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Posted by on Jan 25, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Travel | 3 comments

Smart Money and the Super Bowl (Don’t be impressed by lots of 000’s)



I don’t give a damn who the millionaire bet on.  What I want to know is — what bets did my friend with the $9 knapsack make?


A few years ago, a highly-respected sports-gambler and associate of mine (who shall remain nameless unless he wishes to identify himself) used to fly into Las Vegas for just one reason — to bet on the Super Bowl game.  He’d show up at the Westgate Sportsbook on the big night when all the Super Bowl props were first released.

The Westgate (formally the Las Vegas Hilton) was and remains the bellweather of Super Bowl propositions.  They post hundreds of creative props — on everything from the coin flip to what the exact time the game would end.  Props have became more exotic in recent years.  Now, you can even wager on the odds of something happening in the Super Bowl positioned versus the outcome of another sporting event in a different part of the world (including — basketball, hockey, golf, and even soccer).

Example:  Will there be more interceptions thrown in the Super Bowl or goals scored in the English Premier’s Liverpool-Tottenham match?  More Interceptions is Listed at -145.

My friend, who made quite a successful living exploiting margins wherever he could find them in any form, would usually show up carrying a $9 knapsack.  But that knapsack was worth far more for what it contained inside.  Some years, he’d come into the casino staked with $250,000 — all in cash.

He had a routine.  A clever plan was necessary because it was practically impossible to get down that much action on the very juiciest betting props, those obscure and often absurd betting exotics that most typical football fans wouldn’t notice.  My friend couldn’t walk up to the betting window and plunk down $60,000 on the number of catches by a tight end.  No casino, not even the Westgate Sportsbook, would accept that volume of action (not all at once).  Hence, $1,000 and $2,000 limits were usually the norm for most props (this varies today).

A far more annoying obstacle for serious bettors is the serpentine parade of (mostly amateur) bettors, which gums up the works. Too many people slows down access to getting the best numbers.  Hundreds of casual fans waffling around at the betting windows fishing out $20 bills on a parlay ticket was like molasses glued to the fuel line of a Ferrari.  While standing in line and waiting, those precious outlier betting values were steadily being hammered into shape by the sharps, minute by minute, bet by bet.  It’s a cliche, but time is money in sports betting.  Waiting around usually means getting the worst of it — and by that I mean the worst price.  It’s why most successful sports bettors wager early in the week.  They don’t wait around for stale leftovers.

So, the routine was to bet as much as he could on as many props as possible and go though the line over and over again until every single prop was covered to the greatest extent feasible.  The knapsack would get lighter with each visit to the betting counter and by the time the night was done, my friend would be holding a fist full of tickets, perhaps 200 in all — the equivalent of juggling five decks of cards.  Armed with a quarter million in paper confetti, he’d quietly exit the rear door, wave bye to Man O War, head into the parking lot, start the rental car, take his wife out to a nice dinner, and they’d fly back home the next morning.

That’s a “pro.”

You never see any news about these guys.  They don’t parade around town bragging about their bets.  You don’t know their names.  Instead, the media often report trivial news of no significance, other than tinsel.

Consider a report from ESPN earlier this week that the MGM Casino (Las Vegas) had reportedly accepted a huge bet exceeding $1 million.  Someone bet a million dollars on the Philadelphia Eagles.  My first and last thought is:  So what?

To be clear, I like and respect David Purdum, the ESPN Staff Writer who first broke this story [READ HERE].  He’s just doing his job.  It is newsworthy to accept a wager of this  size.  I don’t begrudge Purdum for breaking the news.  However, since the exact amount of the wager wasn’t disclosed, nor was the identity of the gambler given, why does this matter at all?

Most important of all — THE LINE DIDN’T MOVE.

That tells you everything.

It tells you the casino doesn’t respect the bet, nor the gambler.  Another schnook.

Next customer!  Step right up!  What’s your bet, Sir?

All successful sports gamblers know the Super Bowl is just another football game.  That’s right:  Just.  Another.  Football.  Game.  Often, it’s an unbettable situation — at least when it comes to the side and total.  What makes the Super Bowl special (for gamblers) is the bacchanal of bizarre bets in the form of odds and props, which no sportsbook in the world can possibly get 100 percent correct in their assessment of actual probabilities.  This is where some bettors — often math gurus and nerd analysts — are truly smarter than the house, and that’s why they win.

