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Matt Youmans

Super Bowl, sportsbook tour live up to hype

8 February 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- No event in sports is preceded by more hype than the Super Bowl. Some years, the buildup leads to a big letdown and a blowout. Early in the morning, I'm sensing this game will be a good one.

One aspect of the Super Bowl that never disappoints is the scene at Las Vegas sports books. This is the biggest betting day of the year, bringing out all the characters. It's a combination of New Year's Eve and Christmas with the Griswold family.

So my plan is to hit 15 sports books in the five hours before kickoff to survey the scene.

The Indianapolis Colts are 5-point favorites over the New Orleans Saints. The total is 56 1/2. The hundreds of proposition wagers have been picked apart like chicken wings.

It's Peyton Manning against Drew Brees, two of the NFL's elite quarterbacks. Brees is one of the best. Manning should be a little better. Will this matchup live up to the hype?

Here's a pregame play-by-play blog from Super Bowl Sunday (in order of sports books visited):


It's a standing-room-only crowd, and there's not much standing room. A guy wearing a No. 18 Colts jersey is drinking a Bud Light and exuding confidence.

"I think the Colts win big," he says, winking. "What do you think?"

"Colts by seven," I say. "It could be closer. But the Colts should win."

(In hindsight, have you ever regretted saying something, such as, "Will you marry me?")


Flipping through his prop sheets, a bettor asks which one I like the most. He says Saints running back Reggie Bush over 47 1/2 receiving yards is his favorite. I point out the actual total is 28 1/2, and say I agree Bush should top that total.

(Bush finished with 38 yards on four receptions.)


The short drive downtown is worth it, because big-breasted girls wearing referee shirts and cowboy hats are dealing blackjack. There's something very attractive about a healthy girl in a cowboy hat, whether she's wearing a referee shirt or not.

Three bettors are in line, and the ticket writer says business has been "slow" all day.


I walk next door, and about 30 bettors are lined up, so business is not quite as slow. Three guys from Minnesota are sitting at the bar, one wearing a No. 4 Vikings jersey in honor of Brett Favre, who also might be sitting at a bar somewhere waiting to watch the Super Bowl.

"I think Favre has another year left in him," the Favre fan says.

"Give him another six months to think about it," his friend says.

They planned trip their trip to Las Vegas thinking the Vikings would be in the Super Bowl. It could be worse. They could be Detroit Lions fans.


Jimmy Vaccaro, director of operations for Lucky's sports books, reports the betting has been "pretty steady, nothing crazy." There are no girls in cowboy hats dealing blackjack, so I leave.

"It's like a juiced-up NFL Sunday," Vaccaro said, adding that money on the Saints is starting to show up.

During a drive to the west side of town, Boomer Esiason is on ESPN Radio predicting the game.

"I think both teams are going to score at least in the upper 20s, maybe in the early 30s," Esiason said. "I believe in my heart it's going to be a final-series type of game. I'm going to go with Peyton Manning, although I think Brees can match him score for score. It's going to come down to a fourth-quarter drive, and there's something magical about Peyton's year. I think it's 34-31 or something like that."


It's raining, and the skies are gray. An angry would-be bettor storms out the front door while talking on his cell phone. "I was going to make a (bleeping) bet, but the (bleeping) line to make a (bleeping) bet is ..."

I see what he means. About 200 people form a (bleeping) line that snakes around the sports book bar to the (bleeping) casino floor.

At the back of the line, a young man in a No. 16 Joe Montana jersey says he plans to bet on the Colts. "Manning is too good," he says.

Another guy is wearing a Brady Quinn jersey, and you have to wonder what the (bleep) he's thinking.

More from ESPN Radio. Dan Marino, Bill Cowher and Shannon Sharpe are making their predictions.

"It's hard to go against Peyton Manning," Cowher says. Marino picks the Colts in a close one, and Sharpe picks the Colts, 34-24.

"If we all go with the Colts, that means the Saints are going to win," Marino says, as all three laugh.


It's kind of a long drive south to the M, which sits somewhere within sight of the California line, but it's a great new property. The limits on prop bets ($5,000) are the highest in town, The Vig Deli is the best sports book deli around, and the cocktail waitresses are fine.


Twenty-three people are waiting in line for 75-cent hot dogs. I like hot dogs, but I have a rule that I never wait in a line more than five-deep for a hot dog. So I buy a $4 Italian sausage. The upstairs ballrooms are packed for the "Big Game" party.


The shoeshine guy is not real happy. He's standing by the sports book and getting little or no business. I ask which side he bet in the game. "Colts," he says.

(The day is not going to get any better for him, unfortunately.)


The Jagermeister Girls are strutting around, the game is about to kick off, and no one is waiting at three open betting windows.

I remember what Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay said: "I always tell people, 'If you want to bet the Super Bowl, bet it two minutes before kickoff.' " That is good advice.

I like the Gold Coast, partly because when I was living out of hotels last summer, I stayed two nights at the Gold Coast for $5.45 per night through a deal on


Brian Blessing of Las Vegas Sports Consultants is hosting a party at the NASCAR Cafe. He raffles off a Miller Lite grill and Manning and Brees replica jerseys. Blessing holds a microphone and works the crowd with charisma, resembling a white-haired Wayne Newton.


The Colts lead 10-0 after the first quarter, and an adjusted line on the game is posted. It's called "in-progress" wagering. The Colts are 10-point favorites, the total is 51, and Indianapolis is minus-500 on the money line. That means the Saints are plus-400.

It would have been a great bet. I wish I had made it.

And I only had time to visit 11 sports books. Things don't always go as planned, including the outcome of this Super Bowl.

But for the Saints and their bettors, the game exceeded the hype.