Super Bowl XLIX Line Movement Overblown by Media

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The media has made quite a stink about the opening points spread for Super Bowl XLIX. Specifically, the fact that the line changed from the Seahawks as 2 point favorites to a line of even or “PICK” (aka PK em) shortly after the market opened. Articles like this one from Yahoo! Sports announced that Vegas oddsmakers got it wrong and it will cost “millions”.

The truth is that Vegas doesn’t open most lines and lines move because of what happens outside of Vegas. There is definitely more line movement to come as the big game guarantees massive public and professional action just as certainly as there will be a musical halftime performance. So where do lines come from, why are they what they are and why do they change?

The line doesn’t open in Las Vegas … not really
A common misconception casual sports bettors have is that Las Vegas opens the odds for all sporting events. In reality, the offshore market is often, if not always, first to establish industry-wide odds that are then adopted by every bookmaking establishment from Las Vegas casinos to local bookies. This was again the case with Super Bowl XLIX, as Pinnacle Sports was the first sportsbook to release game odds.

During the second quarter of the Patriots routing of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game, Pinnacle opened the line at Seattle -2 -108.  Online sportsbooks such as Pinnacle Sports, BetOnline, TheGreek, Bookmaker, and 5Dimes – just to name a few – are widely recognized as industry pioneers who establish lines earlier than and/or more effectively than Las Vegas sportsbooks. Serious sports bettors typically prefer wagering online not because of convenience, but because of the value offered. For instance, while you can wager at -110 ($110 to win $100) at Las Vegas casinos, online sportsbooks such as Pinnacle and 5Dimes deal reduced juice which require risking less cash to win the same amount of money.

Super Bowl XLIX Line movement
Within two hours and fifteen minutes of setting their opening Super Bowl odds at a spread of 2, Pinnacle adjusted the market to a PK Em (spread of less than 1). In games that have the ability to end in a tie, a PK Em pointspread means that your bet would be no actioned and refunded. In the case of the Super Bowl, the benefit of a PK Em is that if your team wins by 1 point your wager is a winner, whereas if you instead bet a line of -1 (offered at some shops), your wager results in a push.  To give an idea of betting volume after establishing the opening line hours before Las Vegas, Pinnacle Sportsbook has told SBR that they accepted $10,000 wagers upon posting the market, and later increased to intervals of $20,000, $30,000, and finally $50,000 by day’s end Sunday. Currently, the sportsbook is accepting $100,000 wagers on the game, and expects to continually increase this limit leading up to game-day.

What does line movement really mean?
Line movement generally occurs when a sportsbook receives too much action on one side. For example, if a sportsbook opens an American football contest at -2 and receives $15,000 in wagers on the +2 (the underdog) compared to just $500 in wagers on the favorite at -2, it is very likely that the sportsbook will adjust the price. However, disproportionate financial volume is not always cause for line movement. To take a more likely example, if $30,000 in wagers were on the side of a favorite which opened at -2, compared to $24,000 in wagers on the +2, but the sportsbook risk management knows that the $24,000 was submitted by more experienced sports bettors, the line may not be moved at all. It is also not solely a numbers a game: If a well-known professional gambler makes a $5,000 wager that alone could be cause for a market adjustment, regardless of the current division of funds.

Line movement is expected as markets mature. NFL pointspreads, in particular, are among the sharpest or most accurate in the gaming industry. Super Bowl XLIX may have opened at -2 in favor of the Seahawks, but the early line movement is no indication that this number was “wrong” or that offshore or Las Vegas (who copied offshore) made a mistake. The Super Bowl is one of the most highly wagered on events worldwide every year. Sportsbooks constantly adjust their pointspreads in response to money – both sharp and public at times – and are far more likely to settle on or near the opening spread when the market closes than to be off by many key numbers. Movement from -2 to PK is not as significant as movement from a spread which crosses the 3.

Where’s the best place to bet Super Bowl XLIX?
As of now, bettors hunting for the best sportsbook to wager the Seahawks with are given the best price at 5Dimes at +1.5 -109. This means a $109 wager is needed to win $100 and that Seattle can either lose the game by one point or win outright for the wager to be paid. On the flip side, bettors in favor of the New England Patriots are given the best odds at Pinnacle Sportsbook with their spread of PK at -110 (a $110 wager to win $100 if the Patriots win outright).

Sportsbook Review will update the newswire as significant markets are posted or key changes recorded.

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