The smart money moves the line.  The stale money doesn’t move anything.  It just goes into the vault.  And so it is with big bettors and their big bets.

From September though January, among the most suspiciously-hyped football wagers by local Las Vegas sportswriters are the weekly reports of bets made throughout the week.  We are seeing what amounts to a marketing gimmick way too often.  It’s become roadkill.  We shouldn’t even pay attention to it.  Inexplicably, these stories get lots of attention.

Sportsbook managers often get quoted when they accept huge wagers by so-called “smart bettors.”  A few weeks ago, a perfect example of this hype occurred when one local sportsbook manager stated, “We accepted a six-figure wager from a smart bettor on the Rams.”  Hmm.  More notable than the Rams outright loss three days later as a nearly touchdown favorite was my justified cynicism the sportsbook manager probably just wanted to keep his rich customer on the hook and stroke his ego.  But announcing to the media that a “smart bettor” was on the Rams, that made the schnook feel good when he saw he was referenced in the local newspaper.

He’s talking about me!

Like I said — a schnook.

In the offshore betting market, which has displaced Las Vegas as the real epicenter of wagering, there are $200 bettors who move lines.  Another of my associates (again nameless, unless he wants to step forward) was beating the holy hell out of Canadian College Football.  I swear this is a true story — until then, I didn’t even know Canadian College Football existed.  He was crushing the offshore sportsbooks so badly (and sharing his analytics with friends — wink, wink) they cut him down to $200 a game.  Now, if he even opens his account and blinks at a game, the line jumps a couple of points.  Last time the subject came up, I think he can only bet like $50 or $100.  So, he’s betting peanuts.  But he’s a line mover.  He’s a shaker.  Not some millionaire trust-fund baby bullshitter.

This image versus reality flimflam bears remembering since we’re just ten days away from the Super Bowl and an avalanche of hype is on the horizon.  I don’t give a damn who the millionaire bet on.  And neither should you.  What I want to know is — what bets did my friend with the $9 knapsack make?  He’s got the goods.

Oh yeah, speaking of “Mr. Knapsack,” you’re probably wondering — how’d he do on his quarter million in Super Bowl wagers?  Or, how does he usually do every year?

It’s all a numbers game for him.  Out of 200 wagers, it doesn’t really matter which team wins or loses.  Some percentage of those wagers will fall into line with the predicted analytics.  For every bad beat on a prop, a lucky break results in the cashing of another.  Since his early calculations are (usually) superior to the initial openers, “Mr. Knapsack” simply relies on the 10-15 percent edge he’s uncovered on most of his props.  So, if he goes close to 50/50 he still pockets five figures.  The years he shared profit data with me, his earn was between $20,000-$30,000.  Best of all, this was without even breaking a sweat.

And — I can’t exactly swear to this.  But I don’t think he even watches the game.


Note:  Super Bowl betting props are being posted live at the Westgate as this article is being posted.


  1. Didn’t the Imperial Palace (now the Quad, or whatever) also have a huge collection of SB props? I seem to remember reading about it in Wong’s “Sharp Sports Betting.”

    • Nolan Replies:

      Good memory. Yes, when I first moved to LV Stardust was the sportsbook where lines originated. But IP was known for props. My memory has faded, but I think Jay Kornegay used to manage there before he got hired at LV Hilton. So, he probably took those talents and marketing savvy to the bigger place. When Harrah’s took over the sportsbook at IP, the whole place became a joke. They didn’t understand gambling at all. They dealt shit numbers to tourists. They were vile in the way they treated sports bettors, which they didn’t respect as customers. I could tell stories.

      — ND

      • Yes, Jay Kornegay used to manage the IP book and he’s now the head cheese at the Westgate. He took the work he did on Super Bowl props (and March Madness props, which is also detailed in Wong’s book) to the Westgate when he moved his operation there. In my opinion he’s the sharpest bookmaker in the state. He and his crew do an amazing job with the Super Bowl props.

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