The Las Vegas sports books are buzzing with action in the final days before the Super Bowl, both from those making bets and others just standing around looking at the board.
Just about everyone who has checked in this week has made it a priority to stroll over to the book and see what the line is. Some of them make bets while others just use it as a topic of conversation, knowing they will bet later, probably closer to their departure or on game day.
The visitors who wait like to use the game as a topic of conversation wherever they go hoping to hear something, from anyone, during their stay that sways them one way or another.
The locals in town are waiting for something to happen one way or another, but the only thing moving right now has been the total dropping from 46 to 44½ while the game itself still has the Packers -2½ with a feel that the game will likely hit -3 before it goes lower.
Because of that wait game by many of the bettors, a few of the sports book directors are questioning their initial thoughts that this Super Bowl could possibly surpass the all-time state record of $94.5 million in handle set in 2006 between the Steelers and Seahawks, a time when money was freely spent before settling in our current economic climate. The last two years under that climate has seen handle at $82.7 million and $81.5 million.
According to reports, at least $1 million is already in the kitty early on as the MGM Resort properties took a large wager on the Packers -2½, prompting only a 10 cents move to -2½ (-120). For MGM Resorts to have accepted a wager that large, it’s an indication it came from a house player with a large line of credit, meaning it wasn’t a sharp who made the wager, but rather just a guy with lots of money who wants to make his Super Bowl experience a little more interesting.
That’s exactly what this game brings to Las Vegas. It’s not on the same level as the gentleman with the large wager, but what it does is bring everyone to the sports book – who normally doesn’t wager – to make a bet, while also making the casual bettor up his normal wager amount.
It’s kind of like Christmas and Easter at church, which always bring out those with faith on at least those two special days.
Aside from the wager, most sports books are reporting great two-way action thus far, which has kept the spread at a stand still. Most of the directors agree they believe the late money will come in on Pittsburgh, but are holding ground until it happens.
The worst case scenario for the books would be if more Packers money came in stronger and they were eventually forced to move to -3, making them vulnerable to get sided (paying one side and refunding the other).
Money Line Value?
The Super Bowl underdog money-line never gives fair value, thanks in part to having some rough days at the hands of the Patriots vs. Rams, Giants vs. Patriots and Denver vs. Green Bay.
Even though those Super Bowls had double digit spreads with giant money-lines, the sports books still have to book on the side of caution knowing that the majority of the public loves to get that plus-money backing the underdog.
On a normal 2½-point spread during the regular season, the conversion chart shows that a game should be about -145/+125. The shade on this game is -130/+110 at most sports books, which is a combination of both expecting more Steelers money to come in and knowing a large portion of Pittsburgh bets will be on money-line.
Very few bettors will touch the Packers money-line at this juncture even though the line has lots of value to what the spread is. The casual bettor doesn’t want to lay more to get less and would rather lay the points. The sharps also feel they can wait it out for a better price, either because of extended action on underdog money or that the Steelers money actually does come in later.
The Sports Books Ultimate Wish
Two of the most profitable Super Bowl wins for the house occurred when the favorite won but didn’t cover. The top all-time win for the State was in 2005 with the Patriots beating the Eagles. That netted $15.4 million in win at a 17% hold.
The year prior, Carolina gave the Patriots all they could handle as 7-point underdogs, eventually losing 32-29, but covering. The win netted the books $12.4 million in win for a 15.3% hold.
Because this year’s spread is so low – one of the lowest ever – the ideal scenario happening again seems unlikely. However, the last time these two teams played, it was a 1-point Steelers win in a 37-36 shootout during week 15 last season.
Packers winning by 1-point this year would be the ultimate scenario for the Nevada sports books.
Maybe it’s because five of the last six Super Bowls have gone under the number or because this game features the first and third ranked defenses in the league. I have a hard time understanding why this game is being bet under with such conviction.
Yes, we’ve seen Aaron Rodgers look average in three games against the Bears, and the Steelers figure to game plan their model similarly, but I can’t get that 2009 Week 15 game out of my head where the two teams combined for 973 yards. The two teams exchanged blows throughout, with both teams alternating scores in each half.
The time to prepare angle has worked in favor of defenses the last few Super Bowls. We just saw the National Championship game between two high powered collegiate teams be stifled due to weeks of defensive preparation, but I don’t see it here.
Center of Attention
The last time we saw a team play in the Super Bowl without their starting center was in 2003 when the Raiders’ Barrett Robbins went missing on what we later found out was a drinking binge in Tijuana mixed in with psychological issues.
Tampa Bay money flooded in simultaneously with the news and the Raiders ended up losing 48-21. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey has been ruled out of the Super Bowl and while the point-spread won’t be adjusted, you have to feel that the anchor of the offensive line has to be worth something.
Between all the blocking schemes in their power running game, the loss of Pouncey is likely to affect the team more than we think.
Props a Plenty
All the major sports books have done a terrific job in offering a plentiful amount of propositions for the Super Bowl. Some places, like the Las Vegas Hilton, go full throttle as they have over 330 props, but in most cases, the normal figure is around 200 to 250 props. Many of them are similar, but it’s worth a walk around just to try and get the best price. Each book also has quite a few that are unique as their own.
The MGM Resorts sports books have a great prop up asking who will have more, LeBron James and Blake Griffin’s points in their Sunday game against each other or the total points scored in the Super Bowl. James and Griffin are the -4½ favorite.
Based on their season averages, that number is correct. However, based on their averages in the last 30 days, James and Griffin present an opportunity because their combined average is eight points higher than their season average, which gives great value on them for this prop.
I like the Super Bowl OVER 44½, but there is too much value in betting with Griffin and James to pass up. I would fully expect both players to surpass their 30-point average as each will look to outshine the other.