With nearly 95 percent of the Super Bowl action still yet to come through Las Vegas sports book windows, the big question bettors have to ask themselves is where the line will go and when to bet it. So far, with nine days of action to go, it’s been all Ravens money, pushing most Las Vegas bet shops from 49ers -5 down to -3.5.
Up north, it’s been a little bit of the same, but with a much different spread. You see, Reno is 49ers country, and because of knowing their clientele, sports books like the Peppermill opened higher than most with the 49ers -6.5. But the value of the number up there is even too much for bettors to pass on -- 49ers fans or not -- and they have been pushed down the -4.5, which is still the highest number in the state.
In Las Vegas, the highest number -- Ravens +4 -- is currently available at two bet shops. One of them is at the Wynn, and the other is at William Hill. Because of high rollers being everywhere between the joint properties of the Wynn and Encore, it’s likely that Wynn sports book director John Avello already has some big action on the 49ers to pad his book against the Ravens money.
Over at William Hill, they fall right into the middle of a dilemma between North and South. Between 75 full service books in Las Vegas and all over the Northern counties, they’re getting a mix of action that most Vegas books aren’t. It’s still mostly Ravens money, but not to the degree as other Vegas books are getting.
So as a bettor that has yet to wager on the game, when do you pull the trigger?
It’s more likely with the small sampling on action we have seen that the number will go to -3 before the majority of books go back to -4, which is something the books don‘t want to do. When you start messing around with the most key margin of victory in the biggest game of the year -- which occurred the last two Super Bowls, it gives book directors an uneasy feeling because of the large scale opportunities to get sided.
If looking to bet the 49ers, the best advice is to wait until 3’s start popping up. Chances are that anyone with large money wanting to bet the 49ers have already applied their wait-and-see approach. The books know this as well, and coupled with extending their risk before moving to the key number, they might be willing to go the distance in the wait game until forcing whatever big money is ready to make a move.
I think what you’ll see is one sports book kind of be the guinea pig for all to watch when they test out the waters on 3. As much as the sports books don’t want to go to 3, their risk will force the move. After the final two months of the regular season where the books got torched, there aren’t many bookmakers that want to stick their neck out on extended risk on the biggest game of the year at any number.
When that first book makes the move, and the alert is sent to every large money operation, you’ll see a stampede of groups rushing to the window, which will cause a quick move back to 3.5. In the process, every other book will take notice that 3 will get you all the 49ers money you want to balance the action.
Now this is only speculative. I don’t have a crystal ball. All I’m doing is handicapping how I think things will unfold based on my own past Super Bowl booking experiences. At this juncture, I don’t even know if there is any big money to be had on the 49ers, but we would definitely find out if we saw a 3 pop up.
An example of waiting too long to make a move happened when the Raiders played the Buccaneers in 2003. All the early money came in on the Bucs. The Raiders had been a popular public team all season giving them a mindset and comfort level that there had to be Raiders waiting to bet close to kickoff, but it didn’t happen. It also didn’t help public opinion that the Raiders starting center went on a Tijuana bender.
How this one will go is anyone’s guess, but based on what the public saw last, the Ravens beating the Broncos and Patriots on the road as large underdogs -- the two highest rated teams -- goes a lot further in their minds than the 49ers having trouble with a Falcons squad in the NFC Championship game. Unlike years past when Super Bowls were blowouts, it has paid pretty well to simply side with the team getting points.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Contact Micah at [email protected].