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Interview: Frank Rosenthal

Frank: The Super Bowl is the most popular US sporting event from standpoint of wagering, commercials, exposure etc. For bookmakers across the globe, it’s the best day of the year. Actually nobody knows the total amount wagered because there’s no way of establishing an accurate figure with all the online and offshore books. It’s anybody’s guess how many billions of dollars will be wagered on the Super Bowl in 2003.

When you were handicapping Super Bowls, what did you look for? There are so many people betting the game, it can’t be like ‘capping a Sunday game. What do you have to take into account?

Frank: There are really only two factors in handicapping, the Super Bowl or any other sporting event…just two. But in this particular event one is important than the other.

One, you’re trying to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of both teams and bring them to a dead heat, that’s a handicapping basic. The second consideration on an event that is so attractive to the world betting population is to factor in where the public might be heading as opposed to just coming up with a number that you, as a professional, believe is the dead heat.

When you factor in the public, you might be persuaded as a bookmaker, to shade the line. Shading is adjusting the line, taking let’s say 14 to 14.5 or 15 or possibly down as you try to anticipate who the public is in love with. That’s the case in Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA championship, any major event.

Is that where the smart money goes to find its advantages? Does it look for books that are shading a little heavy to one side.

Frank: Smart money as you describe it, or wise guy money is very cold blooded. If you find an opportunity, if you see a number that you see as an opportunity, you just dive right in. But again, a good sharp handicapper must be conscious of public opinion on the Super Bowl so where as to gain the best value he can.

In your experience what type of people bet the Super Bowl as opposed to your average Monday night game?

Frank: You are talking about grandmothers and grandfathers now, you’re talking about people who generally wouldn’t bet on a big dog beating up a little dog if the little dog was muzzled. The networks and the press have made this into something that is bigger than the Academy Awards, bigger than anything we can speak about in entertainment. It’s a phenomena that continues to grow each and every year, so when you say who wagers on the Super Bowl, I would give you an opinion that globally, you’re probably talking about 150-200 million wagering on the Super Bowl. If my numbers are incorrect, they are on the low side.

What’s the largest single bet you ever saw placed on a Super Bowl?

Frank: When I was working back in Las Vegas, we took a million dollars on the Super Bowl and I don’t think any other casino took more than that. In today’s market there are a few books that would do a million, but having said that I don’t think any gambler in his right mind would be willing to walk into Las Vegas Nevada and wager a million dollars. Anybody that’s going to be wagering in the high numbers, a hundred thousand plus, is going offshore without question.

You can establish an account in one or two ways, either on your credit or on your reputation with the books. In San Jose Costa Rica you have approximately 150 bookmakers, then you have major markets in Antigua. If they know you as a big player, they’ll take that kind of bet.

Will an offshore book actually take that kind of action on credit or will it require you to put down pre-payment first?

Frank: I would say with very strong conviction that if you’re someone that’s looking to wager one million dollars or thereabouts that you most likely would have to put it up in front before you wager. However, there are a few people that I’m familiar with that can bet that on their word. That’s a handful of gamblers, maybe less than a handful.

Are there more arbitrage opportunities on the Super Bowl than there are on a normal game?

Frank: More. During Super Bowl, you’ll see three or four dozen propositions. Oh ya, who’s going to win the coin toss, how many yards, how many passes completed, how many fumbles, how many interceptions, bookmakers love all that. The average guy is trying to test his skill versus the line and invariably his skill does not match that of the line. The exception are the small group of elite bettors. Again we whittle down to less than a handful of people around the country that are able to be able to find something favorable, jump in there and beat the numbers.
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