Last week I discussed some strategies for betting on Halftime lines and the Super Bowl presented us all with those exact scenarios, so I’m either psychic or just got lucky (I think we can rule out psychic because I am an Enron stockholder). Regardless, I’ll take a look at the wagering on Superbowl XXXVI, as well as the entire football season with the help of Bodog’s top bookmaker, Kent.
First up, lets talk about the big game. The early spread last Sunday afternoon was St. Louis by 15, but it was bet down to 14 within a few minutes and parked itself there for the next 7 days. I saw books flash an occasional 13.5 over the course of the week, but these seldom lasted long as Rams bettors jumped on the lower number. The total opened at 52.5 and bounced back and forth between that number and 53, although other numbers could be found with a little legwork. With a final result 17 points off both the spread and total, this was a game where shopping for the best line made no difference (unless you found the Patriots with a big price on the moneyline). Kent opened the line with St Louis -14 and a total of 53, and made very few moves after that.
Early sharp action was on St. Louis but early public money was on New England so the line held tight. Kent mentioned that at times during the week, the action would heat up on one of the teams, so he simply altered the line to -14 (-105) or -14 (-115) as necessary, and that was enough to attract value seekers and get the action back to a balanced position. The sharp action generally preferred St. Louis, and the public action leaned towards the Patriots, but both groups were definitely split, and so was the overall action. According to Kent, “It was probably the easiest line of the playoffs to work with.” Why? Because it was far from the major key numbers of 3 and 7, money was generally split, and subtle moves were enough to get action on the desired team. Kent was also pleased with the large amount of handle on the pointspread, given how big the line was. At kick-off, the wagering action was slightly lopsided in favor of the Rams, as was the action in both parlays and teasers.
For the total, the first wagers were on the Under, so the number was moved down to 52.5 for a short period Monday before returning to 53, where it stayed until just a couple of hours before kickoff. Over the course of the week, there was a very slight trend to the Under, and the line was moved back to 52.5 Sunday afternoon. That proved to be the right call, as enough Over action came in late to balance the total to within a couple of hundred dollars. “There was a slight bias to the Over in parlays and teasers,” said Kent, “but anytime you can completely balance the total on a big game with just two lines and three moves all week, you can’t complain.”
I was thinking it had been a pretty easy week for the book managers, until I asked about the action on the Moneyline. Kent groaned and went on to explain that they had opened the moneylines with the Patriots at +500. New England money came in fast and furious, and Kent wasn’t taking any chances. He aggressively moved the line down all week and closed at +300, charging as little as -450 on the Rams. The moneylines of -450 and -500 seemed to be the magic numbers, and players jumped at the value laying large amounts on the Rams down the stretch on Sunday. I made a few calls today, and found that many other books closed at +500 on the Patriots, so either they were looking to make easy money if the Rams won, or they never got the same kind of action that Kent saw. Kent summed it up: “I’m really glad we took an aggressive stance and moved the moneyline down so quickly. We work hard all year to make a profit, and I wasn’t going to give that away with a single upset.” The moneyline action closed offside slightly on the Patriots despite Kent’s efforts.
I won’t go into the details of the game, as you can’t turn on the television or log into the Internet without getting that information in spades. I do, however, want to focus on the Halftime for a minute. With the Patriots leading 14-3, a double-digit underdog held the lead at the end of 30 minutes for the third consecutive game. The Halftime line opened Rams -10 with a total of 25.5, and players jumped on the Rams and the Over. Bettors with the Patriots +14 for the game had a chance to play for a middle, and Rams fans who laid off betting before the game had a chance to bet the Rams +1 for the game (please see last week’s article if this doesn’t make sense to you). Kent didn’t mind being a little off on St. Louis for the second half, as this action could be balanced with the slight exposure he had with New England for the game, so he left the spread on 10 and moved the total to 26.
Again, I’ll leave the game details to other columns, but I must admit the last 10 minutes of the game was about as good as it gets in the world of sports. Final tally for the House was slight gains on the pointspread, totals, parlays and the first half, big wins on teasers and the second half, and moderate losses on the moneyline. Kent was pleased overall, as his crew managed a moderate profit on a game that had the potential for heavy losses.
Overall, Kent felt this football season was generally a good one for sportsbooks, although it was a bit more of a roller coaster ride than past seasons. A late start to the season and the September 11th attacks made September a strange month. Week 2 wasn’t played until September 23rd, and was by far the least balanced week of the season according to Kent. There were 9 games that had lopsided action, and 6 of them went against the house. Week 3 was better, but still produced the worst game of the year as Green Bay beat up the Panthers 28-7 as only a 4-point favorite. October was a much better month than September, and boasted both the biggest week and biggest game for the House. Week 5 saw the House win 7 of 8 lopsided games, and Week 6 produced the biggest single game win for Kent when the Eagles stopped their 9-game losing streak to the NY Giants with a 10-9 win as a 3 point underdog on Monday Night Football.
After Week 6, things seemed to calm down as bettors had a better feel for which teams were good and which teams weren’t. Surprises like the Patriots, Steelers and Bears and busts like the Titans, Colts, Vikings and Giants proved to be real. As a result, the lines became sharper and action more evenly split over the remainder of the season. November was slightly worse than average for the House, December was slightly better and the playoffs finished right on the norm. Now, Kent can grab a few days of rest before turning his attention to March Madness.
Thanks once again to Kent for his willingness to share the facts, and I hope I haven’t given out more information than he wanted me to. In the next issue, I’ll be looking at the basics of betting basketball with help from some of the best handicappers in the business.
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