Five sports, five bets: What to wager on this weekend


Matt Slocum / Associated Press

Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve hits a double against the New York Yankees during the first inning in Game 6 of baseball’s American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Houston.

Sat, Jul 25, 2020 (2 a.m.)

It’s not always going to be easy. Anyone who’s ever bet sports over any extended period of time has learned that lesson early on.

Whether it’s result of a poor handicap or unavoidable variance, losses are going to come and they’re going to sometimes come in bunches. Through the first seven editions, the “five sports, five bets,” column avoided any such disasters with six winning weeks and only one small loser.

Last week was when everything crashed down with all three non-future bets going down as losses. The challenge now is bouncing back, not losing sight of the goal to discover the best value and make the right bets.

With a ledger still comfortably in the black, there's no need to change the underlying process. Let's give it another go and hope for better results than last week. 

Read below for this week’s five picks. Records are attached individually by league with the monetary figure calculating the success of a hypothetical bettor placing a $100 wager on every pick that’s run in the column. Odds are the best currently available in Las Vegas at publication time.

PGA Tour (2-1-1, $92): Charles Howell III minus-170 vs. Bo Van Pelt in the third round of the 3M Open at Circa Sports

Van Pelt sat as high as 1,000-to-1 to win going into this week's tour stop in Minnesota. Howell sat as low as 50-to-1.

That should be telling enough of why this is a strong third-round matchup play. Both of these veterans are on the fringe of contention at TPC Twin Cities, Howell at 6-under par and Van Pelt at 8-under par.

Only one of them is supposed to be there, and only one of them will stay there. Howell has been making cuts and playing well ever since the PGA Tour's restart, while Van Pelt virtually came out of nowhere to shoot a pair of terrific rounds.

It's important to remember that's all Thursday and Friday were — a pair of rounds. Look at a larger sample size and Howell is the far better golfer.

If this was a matchup going into the first round, Howell would have probably been around a minus-225 favorite. The adjustment has gone too far.

UFC (4-3, -$79): Antonio Rogerio Nogueira plus-170 vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook

Click to enlarge photo

Rogerio Nogueira ducks a left from Rashad Evans during their fight at UFC 156 Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Nogueira won by decision.

Most of the money and predictions have come in on Shogun for a single reason, an admittedly fair reason: Nogueira is washed.

The 44-year-old “Lil’ Nog” has only fought six times in the past six years, winning only two of the contests. He will retire after this trilogy bout with Shogun, and many are picking against him because of his age and condition.

It would make sense against most opponents, but look at who he’s fighting. Shogun’s best days are just as far behind him as Nogueira’s.

Yes, he’s only 38 years old but he’s fought six more times in his career than Nogueira and almost certainly accumulated more damage. He could catch Nogueira and get an early knockout, sure, but it’s just as likely the reverse happens.

This is no “lock” by any means, but the price is way too high on Shogun. Nogueira should be no higher than a plus-120 underdog given the similar form of the two old rivals.  

Major League Soccer (1-1, -$9): LAFC Even money in three-way wagering vs. Seattle Sounders at Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook

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Los Angeles FC defender Tristan Blackmon (27) in action during a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals soccer match between Los Angeles FC and Portland Timbers in Los Angeles, Wednesday, July 10, 2019. The Timbers won 1-0.

The question coming into the MLS Is Back competition was how tournament favorite LAFC would fare without MVP Carlos Vela. The early returns are in after the completion of the group stage, and they’re highly positive even if it doesn’t look that way on the surface.

The Black and Gold went only 1-0-2 in their first three games but they thoroughly outplayed every opponent in what might have been the toughest group in the tournament. They sit with a tourney-high plus-4 goal differential, entirely by virtue of their 6-2 win over the rival Los Angeles Galaxy, and a plus-3.7 expected goal differential.

Don’t like the stats and prefer a classic sports narrative? LAFC should also be on top form Monday considering this is a massive revenge game.

LAFC was the best team in MLS last season, but fell victim to a stunning upset to eventual champion Seattle in the playoffs. This is a matchup Los Angeles has been waiting for, and getting it as the opener in the knockout stage should bring the best out of it.  

NHL (0-0): Minnesota Wild plus-125 to beat the Vancouver Canucks in play-in series at Circa Sports

Pair this with the earlier UFC selection and this week’s column has a theme — underdogs I don’t necessarily think will win but think are offered at too high of a price to pass.

Vancouver vs. Minnesota looks like the tightest matchup of the qualifying stage by my estimation. I made all my own numbers and came out with Vancouver as a minus-105 favorite over Minnesota in the best-of-five series — quite a bit removed from the minus-140 ask at Circa.

At plus-125, a shot on the Wild is warranted. They play the exact type of stingy style that could frustrate the young Canucks in a playoff series.

In fact, Minnesota has done just that in this matchup lately as it’s taken four of six against Vancouver in the regular season dating back to the 2018-2019 campaign. Vancouver has a higher ceiling and is more likely to make a deep run at the western conference hub in Edmonton, but Minnesota might not give it the chance.

Major League Baseball (0-0): Houston Astros to win the World Series at 12-to-1 at South Point

It’s a good thing the chronological setup of the column dictated this pick would run last week. I didn’t want everyone X-ing out of their browsers too early.

Yes, most of the baseball world is rooting against the Astros after their cheating scandal, but personally, I’m not putting too much stock into it when predicting this season. They still have so much talent that they’re a statistical outlier, one of three Major League Baseball teams in that bracket.

The other two, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, are priced as such at plus-250 and plus-350 to win the World Series, respectively. That leaves the Astros with immense value.

Maybe playing fair will cut into their efficiency, but by how much? Don’t forget that this is a team that won 107 games a year ago and ranked in the bottom five of baseball in cluster luck.

It might be easier to forget about the Astros but they’re not going to allow that. They’ll be there until the end of the season.    

Lifetime column record: 16-11-1, $328

Previous, pending bets: NC Dinos will not win KBO Series at minus-230; Calgary Flames to win playoff series against Winnipeg Jets at minus-120; Indianapolis Colts over 9 wins at minus-125; Kiwoom Heroes to win KBO Series at plus-600; New York Jets to win the AFC East at plus-900; Rakuten Golden Eagles to win Japan Championship Series at plus-500; Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC East at minus-110

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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