On top of the circus that is Super Bowl – the single biggest betting day in the industry as well as the two-week build up to the “Big Game” – Mikkelson had his annual MLB season win totals scheduled for release on February 11, just four days removed Super Sunday.
“I only had three days to get these done this year, when I usually have 10, with Super Bowl on the seventh,” an exhausted Mikkelson told Covers just hours before his MLB win totals hit the board at the Atlantis sportsbook, making them the first operator to release the popular futures for the 10th straight year.
“I took the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday off after the game and worked on them pretty much from the moment I got up to the time I went to bed,” he says. “I finished up at about 10:30 p.m. PT last night.”
Mikkelson, who isn’t a coffee drinker, loaded up his fridge with his weapon of choice – Diet Mountain Dew – and pounded out spread sheets on two laptops in his home office, scrupulously analyzing all 30 MLB teams, their projected lineups, pitching staffs, bullpens, backups, and top prospects. He then measured those factors against rival teams while taking into account baseball season breakdowns and predictions from preview publications, eventually landing at an estimated season win total for each club.
“I work for a couple hours, then take a break. It’s too much information to take in all at once, so I usually break it up into two hour sessions,” says Mikkelson. “For three days, baseball is the only thing you’re thinking about. I’d take an hour break and go out for lunch, just to clear my head.”
Mikkelson couldn’t even escape the pending MLB season win totals in his sleep.
“For the Giants, I’d go to sleep with one number in my head and by the time I woke up it would be a completely different number,” he laughs. “I’d be mulling over all the numbers and lineups in my head all night.”
Besides a tight deadline, Mikkelson also ran into a challenge when gauging the three highest season win totals on the board: the San Francisco Giants (90), Chicago Cubs (89), and New York Mets (88). Not only are these three clubs considered the class of the National League but they also have a massive following of loyal bettors, who blindly back the Over in the season wins market no matter where the team is projected to finish.
The Giants usually find their win total a tad inflated due to Reno’s close proximity to the Bay Area, and the amount on San Francisco fans that make their way to the Atlantis to bet baseball. However, Mikkelson says the number on the Giants, as well as the win totals for the Cubs and Mets are his original analysis without boosting their expected record by a two, three or four wins to protect against that public action.
“This year was different, and with them being good teams I really went with what I thought it (their win totals) should be and didn’t see a point in inflating it,” Mikkelson says. “As for the Giants, I really like this team. If Matt Cain can rebound and be anywhere close to what he was before, I have high expectations for this team.”
There are two teams that Mikkelson didn’t hold in such high regard and actually feels a little nervous about as it pertains to their opening win totals: the Los Angeles Angels (82.5) and Oakland Athletics (75.5). He says he may be a bit lower on those two clubs than other oddsmakers, once rival sportsbooks start posting their numbers in the coming weeks, and also expects money on them due to their proximity.
The American League was a much tougher group to handicap, admits Mikkelson, due to the amount of quality teams and parity in many divisions. The National League, on the other hand, has eight viable contenders playing for five postseason spots, with plenty of clubs in a “rebuilding” mode.
“That’s something we didn’t see in past years. You never had teams that were open about their plans, being in a transition or rebuilding year,” says Mikkelson. “Now you have teams like the Brewers (71.5), who aren’t trying to win a lot of games this year, and the Braves (62), who are barely fielding a real baseball team. In the last two years, teams have become very public about their rebuilding or tanking and they’re not hiding it at all.”
Another reason why 2016 is a much different year for Mikkelson’s MLB season win totals is the recent implementation of mobile wagering with the Atlantis sportsbook. This is the first year their MLB win totals will be available to mobile bettors in Nevada, who must open an account and deposit in person at the Reno book but can then wager from anywhere inside the Silver State. And due to that, Mikkelson is expecting a record handle on the season win totals in 2016.
“We have as attractive a product as any on the market, so I hope it (mobile) does drive more business,” he says.
So, with that finished product hitting the board at the Atlantis sportsbook at 2 p.m. PT in Reno Thursday, will an exhausted Mikkelson breathe easy, relax and celebrate another year of being the first book in the pool when it comes to MLB season win totals?
Not if the Diet Mountain Dew has anything to do with it.
The time for relaxation and celebration doesn’t come until the first weekend of October when all those season win totals wagers have been graded Over or Under, and Mikkelson knows just how his book made out in the futures market.
“I enjoy doing it, I really do. We make money on them almost every single year,” he says. “It’s so cool to see, at the end of the year, three of four teams still in play for their season win total and those bets coming down to the final weekend of the season, to see whether you win or loss. You take pride in that.”
Here’s the full list of 2016 MLB season win totals, courtesy of the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa: