Updated January 24, 2019 - 11:21 pm
Wiseguys from near and far flocked to the Westgate sportsbook Thursday night for one of the most anticipated days on the sports betting calendar.
The Westgate released its popular Super Bowl prop bets — 442 two-way props on the Patriots-Rams game and more than 1,000 betting options — and sharp bettors quickly pounced on any number they deemed off.
A steady stream of bettors — 90 percent of them sharp, according to Westgate sportsbook vice president Jay Kornegay — waited in line to place up to two $2,000 wagers apiece before going to the back of the line to do it again.
“I look forward to betting the props. It’s sort of like the game inside the game,” Las Vegas professional sports bettor Jeff Whitelaw said. “You’re trying to analyze what you think is going to happen and bet it accordingly.
“For example, I like the under in the game, and I played both Rams running backs under (their total rushing yards). I think (Todd) Gurley may be injured. He didn’t play a lot (in the NFC title game), and (C.J.) Anderson has been playing great. You can win them both, but you can’t lose them both because they’re not going to both go over.”
Gurley opened at 68½ rushing yards and was quickly bet down to 59½ at the Westgate.
A similar scenario took place at William Hill sportsbook, which on Thursday afternoon posted more than 900 wagering options on the Super Bowl. Gurley opened at 75½ rush yards before getting bet down to 62½. Anderson opened at 54½ before dropping to 43½.
There are several strategies employed by sharp bettors in wagering on props.
“All some guys are doing are scalping or middling our number to other sportsbooks,” Westgate sportsbook director John Murray said. “But some guys are genuinely betting. They’re taking a position against our number and gambling against it.
“They’ve got an idea of where the number should be, and if they perceive value against our number, they’re gambling.”
Some bettors had their own homemade packet of props to compare with the Westgate numbers and bet on the biggest differences.
“The Westgate does an amazing job with these. Their numbers are really very close,” said Whitelaw, 51. “They’re not perfect. They put up so many, a few might be off a little bit.”
More variance on props
While every Las Vegas sportsbook but Boyd Gaming had the Patriots favored by 2½ over the Rams and a total of 57 or 57½ Thursday night, there was plenty of variance on the props.
“You can actually either get middles or advantages by arbitraging,” Whitelaw said. “You can earn a little bit with this stuff, which is nice, because not everybody has the identical line.”
For the most part, sharp bettors wager on the under and no on props, while the betting public wagers on the over and yes.
“We have one guy that bets every player prop either under or no or he passes,” Caesars Entertainment sportsbook risk manager Jeff Davis said. “He’s always a prop winner.”
Christmas in January
That’s probably why the Westgate was a virtual wiseguy convention Thursday night. Whitelaw, who also likes Tom Brady to go over his yards, completions and attempts, said firing on the props is sort of like “having Christmas in January.”
“A lot of these (sharp) guys make money on this almost every year,” Murray said. “Especially the arbitrage bettors and scalpers. They’re going to be going around the city for the next 10 days locking in profits for themselves.
“It’s a big deal for these guys. It’s not free money, but a lot of these guys do very well.”
The exception was last year’s Super Bowl, in which the Patriots and Eagles combined for nine touchdowns and 1,151 yards in Philadelphia’s 41-33 win.
“If the guys that are betting (Thursday night) do poorly on the Super Bowl props, we will probably do poorly,” Murray said. “Generally speaking, the kind of bets we’re taking (from the sharps) will probably be the kind of bets we’re rooting for next Sunday.
“If we get another 41-33 game, the public is probably going to do pretty well. If we get a 24-10 game like the Denver-Carolina Super Bowl three years ago, that’s the kind of game where the house really cleans up.”