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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at 12:00 PM

This is our last get-together before Super Bowl 52 matching the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. I had hoped that the market would have settled more than it has by this time. We still don't know if Rob Gronkowski is going to play. Obviously, he's an important factor!

The line at Las Vegas sports books right now is either New England -4 or New England -4.5. The differences are caused by some spots defending against a very large bettor who's been placing half-million to million-dollar bets on Philadelphia on the money line (usually around +160). Stores who have already taken these bets are using Patriots -4 to bring in money on the favorite (and keep the point spreads roughly aligned with the money line equivalents). Also, stores who have been in talks with the bettor to wire in additional money are staying at -4 until the bets have been placed. Those who aren't yet overloaded on the Eagles are holding at Patriots -4.5.

I hope you've completed your homework assignment from last week regarding the big game. All that's left to do right now is map out your plans once we know if Gronskowski is going to play. Hopefully that information may come soon (even by the time you read this). Worst case scenario for sports books is that it's a game-time decision. Las Vegas wants New England money to have plenty of time to hit the market.

Today's homework is to visualize the following scenarios and map out your plans so you're prepared.

*What are you going to do if Gronkowski CAN'T play. Right now, we're looking at Patriots -4 or -4.5 at "probably." If he isn't cleared, that line will come down to Patriots -3.5 at the very least, and possibly -3. Has your analysis suggested that Eagles plus 4 is a must-bet as the news is breaking, or that New England -3 or -3.5 without Gronkowski is actually a smart bet because Tom Brady has other receivers he trusts? Don't forget that New England won the second half vs. Jacksonville in the AFC Championship game 14-6 without Gronk.

*What are you going to do if Gronkowski WILL start at something approaching 100% health? The line will either solidify at Pats -4.5, or rise to -5 (or even higher if a lot of pent up Patriots money comes out of the woodwork). Is the green light for Gronk your go signal to bet the Patriots? Or, are you thinking his impact is being overrated and you'll want the Eagles at +5 or better. Remember that the Patriots haven't won a single Super Bowl in the Brady-Belichick era by more than four points in regulation. Maybe the millionaire bettor is right that the Eagles are going to win and Gronkowski's status doesn't even matter.

*And, what about the Over/Under? Are you thinking "Under" if he's in street clothes and "Over" if he's on the field? Or, is that too simple, and the realities are much more complex. Perhaps Brady will be able to run clock more effectively with Gronk catching passes, which will ultimately reduce full-game scoring. Maybe Gronk's absence puts the Pats in desperation mode, which leads to higher-risk approaches that set up cheap points off turnovers. Think about line value as well. Will the total rise to 49 or 50 if Gronkowski is cleared?

We can assume that the square public is hoping he'll play so they can bet the Patriots and Over. That's how the public always bets big games no matter who's playing! But, they REALLY like betting that the Patriots will score a lot of points, which squares won't do without Gronk on the field.

This complicates your task, as you're trying to read the teams AND the market as you make your final plans. But, this is the modern reality of making money as a professional bettor. It's not enough to know a sport. You must learn to recognize VALUE when it's being offered. I know a few longtime bettors who made their living "reading" the market rather than knowing the teams. I know a few quick flash failures who went broke in less than a season because "knowing the teams" isn't enough to make money in Las Vegas.

The analysis requests I've made to you in today's class of my Advanced Sports Betting class will help you get in the right mindset this weekend and throughout your future career. Smart bettors are well prepared. Well-prepared bettors can make a living in this field.

If you'd like some help from a veteran pro before making your final decisions, my BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the office during normal business hours at 1-800-755-2255, or on weekends before the first games get started. It's easy to add my Super Bowl to any basketball program.

If you're a "football only" bettor, it's been a great honor for The Dean of Sports Handicapping to be at your service this past season. I hope to see you again come August for the NFL preseason. For those of you who love betting basketball, our hoops coursework begins in earnest next week at this same time. The Road to March Madness is always a great sports betting event out here in Las Vegas.

Thanks for your attendance. Best of luck to you in Sunday's Super Bowl.

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