Commentary

Behind the Bets

I just made the country's first bet on the 2009 NFL season. This is the story, and bet.

Updated: April 16, 2009, 5:27 PM ET
By Chad Millman | ESPN The Magazine
Getty ImagesThis smile is all it takes for Chad to drop $22.

An amazing thing happened to me Wednesday. I made the country's first bet on the 2009 NFL season. Even though it's still six months away.

Here's how it happened:

I'm in Vegas for one day connecting with regular BTB contacts and doing research for some stories. Now I know there's a recession going on, but my 7:25 a.m. flight from Newark was packed. Once I landed in Vegas, I had to fight for space on the airport tram. Getting off, there was barely enough room in the terminal for people to shuffle their feet while headed to baggage claim.

When I stopped by the Orleans to see Scooch in the middle of the day, nearly every seat in the sports book was taken and there were lines at a couple of the ticket windows. At the Hilton, more than a few blue hairs sipping beers from their mugs had planted themselves in front of the video slots and the buffet line was 15 minutes long. What in the name of Wayne Newton is happening here? I can barely afford my commute, and people out here are dropping dimes like they're worth nickels.

Anyway, while in town, I wanted to get some lessons from the bookmakers about NBA playoff betting. Over lunch, my conversation with Scooch went like this:

Me: "Scooch, how is playoff betting different than the regular season?"

Scooch: "It's not."

Me: "OK, good talk. You going to eat those fries?"

I was hoping to have better luck with Kornegay. When I got to the Hilton I went back to his office and peeked into the sports book's control center, which is only slightly less elaborate than the cockpit on Air Force One. A bank of TV screens lines the walls, and in the middle of the room is an island of computers where Kornegay and his staff keep track of the money coming in and the numbers posted at the Hilton and around the world.

I was about to ask him, "What kind of NBA action you getting?" when he casually dropped in that the Hilton had just posted numbers for Week 1 of the NFL season -- the 2009 NFL season.

You may have heard that the NFL announced its schedule this week. And for the past few seasons Kornegay and his staff have made a habit of posting Week 1 spreads, totals and money lines within days of seeing the lineup. Doesn't matter that they don't know anything about how new free agents are fitting in with their teams. Or that most franchises have no idea who their No. 1 picks are going to be. These guys say, forget about it, let's book some football. They took 15 minutes, came to a consensus on some numbers and threw 'em on the board. "We even conferenced in one of our guys who was on vacation," says Jeff Sherman, a Hilton bookmaker. "He didn't want to miss it."

The rest of this article, including Chad's Bears versus Packers play, is available exclusively to ESPN Insiders. Insider