The old man and the G in Super Bowl LIII

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NFL bettors wasted no time getting their Super Bowl LIII action down Sunday night as soon as the New England Patriots won at Kansas City to set up an attractive matchup with the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta on Feb. 3.

And in typical fashion, they fired heavy with an emphasis on what they saw last: Tom Brady and the Patriots win a gritty game on the road – the late game – while the Rams were perceived to be the beneficiary of an awful non-call by an entire crew of referees at New Orleans.

Most sports books opened the game at pick ‘em and a couple found themselves at Patriots -2.5 within 50 minutes. This type of movement happens almost every Super Bowl with the books wanting to get to right number as quickly as possible for their largest handled game of the year. But they also don’t want any part of -3, which is the most key margin of victory in the NFL. Tuesday, the South Point went to -3 but went quickly back to -2.5 after less than 10 minutes.

So where’s the number eventually going?

“I’m thinking Patriots -2.5 -120 is the peak and it settles at -2.5,” said Westgate SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay. “The market is already settling in. All this early money will pale in comparison to what we get next week.”

William Hill’s head bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich said he thinks the game will get to -3.

Several oddsmakers have the Patriots and Rams rated equally on their charts meaning it should be a pick ‘em game. Last week the SuperBook posted this possible match-up at pick ‘em. But recent Super Bowl history has shown there’s always a flip with public perception after a week of deep thinking about all the intangibles such as underdogs winning eight of the last 11 Super Bowls outright.

One Las Vegas book doesn’t want to move at all because of the usual public flip.

“We’re taking an early stand,” said Wynn sports book director Doug Castaneda who opened the Rams -1. “After the initial appearance of what just happened on Sunday, I think we’re going to see more Rams money closer to kickoff. I believe the public will be true to who they loved at the beginning of the season with the Rams in futures plays and betting patterns.”

The Wynn reached their threshold fast and moved with the money to pick ‘em and then eventually reached another threshold to force them to New England -1.5 by the end of Sunday night, which is the cheapest Patriots number in town along with the SuperBook.

This will be the first time since 1980 Rams fans in Los Angeles could drive to Las Vegas and make wagers on their team in the Super Bowl.

Record hande?

William Hill’s Bogdanovich thinks Nevada handle will surpass the state record $158 million set last year. Kornegay confidently said “no doubt” the record will be set again.

“I thought that any of the four teams playing had the ability to set the handle record for the fourth straight year,” Bogdanovich said.

Mobile wagering at multiple Nevada books and in-progress wagering has been one of the main driving forces behind record-setting handle the past three years.

MGM Resorts VP of race and sports Jay Rood would be more certain about setting a record had a different matchup occurred.

“I think the Rams and Chiefs would have easily set the record, but this should be close,” Rood said.

Super Bowl Props

This week also provides a huge opportunity for bettors to middle the props playing numbers books post against each other. Big middles galore, usually, on prices and numbers.

“Adam (Pullen) and I are going to set the props template on Monday, then set the numbers on Tuesday and Wednesday and open for wagering on Thursday, “ said Bogdanovich. “And I will say you can count on one hand the amount of (Nevada) books that will be using 20-cent splits on Super Bowl props.”

Pullen is the wizard of odds and can almost calculate any prop in his head without referring to any charts. An Oxford boat race, South American soccer leagues, golf, or tennis; it doesn’t matter. Pullen is dialed in, but it’s still the market that forces plays on numbers.

He may be right on the money with a number, but if some other book has Todd Gurley rushing yards seven yards cheaper, he’ll get played blindly on the under while the sharp bettor plays over at the other shop hoping for a middle.

William Hill books are expected to have over 300 different propositions by the time the game kicks off. The SuperBook also posts over 300 props at 20-cent splits as well and they’ll be out Thursday night. Station Casinos will be releasing some of theirs on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with a packet finalized Saturday.

The props have become almost as big as the game handle itself. Kornegay says he expects at least 60 percent of his Super Bowl write to come on props. That number is closer to 35 percent at most other books.

The beauty of the props is that the book isn’t stuck on just needing one side and the total. The props serve as an insurance against the game with hundreds of more decisions. In the case of the SuperBook, they also serve as a great marketing tool. Google Kornegay next week and see how many media outlets he’s quoted in.

Sunday results

Championship Sunday produced mixed results around Las Vegas with both underdogs winning, a money-line parlay that paid out at 5.4-to-1.

“The day ended well, a good day,” said Wynn’s Castaneda of the Rams’ 26-23 win at New Orleans (-3) and the Patriots’ 37-31 win at Kansas City (-3). “The first half wagers of both games turned out to be almost as big as the game itself. We lost in the first game and got it back later in the second game.

“I can’t stress how big the second game was. It wasn’t as big a win as the loss was which included several lingering parlays tied into the NHL from a player Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”

The big boost Sunday for all the sports books was posting AFC and NFC Championship futures which generally holds around 60 percent of the action when the favorites get there.

South Point value

The South Point dropped its money-line splits down to 10 cents for Sunday’s Championship games, giving the city some of the best prices on either side of both games.

The Saints were -155 with the takeback on the Rams at +145. The Chiefs were -175 while the Patriots were +165. I can’t wait to see what they do for the Super Bowl. Possibly some 10-cent splits?

South Point owner Michael Gaughan has always been ahead of the curve in what it takes for his sports book to draw folks through his doors when big events are happening. Sometimes it’s -105 on each side of the Super Bowl teams instead of the usual -110. Other times he’s given the best number like the Redskins-Bills Super Bowl during the 1992 season when he offered a city-best -6.5 on the Redskins and a city-best +7.5 on the Bills. Everyone else was at -7.

Gaughan eventually made the call to go back to -7 when his targeted risk happened much quicker than anticipated. The Redskins won that game 37-24. A huge success, albeit scary with the book sweating -7 landing for two weeks.

Gaughan has also ordered his book operators to deal strictly flat lines all season, meaning instead of moving to -3 -120 when risk gets too high on that side he orders the next move to be -3.5 -110 which opens their chances to be sided in games — pushing on one side, losing on the other.

But it also increases action. While other books are essentially closed or slowed with action on a game at +3 Even, the South Point gets immediate +3.5 action if there’s any to be had out there.

It’s old school bookmaking and a classic Gaughan move who learned some bookmaking chops from his father, the legendary Jackie Gaughan, one of the Las Vegas pioneers of bookmaking.

One of the triggers to getting me into the sports book business was when I was a 15-year-old carted across the Strip on Flamingo routinely and saw Gaughan’s William “Refrigerator” Perry Super Bowl prop to score a touchdown on the Barbary Coast marquee, which opened at 100-to-1 odds.

No other casino did anything like on it on their marquee, or props offered at all for that matter. I knew that was my field of interest immediately. And, yes, Perry did score. 

Props were never the same, just because of the national publicity the Perry prop received. More, more, and more is what every casino operator said. And they all did raising the bar each year.

 

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