Alternate Super Bowl Lines
by Trevor Whenham - 01/31/2008
We are just a few days away from the Super Bowl (finally!), and most sports bettors are trying to figure out how they are going to bet the Super Bowl point spread. For some people the decision will be an easy one. They will either go blindly with their gut, or they see something in the stats and matchups that makes the outcome clear in their minds. For a lot of serious bettors, though, the way they will ultimately bet isn't yet clear. There are so many factors that go into this game, so many distractions and false leads, and too much time to think about all of it. I fall into that group - I know how I lean, but I can't lock myself in a room until game time, so I keep hearing seeing, or reading things that force me to evaluate the decision again. That happens because the line fits pretty close with my expectations of the outcome of the game. The more I have been looking at the game, I have started to think that maybe I need to consider some of the alternative lines for Super Bowl betting that are available instead.
If you look around at the different sportsbooks you can find a variety of different alternative spreads and prices. Bodog alone has six alternative lines (seven, really, if you consider that a money line is just a spread of zero). They range from favoring New England by 3.5 to forcing them to give 28.5 points. The prices vary widely as well - from -400 at 3.5 to +400 at 28.5. Not all of the lines make sense in all cases, but some may work well for you depending on how you figure the game is going to turn out. Here are three different ways you might use the alternative lines instead of, or along with, the regular line. They may seem simple and obvious, but that's the point - the lines are there as tools for us to use to maximize our return and help us best leverage our opinions.
Strong New England opinion - Some people will be of the opinion that the Patriots will easily cover the spread. They might look to the dominant New England passing game matched up against a suspect New York secondary, or they might think that the Giants are walking and talking like a team that is better than they really are. They might also think that it is odd that the Patriots, a ridiculously public team all year, now only have the support of one-third of bettors. Whatever the reason, you might be one of those people who believe that the Patriots are going to humiliate the Giants like they did so many other teams this year, and especially in the first half of the year. In that case it might make sense to look at some of the lines that make the spread larger than it already is. Instead of taking the standard -110, bettors could instead enjoy +120 at -14.5, +200 at -17.5, +275 at -21.5, or +400 at 28.5. It goes without saying that the risk is greater the higher the spread, but if you feel that the potential reward outweighs the risk then an alternative line might make more sense for you.
Strong New York opinion - Plaxico Burress isn't the only guy out there who thinks that the Giants are going to win the game, or at least make it close. The Giants looked like they were going to win for much of the last game between the two teams, and the Giants have been incredibly hot since then while New England hasn't done much more than they have needed to win. Tom Brady's health is a question, Randy Moss has been invisible in the playoffs, and it's questionable whether New England's ancient linebacker corps can stop a pretty good New York running game. If you are bullish on the Giants then you probably don't think that they need the 11 or 12 points that the regular spread gives them. Instead, you might feel that 7.5 points are enough, or maybe even 3.5. Each one gives the Giants a win if the game lands on the nearest key number, but it provides a much better return - +150 and +250, respectively. If you think that the Giants are going to win anyway, then you won't need the 12 points of the regular spread, so there is no point in paying for them.
Hedging your opinion - You don't have to settle for just one bet on the big game. If you have a total bankroll of $400 for the game you could bet it all on the spread, or you could split it up and put $100 in four different places that spread your risk and improve your potential payout. Say, for example, that you feel fairly confident that the Patriots are going to win big, but you can imagine a scenario in which the game is closer than you would like. Instead of putting your whole bankroll on the Patriots with the normal line, you could use the alternative lines to reflect your opinion and improve your payouts while still giving you a return if you aren't entirely right. You could put part of your bankroll on the regular spread, and parts at -17.5, -21.5 and -28.5. That way, you would get some of your money back, and maybe even make a small profit, if New England wins and covers, but doesn't pile up the points quite like you hope. Similarly, you could increase your return while hedging your opinion by spreading your money out over three or four different Giants spreads if that is the side you favor.