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Legendary pro sports bettor gives his pick for Super Bowl 58 — VIDEO

Updated February 8, 2024 - 6:27 pm

Billy Walters is widely regarded as the most successful sports bettor of all time.

The Las Vegas businessman and philanthropist bet billions and won hundreds of millions of dollars during an unprecedented 36-year winning streak that started in the 1980s and ended in 2017, when he went to prison for insider trading.

After decades of fiercely protecting his coveted picks, Walters freely shared his selection for the first Super Bowl in Las Vegas during an interview with the Review-Journal.

Walters, 77, didn’t do many interviews in his heyday. But he went on a media tour in August to promote his autobiography, “Gambler: Secrets from a Life at Risk,” and bookended it Thursday by doing several interviews on radio row at Mandalay Bay.

“This will be my last one, just for the record,” he said. “Unless I do an app or something, I’ll go back in my little cocoon.”

The San Francisco 49ers are consensus 2-point favorites over the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s game at Allegiant Stadium. The line is 2½ at the Westgate SuperBook.

Walters broke down the matchup before giving his pick.

“When you look at this game, Kansas City has got, by far, the best quarterback. I don’t think anybody would even question that,” he said of Patrick Mahomes over Brock Purdy. “Kansas City has the best overall coaching staff. You could give (49ers coach) Kyle Shanahan the benefit of the doubt and say he and (Chiefs coach) Andy Reid are close to equal. But the defensive coordinators, there’s no comparison.

“The kickers are not even close. Kansas City has got one of the best kickers in the entire NFL (Harrison Butker), and San Francisco has got a real shaky rookie (Jake Moody). And then, overall, Kansas City has got, by far, in my opinion, the best defense.

“I’m not saying that San Francisco doesn’t have the capability. But, unfortunately, having the capability and being able to bring it is two different things. And they haven’t brought it all year, and I don’t expect them to bring it this game.”

Outside of Purdy, Walters said that the Niners are much stronger offensively than the Chiefs.

“But at the end of the day, quarterbacks are the most important thing in handicapping any football game,” he said. “Defense, that’s the second-most important thing for my money. And kickers.

“So I’m going to bet on Kansas City. It’s not going to be the biggest bet I ever made. It’s going to be a small bet. A small bet for me is between $500,000 and a million bucks on the Super Bowl.

“They made the line on the game 2. It’s up to 2½ at some places. I think Kansas City should be a 2-point favorite. Two, 2½. I’ve got the other side favored.”

Super factors

Walters said he applies certain factors to the Super Bowl a little differently than most people, which explains the difference in his line.

“I’m going to put more importance on Mahomes in this game than I would a normal game during the season, because of his experience and Purdy’s lack of experience,” he said. “I’m going to put more importance on the Kansas City kicker in this game than a regular-season game, because there’s going to be a lot more pressure on this rookie, who’s shaky already.

“Those are two of my main components. A regular-season game, that’s one thing, man. This is the Super Bowl. That’s the reason I probably have Kansas City the favorite and the (bookmakers) made Frisco the favorite. If you were to use those factors during the regular year, I can see why they’d make them 2-point favorites. But I do the Super Bowl a little different, and that’s the reason I like Kansas City.”

Walters, who only bets on football now, said his winning percentage this season was 57 percent. But he said he’s hit Super Bowls at a “ridiculously high” 65 to 70 percent clip the last 20 years. He’s hoping to buy a half-point and bet on the Chiefs +3.

“I think it’s going to be a tight game, and it could easily come down to a field goal,” he said. “If I can buy +3 up to -132, that’s the same thing as taking 2½ (at -110). If it’s any more than -132, I’m taking 2½.”

Head fakes

Back in the day, Walters became a master of moving the line by throwing head fakes — leading people to believe he was on one side before he hammered the other side at a better number after the line moved based on his perceived pick.

But he said that those days are over.

“I don’t do this for a living and don’t have the organization I had,” he said. “I continue to bet because I still love sports and continue to win. In my heyday, I never did a head fake on a Super Bowl anyway. No need to.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on X.

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