Monday, January 24, 2011

Packers are the Early Public Choice in Super Bowl Against the Steelers

By Micah Roberts

Rodgers and Pack are the favorites
When the first line came out for the Super Bowl following the Steelers win over the Jets Sunday there was a wide array of opinions on what the Super Bowl should be. Prior to Sunday’s games, Lucky’s sports books had posted a number of pick’em and the savants over at the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book concurred. However, when the first lines came out, there was a drastic change as most had eventually settled on the Packers being a 2 ½-point favorite.

Some sports books such as the Golden Nugget even opened as high as minus-3 ½ with Sports Book Director Tony Miller citing simply a need to get early money on the other side because the Packers have been such a darling with the public. Others such as Lucky’s, the Mirage, South Point and Hilton started low and they found that the public was definitely feeling love for the Packers as the money kept pouring in forcing their line ever so close to minus-3, but staying just clear at minus-2 ½.

It’s the Super Bowl, the most bet upon event of the year for every sports book -- legal and illegal -- in the world. Everyone has an opinion on the game, but many of those opinions change drastically by the time the game starts thanks to two weeks of hype and the truck loads of information supplied to everyone.

Over the course of sports book history in Las Vegas, only two games have been set as low as this one with the 1972 Dolphins as 1-point favorites and the 1970 Colts minus-2 ½, both of which covered. Every other Super Bowl has been set a minus-3 or higher.

Something drastically different from those two Super Bowls was the advent of the internet and off-shore books, which in many way dictates the market price. The market was driven Sunday as a prominent off-shore book posted a line before the Steelers AFC Championships game had concluded and when it was over, the price had been set at minus-2 ½. Sports books like Lucky’s had started low at minus-1 ½, but quickly got in line because of the forced action.

So is this really the correct line and might we see an influx of Pittsburgh money come in late? My guess is, yes we will, and any value to be found on the under dog now will not to be had by the time the Super Bowl kicks off.

But my past history behind the counter also has me second-guessing my theory. When the Raiders opened as 4-point favorites to Tampa Bay in 2003, I positively felt that the public and Sharps would be on the Raiders which altered some normal bookmaking procedures. Between being on the west coast and the Raiders being a public favorite all year long, I felt the money had to come and I held steady at minus-3 ½ all the way to kickoff despite overwhelming Tampa Bay support. Needless to say, the money never came and the Buccaneers rolled easily, 48-21 that day, making it one of the few losing Super Bowl decisions.

Steeler Nation comes strong with Bets
Because the Steeler nation is so strong and their worth to the public after winning two Super Bowls in the last five years, I have to believe that the Pittsburgh money will come and get closer to the pick’em number originally forecasted. The only flaw in that assessment is the fact that the public control this game.

The Sharp money accounts for so little in the actual bookmaking process and everyone who has sided with the Packers thus far in the playoffs has cashed in mightily. Last week, most sports books reported ticket counts on Green Bay at a 7-to-1 ratio over the Bears. That kind of loyalty from the public will be hard to break.

Packers Crush Sports Books in Playoffs
The 2010 NFL season was favorable for the sports book in 14 of the 17 weeks, but once the playoffs started it was all down hill from there.

“This Super Bowl is going to create an amazing amount of handle,” said Hilton Executive Director Jay Kornegay, “But we have definitely paid the price to getting this great matchup with the Packers support winning every week.”

Most sports books felt the wrath of the Packers supporters the last three weeks, but there was no better example than last week against the Bears where almost everyone had a Green Bay ticket laying 3 ½-points.

“We got crushed with Green Bay,“ said MGM Resorts Sports Book Director Jay Rood, “The only thing that really saved us was the game not going over along with our future prices posting.”

The MGM properties probably have the most extensive resources of future wagers in the state and if they break even on a day when those commodities are supposed to come cashing in, it says a lot about just how big of an impact the Packers had on the city.

Another bad beat for the sports books was that seven of the eight possible sides won on teasers with the Steelers game being an all-way win.

Super Bowl Parties
We’ll have a list next week on what some of the best parties are in the city, but the first one on the schedule to get the ball rolling is the NASCAR Café at the Sahara. For $60, you can eat and drink all you want, from 1pm until the game is over. That includes any kind of drink or food offered. I will be there myself with ESPN’s Brian Blessing who will be giving away all kinds of prizes just for being there that includes free UNLV tickets, t-shirts, maid services and oil changes. Come by and say hello as we’ll also be doing some Super Bowl trivia and stump the host segments. Reservations are be taken right now at the NASCAR Café.

Who to bet?
I usually change my mind on a Super Bowl side by game day -- and not always for the better, but as of now, I’m siding with the Steelers, and not only because of the value. I think their defense will be able to do some of the things that Chicago did, a team that obviously had Aaron Rodgers rattled in the second half on their game with pressure. I also like what Ben Roethlisberger does which are several things that never show in the box score. I like his leadership and ability to limit mistakes, whether that means running for a first down or taking the sack. Although Mike Tomlin finds it hard to garner support for his coaching style, I like how the Omar Epps look-a-like captains the ship. My guess this week is a Steelers 27-23 victory.

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