Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sports Books Being Careful With Patriots Super Bowl Line

By Micah Roberts

We’ve had 10 Super Bowls with the spread hovering around minus-3 and none of them have landed on the number. This years Super Bowl opened with the Patriots a 3 ½-point favorite and quickly went to -3 and based on the way almost every book has -3 (EV) posted, it looks as though we could be seeing -2 ½ quickly, but Cantor Gaming sports book director Mike Colbert hopes it doesn’t and based on past history, it probably won‘t.

“I think 3-flat (-110) is the perfect number that the betting public understands,“ said Colbert who opened the Patriots -3 (-115) and is currently at -3 (-105). “I’m hoping we get balanced up enough to where we can go in to next week with a 3-flat.”

In recent history, we have seen four of the five Super Bowls that have landed on 3 occur and they all involved the Patriots. In each of their games, the spread never came into question as they were 14-point dogs to the Rams, 7-point favorites against the Panthers and Eagles and 12-point favorites against the Giants.

“I’m superstitious, so now I’m really not getting off the number,” Colbert said jokingly after told about the Patriots love of 3 in the Super Bowl. “Obviously we don’t want a push, but until we get overwhelming support for the Giants that puts us in too much jeopardy, I’m staying on the number.”

“We got early action on the Patriots because we opened lower than what the market had, but since then it’s been all Giants money. However, I do think it will even out because the Patriots have been a public team, along with the Packers, all season.”

13.9 % of all NFL games this season landed on 3, including both Championship games on Sunday. The sports books want a decision in the game, but not at the risk of putting their property in harms way.

The last two Super Bowls that ended in pushes were the Rams (-7) beating the Titans 23-16 and the Packers (-14) beating the Patriots 35-21. In each case, there were lines a mile a long with everyone getting refunds. The books all ended up small winners due to propositions and OVER-UNDER wagers, but a decision with the type of volume that happens in these games is what they want, because it’s very rare that the books lose the big game.

But messing around with a key number can get a book into serious trouble by either getting sided or getting middled like happened in the Super Bowl following the 1979 season when the Steelers played the Cowboys. Jimmy Vaccaro was just getting started in the sports book business at the Royal Inn and remembers it being a real education into bookmaking.

“You have to remember that things were much different back then. Most of the casinos in town didn’t have sports books, there was no internet and most of the betting people did from outside the state was through bookmakers,” said Vaccaro. On the east coast, many of the bookmakers knew people were going to bet the Steelers so they were making bettors lay -4 ½ with Pittsburgh. On the west coast, many of the bookmakers were operating with a line of -2 ½ because of knowing they’d get Dallas money.”

So Vaccaro knew what the market was on each side of the coast and had to set the line for his book. The Steelers were two-time Super Bowl champions and the Cowboys were America’s team who had won the Super Bowl the previous year.

“I opened the Steelers minus-3, got as high as 4 ½ and finally closed at 3 ½. Some of the little bet shops around town were also offering a promotional deal to create more business to their place by offering the Steelers at -3 ½ and Cowboys at +4 ½. None of us thought the game would land 4, but you know how the rest of the story goes.“

Steelers 35, Cowboys 31.

“It’s never a good thing when your paying everyone as winners or giving their money back on a push,” said Vaccaro. “And back then we didn’t have computer systems to quickly generate an overall win-loss result. I knew the figure was going to be bad, but I had to wait and hand grade every ticket and it over four hours until I was able to give a final answer to Michael (Royal Inn owner, Michael Gaughan, current owner of the South Point).”

“We had lines of people backed up all the way to convention center drive waiting to cash,” said Vaccaro. “It was a great baptism into bookmaking and a lesson very well learned.”

Although there aren’t many current bookmakers around who actually experienced the sting of that day, they all know the story of what happened on the fateful day known as ‘Black Sunday‘. With a little history lesson intertwined, it’s quite understandable to see why we may never see the Patriots game drop below -3, no matter how much money is attached.

With the way the action is currently going, we could see Patriots -3 (+115) before someone finally makes the move to -2 ½.. 99.9% of the action on the game is still to come, so each of the books in Las Vegas have plenty of time to make their move without getting stung too bad by getting middled or sided. But no one wants to be first. If making a guess on who might be first in Vegas, it would have to be the South Point which only uses flat (-110) numbers.

We’ll keep you updated along the way as it happens.

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