Come one come all to the Scalper’s Ball.
It is Super Bowl time, which brings the season for guys carrying backpacks betting Matt Ryan’s Passing Yards OVER 320.5 at Westgate Las Vegas and UNDER 325.5 at Caesars Palace. In the hopes that Ryan’s yards land in the sweet spot of 321-324 yards for what the Vegas professors call a middle.
As someone who has worked in the industry for over a decade, guys who bet without opinion is one of the things that I loathe the most. This is the true meaning of the overused and abused word ‘sharp.’
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame someone for doing this, hell who wouldn’t want to risk $1,000 to win $20,000 when you have a opportunity. Nearly all props are mathematic based so if those are Ryan's odds it’s not out of the realm of possibly for this to happen. If it wasn't profitable the scalper’s crew wouldn’t spend all this time going book to book getting the best numbers.
The other side of this game is day to day, driving numbers in a positive direction, say you like the underdog but don’t like the line being -3, bet small amounts throughout the week to get the number to move to -4 or higher then pound the +4 and +3.5. Game lands 3, jackpot. The positive side of Super Bowl props is this is the one time of the year that different opinions are out there on the same propositions. One thing I worry about is that all Vegas sportsbooks have added a betting application for cell phones or at least are working toward that end.
Now I love the ability to sit on my couch and bet, although I don’t bet seriously often. I just worry that the little booking making still going on, will be swallowed up by computer programming.
The more things go to the automation world, the more the lines grow stagnant. Take a look at the line for the Super Bowl, Patriots -3 over the Falcons. EVERYWHERE. Seriously no one that takes decent sized bets will offer -3.5 or -2.5 Apparently no wizards behind the counters anymore. The only shot a guy has left is the live betting market, which might actually be a profitable enterprise, but that's IF you can actually get the bet in. Ask around and you'll find plenty of disgruntled live bettors. My ultimate question is can't we find a balance, somewhere where educated bookmakers and computers can coexist in harmony? We need champions that can show the casino executives the money they are losing by not being aggressive in making the sharpest numbers in town.
I’ll never forget the Patriots quest for an undefeated season and the bookies putting up New England -13, I thought there is no way the Pats won’t cover, that line makes no sense. New England won its first 11 games by an average of 23 points, which is something I am not sure any team will duplicate in the next 50 years. The thing bookmakers underestimated was they faded down the stretch, winning the last five by only 10. That’s a substantial drop and the Giants played them in Week 17 and lost by 3.
In the AFC Championship win over the Chargers, Brady had 3 INTs and won 21-12. It’s quite possible had Phillip Rivers been healthy, the Chargers might have pulled that upset.
After that game there is no way Patriots –13 wasn't an irresponsible line and yet no one in Vegas took a stand with a better number. Where was the book that said, nope that's awful, we will open –10.5 and take $2 million before we get to –13. Instead nearly every book was buried by an outright Giants win still the worst lost in Las Vegas history, $2.6 million. Granted when people bet over $90 million it’s a number that seems irrelevant. Not to mention all the money spent on rooms, food and beverage. But isn't an old rule of making money like this: Why make $100 million when you could make $200 million?
Fact is I respect the number. I just wish sportsbooks would use them.
Author: Alan Berg