Gambling on Golf – On the Golf Course and in the Casino


Popular Side Bets at the Golf Course

A.Nassau: Named after the country club that invented this type of wager, the Nassau Country Club in New York developed this type of side bet in 1900. The club gives credit to its club captain and is possibly the most popular of the wagers groups of golfers make during a round. Basically, the Nassau is 3 bets in 1. A single bet on the results of the front 9, a single bet on the results of the back 9, and then a single bet on the results of the entire 18 holes. The player or team winning each bet receives a prize, usually a dollar amount that is equal for each bet. The type of scoring within the Nassau is up to the players within the group. Handicaps can be used or not used, as well as using a scramble format or alternate shot or other variations within the Nassau.

B.Bingo Bango Bongo: This wager is a good way for everyone in the group, regardless of playing ability, to earn points because what matters is being first at a particular skill. The game must be played with a minimum of two players and works well with four players.

Each hole is its own unique game within the round. “Bingo” refers to the player who places a golf ball on the green first. “Bango” refers to the person who places the ball closest to the hole on the green. “Bongo” refers to the person who sinks their ball first into the hole.

Because of the rules, strict playing etiquette MUST be enforced. The golfer who is away must ALWAYS play first. Due to the rules and etiquette, weaker players still have an opportunity to earn points within each hole. Playing for a $.05 per point is usually the minimum recommended stakes and can easily use higher increments if the rules and monetary amounts are established before the round.

C.Wolf: Wolf is one of the more classic side betting games within a round of golf over the years and works well with groups of four. Players within the foursome rotate as the “Wolf”. The player on each hole designated as the “Wolf” has two decisions to make. The first decision is whether to play the hole 1 against 3, or 2 against 2. The second decision is who he will choose as his playing partner on that particular hole. If the “Wolf” chooses to play the hole 2 against 2, he must make the decision on who his partner will be immediately following that player’s drive off the tee.

The winner of the hole is the side with the lowest better ball score. If the “Wolf” chose to play 2 against 2, the winning side wins the bet. If the “Wolf” chose to play 1 against 3, he either wins double, or loses double.

One variation to the game is for the “Wolf” to declare himself “Lone Wolf”. In this, the “Wolf” announces this before anyone tees off on the hole, including himself. Essentially, he is making the declaration that he is going alone on that particular hole, and playing the hole 1 against 3. On a “Lone Wolf” hole, the “Wolf” wins triple the bet, or loses triple the bet.

D.Round Robin: Round Robin is a game that is typically played within a foursome. However, it is generally best played with golfers within the group with similar skill levels.

The game basically is played 2 against 2, with golfers rotating partners after every 6 holes. At the end of the round, by doing this, each member of the foursome has partnered with every member within the group.

Each 6-hole section is a separate wager and is independent of the other two wagers within the round. Any scoring format can be used within each 6-hole match.

E.Skins: Skins is a very popular and well known game within a round of golf. Many of the professional tours televise such “Skins Game” events in the winter months and are well-liked and tend to bring good ratings for the networks. Golfers can easily play this game too on their own course.

Before the round, it is best to assign a dollar amount to each skin. Each hole is valued as one skin. In order to win a hole, the golfer must win the hole outright by shooting the best score of the group with no one else tying his score on that particular hole. The game is best played by including “carryovers”. This refers to two or more players tying for the best score on the hole, thus “carrying over” the skin to the next hole. As long as no one in the playing group wins the hole outright, the skin continues to be carried over to the next hole.

For example, Tiger, Jack, Tom, and Arnold are all playing a game of skins. On the first hole, Tiger has a 6, Jack has a 5, Tom has a 6, and Arnold has a 5. Because two players tied on the hole, the skin would be carried over to the following hole.

On the second hole, Tiger shoots a 5, Jack has a 5, Arnold has a 6, and Tom has a 4. Despite shooting 6 on the previous hole, Tom wins both skins (2) because he won the second hole outright.

F.Nines: Nines is a game best played with 3 people but can also be played with 4, although the point system will change slightly with an additional player. Nine points are awarded on each hole:

  • 5 points goes to the player with the lowest score
  • 3 points goes to the player with the next best score
  • 1 point goes to the player with the worst score in the group

If two players tie for the best score, they get awarded 4 points.

If two players tie for the worst score, they are awarded 2 points.

