WrestleMania XXVIII will go down Sunday in Miami, and I'd like you to ask yourself some questions. Can the Undertaker extend his Wrestlemania record to 20-0? Will Chris Jericho or CM Punk get the better of what could be an all-time classic? Does the Rock still have what it takes to bring down John Cena? More importantly, are you so sure of the answers to these questions that you'd be willing to put your money on it?
Once again you'll be able to enjoy WrestleMania as a fan and as a bettor, if you're so inclined. Courtesy of Bovada, here are the latest lines for Sunday's event:
Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos -350
Beth Phoenix & Eve +225
Randy Orton -500
Cody Rhodes -120
Big Show -120
Daniel Bryan +225
CM Punk -250
Chris Jericho +170
Team Teddy +550
Team Johnny -1000
The Undertaker -1500
Triple H +800
John Cena -270
The Rock +210
If you're marveling that you're allowed to place bets on events that everyone acknowledges have predetermined outcomes, get with the times. Online sports books (though not Vegas, yet) have been taking wagers on professional wrestling for years now. For those making the lines, and those making the bets, WWE gambling presents a unique set of challenges.
Last year we spoke to Adam Young, head oddsmaker at Bovada, and he told us that setting the odds is a process that included equal parts educated guesswork and opinion.
"Guys in the office had a great time setting the odds, arguing back and forth," Young said. "They watch it, they decide who they think makes a more logical winner. Put a little bit of opinion in there too, because why not."
Oddsmakers take into account which wrestlers are in the middle of pushes, which ones are crowd favorites (the good guys tend to win at feel-good spectacle WrestleMania), and which ones make more sense for the bookers to champion going forward. But acknowledging that predicting pro wrestling is more an art than a science, the oddsmakers' early lines often don't match up with what the fans expect—Young said the lines move more from creation to showtime than any other sort of event—and that's an opportunity for you to maximize your return.
One way you won't cash in: scouring the internet for leaks of the planned winners. Pro wrestling does a magnificent job of keeping its plans secret, even keeping the actual wrestlers in the dark until just before the event. Last year we spoke to a pro wrestler currently on the independent circuit, but who had done two separate stints with the WWE. He told us that even now, two days before WrestleMania, it's likely that John Cena and the Rock haven't been told who's going to come out on top.
"We'd know the general contours of our own storyline, but not each twist or turn until right before. Anyone else's matches? Forget it. We knew just as much as the message boards. Maybe a total of five people know for sure until a few hours before the show. For the main event, it's likely [they'll] have gone over a few spots they wanted to hit during the match, but weren't told who was going to win, and how, until Sunday morning."
It's the most effective way for the WWE to preserve the drama for the event, but the government-level secrecy plays into the hands of sports books as well. Something can be predetermined, but as long as there's no chance of a leak, it's fair game for bettors. That's why things like Academy Award winners and prop bets about a halftime performer's wardrobe are regularly taken.
Though wrestling and other predetermined events are currently banned by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, Jay Kornegay, director of the Las Vegas Hilton, says he's seen a trend toward prop bets like MVP voting in recent years. So there's an outside chance that pro wrestling wagers could soon be made on the Strip.
Of course wrestling isn't like other sports, where one side wins clearly and fairly. There's every chance that one of Sunday's matches will be interfered with by a little person dressed as a leprechaun hiding under the ring—that doesn't happen in the NFL. So offshore sports books are protecting themselves. One, 5Dimes, offers separate odds for winners as announced at ringside, and at show's close. The difference would come into play if a match ends, but the Raw or Smackdown GMs notice interference and order the match restarted. (This happens almost weekly.)
The WWE sent us a statement reading, "The WWE thrives on spontaneity, and our fans expect nothing less than the unexpected every evening. We'd be doing them a disservice if story arcs were predictable, and with nearly 60 years in business, we've learned how to keep the element of surprise alive."
It's that commitment to surprise and secrecy that has WrestleMania even available to bet on, but the fact remains that no sports book is going to risk its shirt on a scripted show, where the better man or diva doesn't always win. To that end, trustworthy betting sites keep the maximum wagers low on wrestling, often around $50 per bet. Maybe you know better than the marks what's going to happen on Sunday, but it's never going to make you rich.