The early Week 8 NFL betting trends  

October, 25, 2011
10/25/11
3:43
PM ET

Every Tuesday during the NFL regular season, Dave Tuley of ViewfromVegas.com will provide an update on the Hilton SuperContest.

LAS VEGAS -- The Hilton SuperContest is more popular than ever. I'm asked about the contest all the time on Twitter and in the forum on my website. And just the fact that you're reading this weekly report on it at ESPN.com tells you all you need to know about how famous it has become in the mainstream.

But along with popularity comes critics. The most common knock on the SuperContest is that it uses lines set on Wednesday afternoon and players don't have to submit their plays until 11 a.m. Pacific time on Saturday, so they have more information than was available when the lines were set and can take stale lines that are no longer available in the marketplace. Someone trying to follow the top players' selections on the weekend will often end up with a worse winning percentage.

All of this is true, and I always tell people to take SuperContestants' selections with a grain of salt as they might be taking some teams just because they're getting such an advantageous line, so you have to do a little work to decipher which plays are for that reason and which ones are because someone really likes a given side.

But does this mean the contest isn't legitimate? Of course not. It is what it is.

As has been stated here and elsewhere, the SuperContest is the sports betting equivalent of the biggest gambling tournament of all, the World Series of Poker's main event (or tournament poker in general). There are many times when you can watch poker on TV and say, "That player wouldn't have played that way if it was a cash game." But that's OK, because it's a different game. Luck also plays a part. Watch the ESPN coverage this year or from past years and you'll see the champion catching the right card at the right time or avoiding an unlucky card time and again. But the best players end up putting themselves in a position to get lucky. Fezzik, the two-time Hilton winner, will tell you that the ball bounced his way several times in his championship seasons, but he put himself in a position to win and then made the right calls at the right times.

I was talking with local handicapper, Barry Holthaus, and he equated it to golf: "You have to be good to get close to a hole-in-one; you have to be lucky to get a hole-in-one." In other words, the more times you're close, the luckier you'll get.

No contest/tournament is ever going to be perfect, but just like watching poker on TV, lessons can be learned from watching the top players and how they pick teams or even shop for numbers (because even if they're playing so-called stale numbers in the contest, many of the SuperContestants are the ones who bet those numbers earlier in the week and made them stale in the first place).

Moving back to this year's SuperContest, we have a new leader after Week 7. The entrant going under the alias Iced Tea went 5-0 to take over the lead with a record of 27-8. Iced Tea has been pretty solid so far this season and was on several easy winners this past weekend (Bears, Panthers, Chiefs and Steelers), but still needed some divine intervention from Tim Tebow and the Broncos in their rally to beat the Dolphins 18-15 in overtime (did you really think you were going to read an NFL article this week without a Tebow reference?). Former leader Sans Souci went 2-3 in Week 7 to slip to 25-8-2 for 26 contest points (wins are worth one point with pushes worth a half point). Feral Child went 4-1 and is another game back with 25 points.

Where the money is going in Week 8

Even though the official contest lines don't come out until Wednesday, the Hilton posts its openers around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, so we can usually see what the wiseguys have been betting early and project what the popular trends will be for the coming weekend.

Dave Tuley has covered the Las Vegas race and sports book scene since 1998 and runs his own website, ViewFromVegas.com.

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