The Caesars Palace sportsbook. Photo by Ryan Forbes.

Betting the Big Game

Suggestions for Super Bowl sportsbook decisions

Every year at Super Bowl time, magazines and talk shows are jammed with sports experts and gambling guys telling you who’s gonna win. Some of them know what they’re talking about, and more than some don’t, but they all sound like they do. If only it were that easy.

When the editors at Vegas Seven asked me to make some picks for publication, I had to come clean and tell them I didn’t have any. That’s not to say that I won’t have several bets in play come game time, but simply looking at the line weeks before kickoff doesn’t provide enough information for me to offer specific recommendations. What I can do, though, is provide some solid concepts on betting the big game that should put you a notch ahead of the crowds.

Understand up front that the underlying theme behind everything that follows is “shopping,” which means not settling for the first number you see. Check several books from different operators, either by walking from place to place or signing up for mobile apps, the latter enabling lines comparison and betting without having to go to the casino (plus the apps allow you to avoid the monster lines at the betting windows).

Basic strategy in sports betting is to bet “under” and “no.” That’s probably the exact opposite of how you like to bet, and that’s why it’s good. Remember that sports lines are determined by market pressure, and when the oddsmakers know there will be demand on certain sides, they raise the price to bet them. Hence, the prices for the public’s beloved “over” and “yes” propositions tend to be inflated.

We’re seeing this on full display with the total for this year’s game. Not only does the public love to bet “over,” but the “overs” have won at a 70 percent clip during this year’s NFL playoffs, creating a bandwagon effect that’s led to the highest total ever for a Super Bowl, already hitting 59.5 percent at some shops. If there’s one bet I’ll make on this game, it will be under the highest total I can find, which I expect to be at least 60.

Basic strategy in sports betting is to bet “under” and “no.” That’s probably the exact opposite of how you like to bet, and that’s why it’s good.

The same strategy goes for the propositions, which are a blast to bet and track throughout the game, but have a bigger built-in edge for the bookies. Here, too, leaning “under” on props such as quarterback passing yards, and “no” on bets like “will there be a defensive touchdown,” is typically the way to go. The classic winner here is “no overtime,” which has won 50 years in a row, but the 10-to-1 or so you’ll have to lay on that prop makes it a tough one to pull the trigger on.

Mirroring the props are the special parlay cards. These can yield good opportunities for experts, but they take a big bite out of the average bettor. Limit your play on them to small amounts for entertainment value and stay away from “ties lose” cards, which are particularly deadly.

Of course, you’ll probably want something on a team to win (the “side”). The number is Pats -3 everywhere as I write this and it hasn’t moved, which means it’s fairly safe that 3s will be available up till game time, whichever way you want to bet. So, hold tight looking for a -2.5 to pop up if you want a position on the Pats or +3.5 if you like the Falcons. If the line never hits those points, then shop for a 3 with “reduced juice,” i.e., laying -105 or getting even money, because the other side is “plus juice” at -115 or -120 (one place to find -105 pricing right now is at CasaBlanca or Virgin River in Mesquite).

Consider also that betting the money line (no points involved) on the favorite has historically been a bargain in big games, as the public likes to take a shot at plus money on the underdog. The effect is more pronounced at bigger favorites, but finding something like -140 on the Patriots with a spread of 3 is achievable and constitutes a better-than-average wager.

Finally, look for add-ons. For example, some books will give you a logo hat or T-shirt for making a bet. That’s pure value added. Jerry’s Nugget and Arizona Charlie’s have been sure things for such incentives in recent years. The same concept applies if you buy into a squares pool. First make sure that 100 percent of what’s collected is being given back in prizes, then look for more. For the second year in a row, Dealer’s Choice Lounge on Spring Mountain is selling $50 squares with all the money returned, and the buy-in comes with a better-than-munchies buffet. You’re not losing on a deal like that, even if your number doesn’t come in.

Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and

Ryan Forbes

The Details

The Las Vegas Valley has no shortage of swanky sportsbooks to make your bets and watch the big game—and Caesars Palace’s book, which underwent a light face-lift in 2016, is no exception.

At the center of the Caesars book renovation is its 143-foot LED video wall, which the resort is touting as the largest on the Strip. Other recent upgrades include personalized listen technology, which allows patrons to stream sound for anything being screened through their smartphone.