Super Bowl Betting Sharps vs. Squares: Public Action Wagering Report
I love watching betting action on games - especially on football where there is so much time between games. We can learn so much from looking at the odds and how they move - how the oddsmakers viewed the games, how sharp bettors are responding to those numbers, what the public thinks about the game, and where the value could be in all of it as a result. And for odds voyeurs there is no more interesting games than the Super Bowl.
Typically, the sharp bettors have all the power when it comes to lines - they see them earlier than everyone else, and they have much more of an impact on how they move than anyone else. But in the Super Bowl that isn't the case. The public money on this game is dramatically more powerful than any game - simply because there is so much more of it. This is a unique game, which makes the action so fun to watch and try to decode.
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Most weeks of the regular season there are 14 or 16 games on the docket. All of the public betting money has to be split among all of those games, with the most popular ones getting the most action. This weekend, though, there is only one game, so regular public bettors don't have to divide their attention. And there are many, many public bettors who only bet once a year, or only on the playoffs. Bettors who don't typically wager bet on this game, and people who bet on other games bet more here. So, the amount of public attention on this game is many, many times more than on a regular game.
On the other hand, sharp bettors don't care about whether this is the biggest game of the year - they only care about value. If there is value on the Super Bowl they will jump on it, but if there is better value on a random Thursday night game in Week 13 they don't care. It's all about profit, not the excitement of a big game. So, if the sharp money is basically the same as what it is, and the public action is much more significant, it's no surprise that the public money makes more of a difference in this game than any other.
The action on this particular game is just fascinating. And to look at why it is so interesting all we have to do is to compare it to last year. Last year we had a very public favorite with arguably the best QB and coach ever in the league, and they were up against a team that people knew relatively little about, which lacked star power, and which had come into the season with low expectations. So, last year the public bet heavily on the Patriots - nearly 70 percent of all bets. And that was with Matt Ryan, a highly-respected quarterback and by far the Falcons' biggest star, in the game. This year Philadelphia enters coming off a 7-9 season last year, they are playing with a backup quarterback that few trust, there isn't a superstar-caliber player on either side of the ball, their coach is only in his second year, and they are short on experience. And they are again up against the dynamic duo of Brady and Belichick. If the public overwhelmingly liked the Patriots over the Falcons then it would seem to make sense that they would overwhelmingly like them against the Eagles as well.
Strangely, though, that is far from the case. In fact, as of this writing only 44 percent of all bets have been on the favorites, which of course means that a solid majority of 56 percent of bets have been on the underdog Eagles. And that explains why the line has been falling. It opened as high as 6.5, with six being a more common opening number. It now sits at 4.5 and is showing signs of falling further - it has fallen from -116 or -115 to -105 in most spots, which is usually the movement that occurs before the line is moved. The public clearly likes the underdog here - or at least feels like the favorite was getting too much credit when the number opened.
There are surely many reasons why the public is betting as they are. Generally, exhaustion with the Patriots and their dominance is surely one of them. Another one to consider is that pubic bettors don't have long-term views, so they tend to react much more strongly to recent actions than to longer-term ones. Last time out the Patriots needed an explosive comeback and a tremendous amount of luck to escape a Jacksonville team that few take seriously, while Philadelphia absolutely humiliated a Minnesota team that many thought was the class of the conference - at least.
The total has been relatively boring in this game - it opened at 48.5 and sits between there and 47.5 depending on where you look. It has shown little movement, though any places that have moved it have dropped it slightly. That's despite a strong majority of bets being on the "over" - more than 60 percent of all bets placed. This is no surprise at all - the public is fiercely loyal to the over and will favor it in most cases. The oddsmakers know this, so in most games - and in this game in particular - that has been built into their number. So, movement in a total is generally less meaningful and less interesting than on a total unless the movement is significant.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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