers are expecting the public to back Wisconsin in overwhelming fashion. However, they have moved the line the other direction (this spread was -7 on Wednesday). In the rare case the public significantly backs an underdog and the spread still moves in that direction, I will gladly take the favorite. Plus, the Badgers are 1-4 ATS this season and just don't have their signature stout defense.
Bills/Texans under 41 -- Buffalo averages the NFL's fewest points per game and should have difficulty moving the ball against Houston's imposing defensive front. I expect a conservative game plan to protect rookie QB Josh Allen. Meanwhile, the Texans have looked disjointed on offense all season and Deshaun Watson got banged up last game. After emotional overtime wins in back-to-back weeks, I can see Houston going through the motions all week in preparation for this game.
Jaguars -3 (at Cowboys) -- This could be a painful watch. Both offenses figure to struggle, so I will back the better defense. Since the beginning of last season, Jacksonville is 5-1 ATS off an outright loss. I expect the Jaguars to bring their best effort against an offense that has zero rhythm, an inaccurate quarterback and a head coach on the hot seat.
Steelers/Bengals over 52.5 -- Gone are the days of AFC North defensive battles. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati rank among the NFL's top five scoring teams, plus they have each gone over the total in four of their five games. Bengals QB Andy Dalton has posted much better numbers since Bill Lazor became his offensive coordinator last year. He has a 14-5 TD-INT ratio in eight home games.