If all three players tie for the worst score, they are awarded 3 points.

At the end of the round, all of the points for each player are totaled up. Totaling the points at the end of the round determines the winners and loser, but also determines the amount paid to the winners. The low-point player pays each of the other two players based on the point differential at the end of the round. In addition, the player with the second-highest point total pays the player with the highest-point total based on their point differentials at the end of the round.

Gambling on Golf in the Casino

As of 2009, the amount legally wagered on sports in Nevada in its sports books is annually around $2.5 billion. Each year, more bets are placed on the Super Bowl, more than any other sporting event of the year, including “March Madness”. Sports wagering in Las Vegas includes all of the major sporting events and is a very popular attraction to the area, bringing in an estimated 30 million visitors to Nevada each year, according to the American Gaming Association. Gambling on golf tournaments is included in most of the sports books in Las Vegas. Most PGA Tour events offer betting lines and all of the major events are typically offered to wager on each year. There are 3 types of bets that are most commonly offered on golf: betting on a player to win a particular tournament, proposition bets pitting two or more players together and wagering on which player will shoot a better score or perform better, and futures betting.
Betting to win is the most basic and common bet in terms of golf in the casinos. Most weeks, the PGA’s golf tournament is listed at the sports books in Las Vegas. The sports book will list several of the top players entered in the tournament and list odds next to them on them winning that particular tournament. In addition, all of the golfers entered in the tournament are not listed, usually only the top players are, so the rest of the players entered are listed under the “field” bet. All bets for these types of wagers are taken before the first round of play for the tournament. For example:

  • Tiger Woods 3/1
  • Phil Mickelson 5/1
  • Ernie Els 8/1
  • Vijay Singh 9/1
  • Mike Weir 10/1
  • Steve Stricker 10/1
  • Jim Furyk 10/1
  • Retief Goosen 12/1
  • Stewart Cink 13/1
  • Anthony Kim 15/1
  • Field (Collection of 36 or more players not listed) 20/1

Important things to consider when wagering on a golf tournament are a golfer’s history on a particular course, weather conditions for that particular week and how well certain golfer’s play in those conditions, and how well a player is performing at that particular time of the year or their career.

Typically the better players on the tour receive the lowest odds, or lowest payout in the event. For example, when he is playing in his prime, Tiger Woods is favored in most tournaments he is entered, thus the odds of him winning are higher (the equivalent of a lower payout to the bettor). More clearly stated, from the example above, if Tiger Woods wins the tournament, if the bettor wagers $1, he would win $3 plus his original $1 wager. However, if Anthony Kim were to win the tournament, if the bettor wagered $1, he would win $15 plus his original wager of $1.

Proposition bets are typically listed during the major tournaments each year or what are considered the more elite tournaments. These types of bets tend to list two players against each other or a small group of players against each other to wager on who will perform better in the tournament. For example the proposition bet might say:

  • Tiger Woods -150
  • Vijay Singh +270

In this matchup, Tiger Woods would be the favored golfer between the two listed. If Tiger Woods shot the better score in the tournament, the payout for the line in the example would be for every $150 wagered, the gambler would win $100. However, if Vijay Singh outshined Tiger in the tournament, for every $100 wagered, the gambler would win $270.

Another popular wager is found usually in the beginning of the golf season, prior to the major tournaments. There are four major tournaments in the PGA Tour season: the Masters, the US Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship, with the Masters being played in April. This bet is called a “Futures” bet. This bet refers to how well a particular player will do in the four major tournaments. For instance, a popular line that the sports books commonly put out each year recently is “How many majors will Tiger Woods win this season?” :

  • 0 Majors 6/1
  • 1 Major 4/1
  • 2 Majors 12/1
  • 3 Majors 20/1
  • 4 Majors 100/1

In this example, the odds get much higher as the likelihood of Tiger Woods accomplishing an unprecedented feat increase.

These wagers make the tournaments and the games more interesting and encourage gamblers to watch the tournaments more closely as well as the participants. These wagers are made to have fun and add to your Las Vegas experience. There are countless betting strategies on all the games in the casino and within the sports book. It’s best to do your research and give yourself the best chances to win at these games in addition to making these wagers. Las Vegas is a gambler’s paradise. Enjoy the various wagers you can make, along with the thrill of playing pristine golf courses, and take pleasure in gorgeous weather on your next visit.

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