Pittsburgh is a solid Super Bowl XL favorite, but Seattle appears to have strong pockets of support among Las Vegas' gaming elite. "I had dinner the other night (at the Stardust) with some of Vegas' fine young handicapping minds, some very talented guys, and everyone liked Seattle," said internationally-known sports gambler Lem Banker, clicking off names like Steve Fezzik, Andy Iskoe and Nick Bogdanovich, an ex-bookmaker who is well-established on the betting side of the counter. They're the Sin City wise men and not, as Banker might point out, the ones from Jerusalem. Animal-lover Lem, who never met a dog he didn't like, is riding the Seahawks (He's also on the UNDER) and taking the points, but just how many points is difficult to say.
The number is creeping up and Banker'll wait to wager, figuring that way he'll get the best of it. "The wise guys don't have a great record in the World Series and Super Bowl," Banker continued. "(That's partly because) the hotels are forced to move money offshore. "Pittsburgh is the big public favorite now and the public number is 4 1/2.
"I'm going to wait to play and get value." "That's the way it works," said Stratosphere Race and Sports Director Robert Jaynes. "The public bets the favorite while the smart money waits until it sees a good shot, then moves in and takes the dog. "They (wise guys) look for value." The Stratosphere, one of Bogdanovich's former "homes," is still at Pittsburgh minus 4 even. "We've changed the juice, not the number," noted Jaynes, who reported seeing 4 1/2s and 5s around town at resorts such as Rampart Casino and the Golden Nugget.
"I don't think it'll go any higher than 5 1/2," Jaynes forecast, "because 6 is such a key number. Same with the 4." Veteran Las Vegas handicapper Andy Iskoe thinks the number could reach 5, but quickly will submerge again. "I think a lot of the sharp money will have to settle for 4 1/2," Iskoe said.
"My question to the opposite side is: 'What has Seattle done to make you think it doesn't have a chance to win?'" Jaynes personally leans toward the Steelers, citing strength of schedule. "I worry some about the coaching, though," he said. "(Mike) Holmgren has been there before and has won a Super Bowl. "He's experienced.
" Count Jack Snyder, assistant race and sports book manager at Sam's Town, in Seattle's corner. "I'll take the Seahawks and the points," he said. "The Steelers have been an underdog all year. Now they're the favorite and the pressure's on them and they have to win by more than 3. "That makes it two possessions, unless you're talking touchdowns; a field goal won't do it.
" Jaynes thinks the game will be close, "But history suggests it will be a boring blowout.' "People talk about strength of schedule because Seattle had two games with Arizona, the 49ers and the Rams, and they all had poor seasons. "I don't think we've seen the best of the Seahawks yet. "They aren't the road warriors the Steelers are, but they have things working for them." Seattle has an MVP running back in Shaun Alexander, a fast, mobile quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck and a good offensive line.
"I really like those two guards who are Pro Bowlers," Snyder declared. The total widely opened at 48 and as high as 49; it rapidly was bet down to 47 1/2 (at one time, when the game was listed merely as an AFC-NFC matchup, the over/under was 45). As one bookmaker put it, "It's now 47 1/2 at 20,000 places and 47 at 20,000 others." "Our players have been betting UNDER, not just on the total, but a lot of other things, like number of field goals," Jaynes said. Iskoe, a totals player who likes to go UNDER, predicts a score of 34-23 (Seattle) so obviously is OVER on this one.
"I think there'll be a lot of passing and that Pittsburgh will play very aggressively," Iskoe explained. "There's my justification. "It won't be an incredible Super Bowl, but it won't be incredibly bad either." .
By: Lynda Collins