Books will have an interesting summer pricing the Cubbies

With Chicago's lovable losers one of the favorites to win the World Series, sportsbooks are finding ways to capitalize. Willing to bet the Cubs will set a new MLB win record?
Hero Image

Wait until next year.

We hear it every single season regarding the Chicago Cubs and their prospects of becoming World Series champions. 

This season might be different (at least through the month of April) with the loveable losers off to a scorching start. None of this comes as a surprise considering Joe Maddon's bunch had their win total set at 93.5 entering the season and have been listed as favorites to take home the hardware since spring training.

SportsLine's forecast for the Cubs
Projected wins Win Div Playoff% NLCS% WS%
100.0 45.3% 94.7% 19.4% 9.4%
* SportsLine data updated as of 4/29

 All of this success (or potential for it) for one of the sport's marquee franchises hasn't been lost on bookmakers either.

"There are lots of people on the Cubs every day; a lot of straight bets and whole bunch of parlays. It really adds up. So they (Cubs) have been our biggest decision almost daily," Chris Andrews, Sportsbook director at South Point Las Vegas, said.

Andrews isn't the only operator seeing increased betting handle on the Chicago Cubs. 

Nick Bogdanovich, Director of Trading at William Hill US, has noticed similar trends at his 100-plus Nevada based sportsbooks as well.

"The everyday parlay bettor has the Cubs on their tickets daily. They like betting Cub games over (total) as well," Bogdanovich said.

But he also went one step further, saying there's something special happening once every five days when the Cubs ace Jake Arrieta toes the bump.

"When Arrieta is on the mound, we see about a 40 percent increase in handle due to his dominance during the last three quarters of the 2015 baseball season.  Arrieta has been like a printing press for money and he doesn't look like he is slowing down anytime soon."

Arrieta's recent run of outstanding performances, especially at home, has led oddsmakers to pricing him in dangerous territory. Aside from his season debut in Anaheim this season, last year's Cy Young winner hasn't been listed as a favorite of less than -178 in his last seven regular season appearances. 

Even more indicative of Arrieta's dominance is that he's found himself in rarified air as nearly an unbettable -300 chalk or higher in three of those seven starts.

Star power makes for betting intrigue and when one of the more popular teams in all of sports is creating the headlines, it's always good for business.

"The Cubbies are akin to the Cowboys and Lakers, no matter how good or bad they are, they have massive fan bases and people are going to bet on their games," Scott Cooley, oddsmaker at Bookmaker.eu, told SportsLine.

However, daily action is just one of the ways books are attempting to squeeze money and opportunity out of this Cubs momentum.

Andrews and his team at South Point posted an updated win total of 100 games on the Cubs recently, allowing bettors that were drinking the Kool-Aid to collect $1.50 for every $1.00 risked if the Cubs break the 100 victory threshold, while naysayers needed to risk $1.70 to make $1.00 if they believed 99 wins or fewer to be the Cubs ceiling. 

Bogdanovich and his team went a step further trying to lure fans of baseball history into action, setting the Cubs win total prop at 116.5. 

Why 116.5 wins you ask? 

That just happens to be the record (116) for regular season wins set back in 1906 by this very same Cubs franchise and matched only one other time in history -- back in 2001 by the Seattle Mariners. 

Making a leap of faith this gigantic comes with upside. The prop pays 15/1 should the Cubs win 117 games to break the record, while betting the under will mean digging into your pocket just a bit, risking $40 to win $1. 

For me, there's nothing wrong with roughly a 2.5 percent return on something that hasn't happened in 100-plus years and won't happen this summer either.

Aside from daily action on the North Siders, there's still money being wagered on the Cubs to achieve baseball immortality, but not at the same feverish pitch that was seen earlier in the season. Andrews told me his book would take a small loss in their National League futures pool if the Cubs won the pennant, however they're in good shape should the Cubs finally take home a World Series crown. 

Scott Cooley sang a slightly different tune.

"Last year, we took more action on the Cubs to win the Series than any other team and this season has been no different. Our clients played them early and they're still piling on, even at a worse number. The long-time fan favorite has morphed from Cinderella to Medusa. We will certainly be cheering against the Cubs come October," Cooley added.

The Cubs being relevant isn't just good for baseball fans and journalists; it keeps creative bookmakers hard at work all throughout the dog days of summer. If there's an extra dollar or two to be made from a franchise synonymous with a century of futility, the sports betting industry will find it.

Todd Fuhrman