Bryan Altman

The winner and loser of Super Bowl 50 was decided on the field of play when the Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10 with their overpowering defense in the big game last night.

Off the field, however, especially when it comes to Las Vegas, determining whether it was the casinos or the betting populace that came out on top in Super Bowl 50 can be a more difficult task.

To help break down how Super Bowl 50 went down from a betting standpoint, we’ve enlisted host of the Prof. Vegas podcast on CBS Radio’s Play.It podcast network, Mike Tenay.

Tenay spent over a decade as a legal bookmaker in Vegas and knows the ins and outs of gambling through and through.

CBS Local Sports: Was there anything about the way the game played out that surprised you?

Mike Tenay: I don’t know that there was a lot that did surprise me because it was kind of the expected pattern that I had anticipated on the podcast. I guess I would say that the masses, probably, were surprised by the bad showing by Carolina.

I guess the biggest surprise was something I heard several times from people on Sunday when I was at a Super Bowl VIP party and that was, that Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, they were frauds as betting favorites in the game.

CBS Local Sports: So why do you think so many people in Vegas swung and missed in thinking Carolina would be the favorite here? 

Tenay: A lot of experts I know that have been in the business for 30-40 years, they kind of saw this coming. What happened was, there was an absolute avalanche of betting on the Panthers from the second they posted the line. The line moved from -3.5 and it peaked at -6. And in the first week of betting, 90 percent of the wagers that came in at the sportsbooks in Vegas, were bets on Carolina.

Week two (leading up to the Super Bowl) was where things swung totally different because all of a sudden on Wednesday, this is the first time that the professional bettors stepped in. All the pros were hoping it would go to 6.5 or 7, but the reality was that the sportsbooks were not going to increase their risk of getting middled on that game by letting it fall in between three and seven.

I can tell you that there were several sportsbooks that I talked to, that reported that by the time that game kicked off, they ended up – believe it or not – almost 50-50 in terms of money on the point spread bets.

CBS Local Sports: Speaking of the heavy hitters jumping in at the end there, one guy who made a splash this weekend was Vegas Dave, who claimed to have made $2.3 million on the Broncos’ Super Bowl win. What do you make of his general betting strategy and those type of results.

Tenay: Well, I don’t know the man personally, but I can tell you that by discussions that I have had with sportsbook managers around Las Vegas – and they’re pretty much all aware of him – is he’s a legit guy and many of his claims are accurate in terms of his wins that he has.

But, there was one sportsbook manager I spoke to that called him an ‘absolute clown’ because he’s not publicizing his losing wagers, or the other bets that he has.

For the most part, casino managers and sportsbook managers in town that I talk to say, we’re willing to take his action because if you book all of his bets in the long haul he’s not going to wind up on the plus side.

CBS Local Sports: Were there any particular prop bets that hit Vegas particularly hard?

Tenay: I think overall they did pretty well on prop bets from what I hear. One of the prop bets that the casinos took a little bit of a hit on was the MVP.

There was substantial money bet on Von Miller to be the MVP. The reason being, if you’re a Denver Broncos fan and you sit back and watch how the last season or so has gone, are you really going to back Peyton Manning to be the MVP?

Everybody knew it was probably going to be Peyton Manning as a game manager, and if you were backing the Broncos your mentality was that the defense was going to rule. I saw Von Miller to win the MVP, I saw one place had 60-1, I saw one place that had 50-1, and this is early in the betting.

I saw one casino had Von Miller as low as 5-1 before kickoff. From him being at 50 to 60-1 and ending up in the neighborhood of 5 to 11-1 range, you can see the casinos took a lot of money on Miller to be MVP.

And the biggest thing is the payout on those things at 50-1 bets, they obviously hurt.

CBS Local Sports: With the way the game was shaping up, do you know how money started to flow on halftime wagers? 

Tenay: I was at a casino, and again, I don’t have anything stronger than just the one casino I was at, but it was Carolina favored by about -4 at half from what I saw. What I can tell you when I was in the sportsbook was pretty much everybody playing on Carolina.

I even had one guy who recognized me who came up to me and said, ‘I really have this game figured out. I played the Broncos in the first half and now I’m coming back because the Broncos are not going to win this game. Cam Newton and Carolina are coming back. I’m standing in line and I’m betting Carolina because I just know there’s no way they can play that poorly in the second half.’

So I don’t have any hard and fast numbers, outside of just what I’m observing at the sportsbook going into halftime. But so many people, the majority of the people were betting on Carolina even if the money evened out. At halftime, they’re saying to themselves ‘I gotta get involved again, and I’m going to play Carolina in the second half.’

So I would presume that second half wagering was pretty good for the sportsbooks.

CBS Local Sports: So long story short, how did Las Vegas as a whole make out on the Super Bowl? 

Tenay: Well, for the casinos, the best case scenario for them in terms of making the most money was Carolina winning the game but not covering the point spread. So instead, when the Broncos win the game, and they cover, it really costs the sportsbooks because they have to pay out Denver moneyline bets that were anywhere from +170 to +180.

For the Super Bowl, you have bettors that come in that strictly bet the Super Bowl. They’re inexperienced bettors, and when they come up to the betting windows (…) and what has happened, really over the course of the last 20-plus years and is such a major part of the Super Bowl betting story is bettors say, ‘ok, I’ve got this one game a year that I’m betting. Rather than take the points with the Broncos, I’ll take a shot at the moneyline. So you see so much of the betting on the underdog when it comes to the Super Bowl focused on the moneyline, and that was the biggest difference and it cost the sportsbooks substantially because of the moneyline play.

Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for any of his other three teams.

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