Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Super Bowl, Super Bet

Well, here it is, the biggest football game of the year, and everyone wants to know – who is going to win?  Well, actually, most fans already know who is going to win.  At least they think they do.  And many are willing to back it up, putting their money where their mouth is.

For more money is wagered, legally or not, on the Super Bowl, and this year provides a classic case for a variety of reasons.  It’s the top defense against the top offense, the #1 seed vs. the #1 seed, etc. etc. etc.  By any standard, it should be a helluva game, even if it’s played in New Jersey.

But to me it’s a classic already in that it proves positive that betting lines have little to do with which team is better, and everything to do with the money.

If you were an eager beaver on Sunday and couldn’t wait until Richard Sherman took a Valium before learning the point spread on the game, you would have learned that the Seahawks opened as a 1-point favorite over Denver.  If you waited until the next afternoon to check the line, you would have a different take entirely, as almost every sportsbook shifted dramatically, making Denver the favorite by a point, or even two!  And today the line sits at 2½ points, where it will probably stay, give or take another half-point.

When the NFC Championship game was half over, I figured Denver -3 if Seattle won, and Denver -7 if the Niners came back.  Even at the end (just before Sherman’s tip leading to the clinching interception) I thought those numbers were pretty solid, so I was surprised to see Seattle with that early -1.  Now the line is about where I figured…but how did it get there?  Why the big move?


Apparently the “wise guys” took one look at a favorable line and bet a ton and a half on the Broncos.  It is in the sportsbook’s best interest to balance the money bet on either side, so they can pay off the winners with the losers’ money and keep the “vig” (their commission for handling the bet) and make oodles of money on the game.  Sometimes they set the point spread in a fashion that looks wacky, but it’s to balance the money, honey, and for no other reason.  Sometimes they need to toss a extra point or three out there to attract money for the other side (obviously the case here) and sometimes it’s because future bets made months earlier are tipping the scales toward one team or the other (Auburn was a long shot for the National title and books faced a major deficit if they had won, as several punters had a bunch of cash on War Eagle at long odds).

One thing the books want is a close game – not to add to the excitement, but because they could cash in both ways.  If the game winds up 23-21 Denver, early bets where Seattle gave a point or Seahawk backers who only got a point or two lose (ties lose).  Later Denver bettors who gave 2½ lose.  Statistically, anything less than 3 points is going to go down to who actually wins the game, period…but for the sportsbook, it’s much, much more than that.

If you like Seattle, bet ‘em.  If you like Denver, bet ‘em.  Don’t sweat the points…much.

PS – in previous Super Bowls where top defense meets top offense, remember that offense makes for a great show…and defense wins championships.  Just sayin’.

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