Amid the dog days of the MLB season, bookmakers are howling a lonely tune and pointing to August as their most challenging month of the year.
They cite a variety of factors tied to vacation time; the absence of regular-season NFL, NBA and NHL games; the fatigue of baseball betting; and a lack of enticing options. Bettors traditionally use the time to save up for the fall blitz of football wagering.
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While books routinely retain more funds than they pay out, Las Vegas SuperBook Vice President Jay Kornegay said their profit share — known as "the hold" — is down during this time.
It doesn’t help that the leading options for bettors are increasingly one-sided baseball matchups.
"We know to set the odds high on those games, but they’re still betting them, 'Give me the Braves, Mets, Yankees and Dodgers … ,' and they’re usually all winning," Kornegay said.
Tipico Sportsbook spokesman Sunny Gupta says 60% of his shop’s action this month is also on baseball.
"During these dog days, we've focused our efforts on providing the best experience for live baseball by allowing users to bet on the next pitch, next inning, next three innings and, of course, the result of the game," he said.
Shrewd bettors aren’t entirely adverse to supporting teams playing out the string, as long as the underdog’s pitching is quality.
On Monday, bettors attached to the Miami Marlins against the playoff-contending San Diego Padres and reaped the rewards because Cy Young Award candidate Sandy Alcantara was on the mound.
The Marlins, a +112 home underdog, rode Alcantara’s arm to a shutout victory.
Here are other wagering options for the August "dead period."
WNBA postseason numbers
Las Vegas Aces at +175
Chicago Sky at +220
Connecticut Sun at +380
Seattle Storm at +550
Washington Mystics at +900
Dallas Wings at +4000
New York Liberty at +6000
Phoenix Mercury at +9000
Even though he’s based in Las Vegas, Kornegay says he’s not expecting his betting windows to be buzzing with anywhere near the same activity that’s happening through the turnstiles in support of the WNBA playoff favorites, the Las Vegas Aces.
Led by head coach Becky Hammon and MVP candidate A’ja Wilson, the Aces are +175 favorites at Tipico to win the WNBA title.
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The Washington Mystics, Dallas Wings, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury are each underdogs in their respective first-round series.
In Wednesday night’s series openers, the Sky are 7.5-point favorites over the Liberty and the Aces are favored by 14.5 over the Mercury, notably missing stars Brittney Griner (who is currently detained in Russia) and Diana Taurasi (quadriceps injury).
On Thursday, retiring Sue Bird and Seattle are favored by 4.5 points over Washington and Dallas is a 10.5-point underdog to Connecticut.
"It seems there’s more fans than bettors in the WNBA, that it’s more a watching event than a betting event," Kornegay said. "It’s like what we see in the NFL exhibition season. The handle is dominated by educated players and very few of the events are attracting widespread recreational play."
Sharp bettor Bill Krackomberger says the WNBA “at one time was the best sport to bet,” but added, “that’s very different now. I actually lost money betting it this season.”
Krackomberger’s former betting strategy was linked to following information from the WNBA teams’ local beat writers, who would divulge injury and lineup news to help minimize the wager’s risk.
Due to his connections at the Sun’s home arena, at the Mohegan Sun casino, Krackomberger said he closely scouted the team.
He said bookmakers have reacted with keen attention on WNBA developments.
"The market is very efficient," he said. "I couldn’t beat it last season, either."
Betting on golf and tennis
Rory McIlroy at 10/1
Jon Rahm at 13/1
Will Zalatoris at 15/1
U.S. Open - Singles
Novak Djokovic at +155
Rafael Nadal at 5/1
Iga Swiatek at +220
Simona Halep at 7/1
Serena Williams at 20/1.
Gupta said the summer lull represents an opportunity for bettors to try their luck in sports that can offer handsome payouts: golf and tennis.
The FedEx Cup Playoffs continue this weekend in Delaware and tennis' U.S. Open begins Aug. 29.
Rory McIlroy is the 10/1 favorite to win the BMW Championship, followed by Jon Rahm (13/1) and six others at 15/1, including last week’s winner, Will Zalatoris.
At the U.S. Open, Novak Djokovic is the +155 favorite in men’s singles, with Rafael Nadal the 5/1 fourth choice. Iga Swiatek is the +220 favorite to win the women’s singles championship, followed by second choice Simona Halep at 7/1 and retiring Serena Williams at 20/1.
In the ring
Combat sports should draw notable betting interest this weekend.
In Saudi Arabia, Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk is a -155 favorite to repeat his heavyweight title victory Saturday over former champion Anthony Joshua (+112) of England in a bout streamed by DAZN.
"It's a rare feat to join such exclusive company," Joshua told USA TODAY Sports Wednesday.
With Joshua predicting he's capable of winning by knockout, Tipico set the over/under for rounds at 10.5, with the over positioned as a -155 favorite and the under at +112.
DAZN analyst Sergio Mora said he likes Usyk’s boxing pedigree to stand as the difference again,.
The winner will wear the World Boxing Organization, World Boxing Association, and International Boxing Federation belts, and could tempt the unbeaten and currently retired World Boxing Council champion Tyson Fury to return for a fight to crown a rare undisputed champion.
The WBC has given Fury until late next week to decide if he’ll fight again, and if he remains retired, the title will be vacated.
"I can bring him out of retirement, 100%," Joshua said. "There's nothing for him to do (outside of) boxing, so I think he'll bring himself out of retirement. Walking a dog? Driving a Ferrari? He'll come out of retirement soon."
On Saturday, UFC 278 features a title rematch as welterweight and pound-for-pound king Kamaru Usman of Nigeria (20-1) meets Jamaica’s Leon Edwards (19-3), whom Usman defeated by unanimous decision in 2015.
Edwards hasn’t lost in 10 fights thanks to strides in his striking, but he remains a +310 underdog to -310 favorite Usman. The expectation is the champion’s wrestling and overall skill will decide his sixth title defense.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sports betting in August: Bookmakers work to generate interest