The dreaded middle is the boogeyman to many oddmakers.
Paying out action on both sides of a game is bad enough when it’s in the regular season, but what about in the most heavily-bet game of the year?
The feared middle reared its ugly head this past week when some sportsbooks, which opened the spread for Super Bowl XLVI at New England Patriots -3.5, moved the line from -3 to -2.5 with one-sided action on the New York Giants.
While the majority of books have hung tightly to the 3-point spread and reduced the juice on the Patriots to as low as +110, some shops, like the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas, jumped to 2.5 earlier in the week without worry of a possible firestorm from bettors trying to win on both sides of the Big Game.
Jeff Stoneback, sportsbook manager for the MGM Mirage, told Covers.com a large, six-figure wager on New England -3.5 from a wealthy casino patron provided them with a parachute when making the leap to 2.5 on Tuesday.
“If it falls on three, we don’t really get hurt,” says Stoneback. “Unlike a lot of places, we were fortunate that we took a ton of money on the Patriots -3.5 and we’re seeing great two-way action – about a 51/49 split for New England bets. If it were the other way around, yeah, we’d have some exposure at 2.5.”
Most sportsbooks are taking more action on the Giants at a near 3-to-1 pace, forcing oddsmakers to trim the vig on the AFC Champions. Stoneback believes that if everyone follows suit, and drops to 2.5, there will be a surge of Patriots money heading into the week before the Super Bowl.
Jay Kornegay, executive director of the race and sportsbook at the Las Vegas Hotel, feels comfortable keeping his spread at New England -3, where it opened last Sunday. While his book isn’t in danger of being middled on the Super Bowl finish, he doesn’t think it is something that concerns most of his contemporaries.
Due to the fact that the Super Bowl is the most publicly bet game, and that 80 percent of the action comes on Super Bowl weekend, those bettors who put themselves in a position to middle don’t make up a huge percentage of the overall handle.
“Those books that opened 3.5, they took some big bets early, but in the overall scheme of things it won’t be a big amount. Maybe five percent of the total handle,” Kornegay said Friday.
Stoneback doesn’t dismiss the fact that some bettors, who bought New York +3.5, will come in to bet New England at -2.5. But they’ll have to be willing to swallow the juice (-125) do so.
“People don’t want to shell out that extra quarter, so there is still a lot to be seen with this line right now,” he says.
Follow all the line moves for the Super Bowl XLVI spread and total.