A Betting Guide to the Super Bowl

I am going to take a little different approach in this month’s column. Rather than talking about one particular subject, I will cover a wide variety of issues as they relate to the upcoming Super Bowl, in an effort to give bettors all the information they need.

It’s just another game: I have never understood, from a betting perspective at least, just what makes the Super Bowl so attractive to bettors that it routinely draws triple the handle of any other sporting event? Yes, it is the most watched football game of the year and yes the hype and media frenzy that surround the game turn even the mildest fans into crazed bettors. But the harsh reality is (and Professional bettors agree with me); the Super Bowl is just another football game.

Don’t get me wrong. I know it is more exciting to watch a game when you have money down on it. I know more people will be watching this game than any other, so it follows that more people will make bets on this game than any other. Therefore, it follows that the Super Bowl will draw a lot of wagering action. But triple that of any other game!?

My point is that if you are going to wager on the Super Bowl and want to make a profit, you need to approach it as you would any other game. And if it was just any other game, you might play it if you had an opinion or you might leave it.

When to bet: If you do bet the game (and most will) make sure you get yourself the best possible line. Most bettors know how to shop for a good line, but few take time into consideration.

There is a general rule among professional bettors that says to bet the favorite (on the spread) and the over early, and to bet the dog and the under late. The reason is that recreational bettors tend to play on the favorite and over and thus they drive those prices up over the course of the week as books try and balance action. Of course that is not always the case or else books would simply adjust their opening lines in those directions and injuries during practice can always make a current set of lines obsolete.

Looking at the pointspread so far (still over a week to kick-off as I write this), it is hard to say where the public money is so far. Books that were at -7 have moved to -7 (-105) and -7 (Even) and books that were at -6.5 have moved to -6.5 (-115) so it appears that the trend is towards the middle with a -6.5 (-115) or -7 (-105/Even) being the right price. If you have a chance to get -6.5 or +7 still (depending on what side you like), you probably want to take it before it’s gone.

For the moneyline, I would suggest playing the dog early and the favorite late because big games like this usually draw a lot of dog action with bettors looking for a big payoff. You are likely to get the best price on the Pats straight up on game day.

The total moved downwards at first but has started to creep back up. 13 of the last 14 Super Bowls have gone over 38 points, but the only one to go under was the Patriots win of two years ago. The two defences this year have gotten lots of attention and that may help keep the total more stable, but fans like points and lots of fans are bettors at Super Bowl time so keep an eye on this. If it keeps trickling up, you may be better served playing the over now and the under on game day.

Off-Standard Lines: As I mentioned, there are a variety of point-spreads posted for this game including many with off-standard lines such as New England -6.5 (-115), -7 (Even) and -7 (-105). This appears to be a clear-cut case of -6.5 not being high enough and -7 being too high. Books don’t want to move from -6.5 to -7 when they take a little more favorite action and then back to -6.5 after taking dog money at +7 because 7 is a key number and there is a very good chance that could be the final margin of victory (over 11% of games in 2002 were decided by exactly 7-points). If New England did win by 7 all the bets at -6.5 would be winners and all the bets at +7 would be pushes resulting in some extreme losses to the book. This is called getting ‘sided’.

What books do instead is alter the odds associated with the pointspread. Most pointspreads are offered at standard odds of -110, meaning you must risk $110 to win $100. By changing the odds away from the standard of -110, the House can make the same line more or less attractive to people looking to place wagers. For example, taking New England at -6.5 (-115) means your bet would be a win, and not a push, if the final score was Pats by 7, but in exchange for that extra shot at a win, you must now risk $115 to win $100. If risking more money is not in your nature, you could choose to take the Pats -7 (-105) and risk only $105 to win the same $100 but in this case a 7-point New England win gets you zero profit. Conversely, you could lay only $105 and take the Panthers at +6.5, but if they lose by 7, your bet becomes a loss instead of a push. Or you could take them at +7 and have a little more safety but then you have to risk $115. You get the idea!

Every bettor must decide for themselves whether they prefer a better chance of a win/push or whether they like to lay less money and give up that extra half-point. Basically, we are quite sure that neither -6.5 or -7 will split betting action evenly, but by picking one and altering the juice we have a chance to balance action without taking on the risk of getting sided.

From the books perspective: People often assume that the Super Bowl is the busiest time of the year for sportsbooks. It is and it isn’t. Yes, there will likely be more dollars wagered on this game than any other event in the next year and we will probably get more sign-ups in the 48 hours before kick-off than in the 2-weeks after.

However, the reality is that activity gets spread out over a pretty wide period of time (two weeks this year) and it is only one game. After having to watch 40+ college football pointspreads and 15 or so NFL spreads every autumn weekend, watching one line looks pretty easy all of a sudden!

Also, so many people go out to parties to watch this game that the rush online and on the phones actually peak hours before kick-off! Compared with the huge amount of traffic we had in the 45 minutes between the two Championship games last weekend, the buzz of Super Bowl will be relatively calm in comparison.

I was recently asked in an interview if Super Bowl week was the most important time of the year for sportsbooks and the answer is an unexciting no. The Super Bowl comes at the end of a very busy season for us and our goal is simply to break even and make sure we don’t give back a lot of what we worked so hard to earn over the last 5 months. It is more important to get new clients in August so you have their business all season and the amount of games during the Bowl/playoff rush or March Madness make those times better candidates for earning profits.

One last thing – please don’t write and ask me for my prediction. I had Indy and Philadelphia last weekend so its obvious I shouldn’t be giving advice. Thank you to all who have read my column and to all of you who have played with Bodog this football season. Enjoy the game and good luck with your bets!

The enjoyment of your wagering experience with us is my number one priority. Should you have any questions, concerns, or comments, I will personally ensure you are satisfied with your Bodog experience.

Good luck with your wagers!

I always welcome comments, questions and suggestions via email at rob@Bodog.com
Rob Gillespie is President of Bodog Sportsbook & Casino