The Prophet on Betting the Superbowl:
In this article I’m going to preview the Superbowl. Not the relative strength and weaknesses of the Seahawks and the Steelers, but the Superbowl as a wagering proposition. It’s common knowledge that no single sporting event attracts as much wagering interest as the Superbowl. Last year, Nevada sportsbooks took $90.7 million dollars worth of action on the event. since the amount of money wagered in Nevada is only 1% of so of the total amount bet on the event, you can do the math.
It’s also an opportunity for people in my line of work-professional sports handicappers-to make a killing. Just check out the USA TODAY sports sections on the Friday before the Game. You’ll see countless tout services emphatically suggesting that they have “inside information that will absolutely determine the outcome of the Game” and so forth. If you’ve been betting on sports for more than a week, you know they’re full of hot air. Still, there’s enough “clueless newbies” out there to make such claims very profitable for the touts.
This year I’ll be doing the same thing that I’ve done every year since I’ve been in business as a sports handicapper “for hire”: I’ll be giving away the Superbowl side and total free to anyone that wants it. At the end of this article, I’ll tell you how you can get it too. While there’s some marketing advantages to giving away my Superbowl plays free of charge, I do it to make an important point. For serious sports bettors, the Superbowl is just another Game and you should treat it as such.
Unfortunately, my view is decidedly a minority position. Too many sports bettors bet a lot more than they should on the Superbowl. I’m not saying this as a moralist, but as a professional sports bettor. A few years ago, I had a new client sign up right before the college bowl season. He indicated that he aspired to being a professional sports bettor and wanted to learn anything I could teach him about doing it the right way. He was a well educated, professionally successful gentleman that had set aside a bankroll of $10,000 to start with. He was always asking questions about money management, proper unit size and similar topics. We had a profitable bowl season, and hockey and hoops were also going well. He called or emailed just about every day with questions, and I was very impressed with the seriousness and discipline with which he was approaching the sports betting discipline.
Apparently that changed on Superbowl Sunday. He called the Tuesday after the Game, and said that I could take him off my client mailing list because he was now tapped out. He wasn’t specific about how he played the Game, but best I could determine he put his entire bankroll-at that point close to $15k-on a moneyline play on St. Louis to beat New England. We all know how that turned out. I’m not here to be judgmental of my clients, so I gently scolded him and said that I hoped he’d be back in the future. He was back in action the next fall, and he’s repeatedly said that he’ll not be making the same mistake again.
A couple of years ago, I was told by employees of several large offshore books some specifics of Superbowl wagering that I found astounding. They indicated that around 60 or 70% of their customer’s deposits were in play on Superbowl Sunday. In other words, the average client had a sizable majority of their bankroll in play on the Superbowl. There were more people like my hapless client than I could have ever imagined.
One thing I learned quickly when I began my career as a professional sports bettor was that there was no premium to winning money on the NFL in general or the Superbowl in particular. When I went to the grocery store, a hundred bucks was a hundred bucks-it didn’t matter if I had won it on the NFL or on added board hoops. The simplest advice I can give you is that the Superbowl is just another Game and you should treat it as such. On February 6th, the sun will come up and there will be 29 basketball and hockey Games on the board. The sports gambling world will be back to its usual rhythm and the last thing you want is to be “tapped out” because you blew your bankroll on the Superbowl.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t bet the Superbowl side or total or some of the countless prop bets offered. It’s just very important to do it the right way and here are some suggestions on how to do that:
1) Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose: That’s pretty simple advice, but based on the numbers its something that a lot of people forget on Superbowl Sunday. Sports betting is not a discipline where you can force a “quick killing”. Over time, there may be opportunities to do just that but you can’t force them-you have to let them come to you. I’m not in a position to suggest a proper amount, or percentage of bankroll-just remember that its just another Game and you don’t want to risk your entire bankroll on it.
2) Don’t fixate on the favorite: For most of the Superbowl era, the Game was dominated by the favorite. This was well known not only within the handicapping community but by the general public. The problem is that its not the case any more-in fact, favorites have only covered 2 of the L10 Superbowls. My guess is that this has to do with the changes in the NFL salary structure. In a league where parity has always been the hallmark, the revised salary guidelines leveled the playing field even more. Teams can no longer stockpile talent at the skill positions, so gone are the days where teams like the San Francisco 49ers can have three QBs that could (and eventually would) start for other teams. again, I haven’t analyzed the matchup in depth yet so I’m not necessarily advocating a play on the Seahawks. It’s just important to look at both sides of the equation and not assume that a play on the favorite is the right way to go.
3) Don’t get hung up on history: Many handicappers have held as a truism the concept that a team that has been to the big Game before has a distinct advantage over a Superbowl “virgin”. again, this is a notion that the revamped financial structure of the Game has completely invalidated. With free agency and rampant player movement from year to year, the Superbowl history of a franchise simply doesn’t matter any more. since 1999, two Superbowls have been won by teams in their first appearance (Tampa Bay and Baltimore), another first timer covered the number (Carolina) and still another (Tennessee) pushed. I’ve already read much more about Pittsburgh’s “storied Superbowl tradition” in the mainstream sports media than I care to, and I’m here to tell you that it is completely irrelevant to this matchup. Both QBs are playing in their first Superbowl, and the team that has never been to the Superbowl has a coach that has won there before. The Steelers may have won 4 Superbowls during the Terry Bradshaw era, but their current coach is 0-1 in the big Game. New era NFL teams are built to win “now”, and the fact that their franchise has or hasn’t been there before means nothing.
4) Don’t pass on props: Year after year, some of the best wagering value in the Superbowl can be found in the myriad of prop bets. This is particularly true in player performance props or head to head matchup props-some basic analysis of the relevant statistics can frequently uncover excellent value in these bets. And, as always, shop around from book to book for the most favorable propositions at the best price.
5) Be a contrarian: Many prop bets are wagers on whether something will or won’t happen. For example “Will there be three unanswered scores” or “Will there be a Scorein the first three minutes of the Game”. The general public would rather see something happen than to not happen and these props are often priced accordingly. In other words, when in doubt bet on the negative.
6) Don’t forget about value: No matter what you bet on, make sure its priced so that you’re getting value. The best example of a prop bet that is inherently a bad value is the wager on the coin toss. I’m currently looking at a book that is offering your choice of heads or tails at -110. Of course the correct price of any coin flip is +100, reflecting a 50/50 proposition. This is important in any wagering proposition, and the Superbowl is no exception. Don’t check your math skills at the door.