It’s no secret where the early money has come on the Super Bowl. At the opening number, San Francisco was as high as a 5.5-point favorite offshore, with mostly -5’s here in Las Vegas. But we’ve seen steady Baltimore money pour in since that time, driving the line down to the -3.5 or -4 range at every sportsbook in town; numbers that are currently attracting two-way action. I expect the 49ers to be in that same pointspread range (-3.5 or -4) between now and kickoff.
The early sharp money has also come in support of the under. One prominent offshore book opened the total at 52.5, and here in Vegas we saw several books open with a total of 50. Through the first week of Super Bowl betting, the under has been a popular wiseguy choice. The prevailing current offshore number is 47.5; here in Vegas we’re looking at mostly 48’s. I do expect the public to be squarely on the over Sunday – this total could easily get bet up a notch or two.
The Super Bowl is a unique animal when it comes to moneylines, particularly at the sportsbooks here in Vegas. We get a boatload of tourists in town for the big game, and those tourists have a strong tendency to bet the moneyline when supporting the underdog. Right now, San Francisco is in the -170 to -180 range on the moneyline, with the Ravens sitting at +150 to +160 in most locations.
But as we approach the game, we can expect the books to start adjusting the moneyline downwards to cope with the influx of Ravens ML bets. Don’t be shocked if at some point over the weekend, we see the 49ers in the -160 or -165 range, more typical of a three-point favorite, not a four-point favorite. Bettors who favor the 49ers are likely to pounce on that marketplace inefficiency in the 24-48 hours before kickoff.
For professional level bettors, wagering on the Super Bowl is not about side, total or moneyline bets – it’s about the props! Last year’s Patriots/Giants big game matchup generated just shy of $94 million in wagers at Nevada’s sportsbooks; a high percentage of which was on the proposition wagers. This year, sportsbooks are anticipating similar action.
The MGM/Mirage books were the first to open any proposition wagers to the betting public, hanging lines for all four quarters of the game. The sharps pounced all over MGM’s numbers, flipping the plus prices on the two sides. For example, San Francisco opened -0.5 (-125) for the first quarter. Within hours, the 49ers were -0.5 (+115).
Sportsbook manager Jeff Stoneback, talking about the flurry of sharp money, right from the get-go. “They pounded us. It was amazing. It was just big bets – limit play, limit play, limit play at every property. Just like sharks.”
But it’s Jay Kornegay and his staff at the LVH who are the true pioneers; the industry leaders when it comes to Super Bowl props. I’ll happily give them the attention they deserve here. The LVH numbers were posted this past Thursday, and their 24-page prop booklet features more than 300 additional wagering opportunities.
I was at the Superbook when the numbers were posted, and frankly, most of the sharp bettors in the book seemed to be extremely disappointed in what they found. Here are quotes that I overheard from four different pro bettors who all wished to remain anonymous.
“These are the best prop numbers I’ve ever seen.” “I have more respect for the LVH today than I’ve ever had.” “Jeez, they used to just throw stuff up there; not anymore!” “My goal is to bet as little as possible at the LVH. I want to bet against the dum-dum books.”
But for all the whining and complaining about how good the LVH’s prop sheet was this year, those same pro bettors weren’t shy about laying down limit wagers. Here are some of the most popular wiseguy bets from the LVH this past weekend. If you’re looking for one prevailing theme on these wagers, it’s ‘less offense, more defense’. All props listed are at -110 both ways unless otherwise noted.
Bettors were bearish on Ray Rice. Rice’s rushing yards opened at 66.5, but that was bet down to 63.5. Rice’s rushing yards opened at +11.5 vs. Frank Gore’s rushing yards, bet up to +17.5. The Ravens team rushing total opened at over/under 108.5; bet down to 100.5 by Sunday night. Rice’s receiving yardage total was bet down from 29.5 to 25.5. His longest reception was bet down from 16.5 yards to 14.5 yards, with a +110 on the over. His longest rush was bet down from -14.5 to -13.5. The under 6.5 yards on Rice’s first reception now has a -140 price tag attached. Even Rice’s rushing attempts were bet down from 17.5 to 17.
But while bettors were fading Rice, they were supporting his backfield mate Bernard Pierce. Pierce’s rushing yards total got bet up from 29.5 to 32.5. His longest rush (O/U 9.5 yards) now has a -120 attached to the over and his total receiving yards went from over 1.5 (+140) to over 1.5 (-110).
The LVH wasn’t shy about moving numbers, not just the juice. Torrey Smith’s first reception got bet down from over/under 14.5 yards to O/U 13.5 yards, -120 on the under. Dennis Pitta’s first reception got bet down from 9.5 to 8.5 yards, and his total receiving yards were bet down from 47.5 to 45.5. Frank Gore’s receiving yards went from an opener of 19.5 to the current number of 14.5. LaMichael James' longest rush went from 13.5 to 11.5 with a +110 on the over, and his total rushing yards got bet down from 30.5 to 25.
Many of these bets were ‘arbitrage’ type wagers, as bettors took advantage of the variance in the posted numbers both here in town and offshore. And bettors took their time to read the fine print. LVH ‘total and assisted tackles’ numbers excluded sacks, but included special teams tackles; not the case at some other books. Perhaps that’s a big reason why Terrell Suggs O/U 4.5 tackles went from over -145 to over +110 at the LVH, without a corresponding move elsewhere.
The cross-sports props are always a thought provoking handicap, and we saw early money come on props involving hockey, soccer, basketball and golf.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi goals opened at -0.5 (-125) vs. Frank Gore touchdowns, bet up to -170. The New York Islanders total points from John Tavares vs. the total number of scores in the last two minutes of the first half went from pk +100 to pk +150. Dwyane Wade points vs. the Raptors opened -4 (-110) vs. Colin Kaepernick completions. Kaepernick +4 now has a -140 price tag attached. Chris Bosh points vs. the largest lead of the Super Bowl went from -0.5 (-110) to -145. And Lee Westwood’s final round score at the Dubai Desert Classic vs Ray Rice rushing yards went from -3 to -5.5.
Let’s not forget special teams! Bettors didn’t touch 49ers kicker David Akers' total points (O/U 7.5), but Baltimore’s Justin Tucker went from 7.5 (U -120) to under -160. And money came on the over for both Sam Koch’s longest punt (56.5 yards, O -130) and Andy Lee’s longest punt (57.5, O -140)
Arguably the single biggest mover from the LVH openers came on the ‘total net yards for both teams’ prop. That number opened at 749.5 and got bet down again and again, currently sitting at 718.5 yards.