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October 2, 2014

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Superbook’s Jeff Sherman makes mark as Las Vegas’ Master of golf odds

How Sherman formulates the betting lines for an event like the 2013 Masters

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Jeff Sherman, the assistant sports book manager for LVH, is seen in the LVH Superbook Tuesday, April 9, 2013.

Chad Campbell at the Masters

Chad Campbell watches his drive with his caddie Judd Burkett on the 15th fairway during the third round of the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Saturday. Launch slideshow »

Sampling of odds to win 2013 Masters

  • Tiger Woods — 3-to-1
  • Rory McIlroy — 9-to-1
  • Phil Mickelson — 10-to-1
  • Justin Rose — 20-to-1
  • Lee Westwood — 25-to-1
  • Adam Scott — 25-to-1
  • Dustin Johnson — 25-to-1
  • Keegan Bradley — 25-to-1
  • Louis Oosthuizen — 25-to-1
  • Carl Schwartzel — 25-to-1
  • Matt Kuchar — 30-to-1
  • Luke Donald — 30-to-1
  • Brandt Snedeker — 30-to-1
  • Bubba Watson — 35-to-1
  • Hunter Mahan — 40-to-1
  • Steve Stricker — 40-to-1
  • Sergio Garcia — 40-to-1
  • Ian Poulter — 40-to-1
  • Graeme McDowell — 50-to-1
  • Jason Dufner — 50-to-1
  • Rickie Fowler — 50-to-1
  • Jason Day — 50-to-1
  • Webb Simpson — 60-to-1
  • Nick Watney — 60-to-1
  • Padraig Harrington — 60-to-1
  • Jim Furyk — 60-to-1
  • Bill Haas — 60-to-1
  • Henrik Stenson — 60-to-1
  • Bo Van Pelt — 80-to-1
  • Peter Hanson — 80-to-1
  • K.J. Choi — 80-to-1
  • Zach Johnson — 100-to-1
  • Martin Kaymer — 100-to-1
  • Nicolas Colsaerts — 100-to-1
  • Martin Laird — 100-to-1
  • Freddie Jacobson — 100-to-1
  • Ernie Els — 125-to-1
  • Ryan Moore — 125-to-1
  • Full odds available at Golf Odds site
  • Source: LVH Superbook

Jeff Sherman thumbs through approximately 20 pages of college-ruled white notebook paper covered in black ink.

The sheets are arranged with as much orderliness as the odds illuminated in red and green on the digital boards behind him in the world’s largest sports book. Six or seven columns run vertically while every horizontal line is filled with a name in the left margin.

To the few rushing by desperate to reach the betting window in order to put in a last-minute soccer wager, the scrupulous notes might as well be invisible. To Sherman, they are this week’s gospel.

It’s all the information the LVH Superbook assistant sports book director and golf odds extraordinaire needs to know about the 2013 Masters, scheduled to tee off Thursday in Augusta, Ga.

“I keep getting, ‘Why don’t you computerize this? You’ve been doing it like this for 20 years,’” Sherman says of his colleagues’ attitudes. “But when I do this, putting pen to paper, I can remember what’s going on without having to refer back to it. It makes it easy, photographic to me.”

In the world of Las Vegas sports books, Sherman is a throwback. His approach to oddsmaking follows the prevalent tactics of a decade or longer ago, before convenient up-to-the-second Internet screens showed the numbers posted by every other sports book.

Sherman refuses to copy or shade lines after someone else establishes them. Through his exhaustive regimen — compiling everything on paper and turning it into odds takes as much as a week-and-a-half worth of four-hour nights of sleep — Sherman posts all of his own future odds to win every week’s PGA tournament and supplements it with, in the case of the Masters, more than 100 proposition wagers and matchups.

The proprietor of golfodds.com, Sherman has become the world’s leading authority on the betting aspect of the sport.

“He’s just done a tremendous job over the years,” said Superbook Executive Director Jay Kornegay. “He’s taken golf wagering to new levels and continues to grow it to new levels by being creative.”

Kornegay gave Sherman his start in the industry. After graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a degree in business economics in 1993, Sherman moved to Las Vegas for the summer with a friend but without a job.

He landed at the Imperial Palace sports book, where Kornegay was one of the bosses. Having only placed a handful of unmemorable sports bets in his life and played even fewer rounds of golf, Sherman had no idea what he was getting into.

“I took Jeff out to play golf once back then and I could have sworn he would never be a golf oddsmaker,” Kornegay laughed. “I’m kidding but it was funny because it was clear he didn’t play golf much or anything like that.”

But Sherman was driven when it came to work, according to Kornegay, and made plans to stick in Vegas for a while. Sherman began taking graduate courses at UNLV to earn his Master of Business Administration and expressed a desire to advance beyond a teller at Imperial Palace.

His superiors obliged.

“I was just fortunate going to the IP of all places to start because they started to let you make odds yourself,” Sherman recalled. “They told me if I wanted to move up, then I was going to have to learn some sports. I was like, ‘I’m new at this and don’t know where to begin.’ That’s when they kind of pushed me in the direction of golf.”

At the time, Kornegay was in charge of formulating the weekly lines on golf tournaments. He started to pass off his knowledge to Sherman.

Based on his recollection of setting the numbers, Kornegay was more than happy to share the duty to someone new.

“A tremendous amount of number-crunching and researching goes into any kind of oddsmaking, but especially in golf,” Kornegay said. “Golfers tend to play certain courses differently. It’s not just the same basketball dimensions like our court back in Hickory. It’s different every week, so you’ve got to start over every week because of the changes.”

That’s where Sherman’s legendary, and thorough, paperwork comes in to play. While watching or keeping tabs on the current week’s tournament, he starts working on the next one in his notepad.

Sherman jots down several years' worth of a player’s history on a particular course and details their recent results. He also slots players together in different power-rating groups.

“I put all this stuff together and go off of it,” Sherman said. “A lot of it starts to fit together like pieces of a puzzle.”

Sherman is ready to post future odds on who will win the next tournament by Monday afternoon. Matchups and props follow shortly after.

Kornegay said betting handle on golf had grown by extraordinary lengths since he used to specialize in the sport. The LVH will host “Links Central,” a derivative of how the property opens its theater for NFL Sundays and the NCAA Tournament, during the Masters to accommodate the demand.

The “fan cave” section of the Superbook will have six televisions all tuned to different feeds of Masters coverage for the four days of the tournament. Patrons of the promotion will take a keen interest in the updated odds and matchups Sherman releases every round.

Attracting that consistent betting action is like a golfer getting adorned with a green jacket to Sherman — the ultimate honor.

“I’ve got an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree, I could have gone a different route but I haven’t gotten away,” Sherman said. “I love this. I love the people I work with and the ability we have to put our fingerprints on our odds. I love the challenge, putting up your numbers and having someone put their opinion up against yours.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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