LAS VEGAS — Mike A. departed from the special props window at the Westgate SuperBook with a little extra confidence, a purposeful stride, Thursday night.
Nearly an hour earlier, the SuperBook unveiled its full menu of Super Bowl 56 propositions on its big board, and Mike had pinpointed his target.
These were cash-only exchanges, so knowing he couldn’t dip into his house account, he had hundred-dollar bills at the ready. Ninety of them, all in the name of Rams punter Johnny Hekker.
That neatly sums up the zaniness of Super Bowl Prop Season, the week-and-a-half or so when sportsbooks concoct various lures to drum up big business leading to the NFL’s title game.
The SuperBook produced a 32-page treasure trove of options for the Rams and Bengals, set for Sunday, Feb. 13. The South Point tome is 20 pages, and Station Casinos offers 11 pages of odds and prices.
South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews gave his staff a Friday deadline, which it beat by a day. Its book was available Thursday morning.
“It’s always a lot of work, but I have a great crew, and I thank them for really busting their asses and getting it out, actually, a day early,” says Andrews.
Was anything especially funky in there?
“I don’t think there’s anything too funky in there.”
The South Point dangles two plays involving Johnny Hekker, with 3.5 total punts (+120 Over, -140 Under) and his longest punt being 52.5 yards (Over and Under both -110).
Mike A. had not been searching for either of those figures.
A four-time Pro Bowl punter out of Oregon State whom Los Angeles inked as an undrafted free agent in 2012, Hekker might have blushed at the attention that Mike lavished upon him.
Mike A. risked $9,000 to win two grand that Hekker would not record a touchback against Cincinnati at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
Mike had done stellar due diligence, sniffing out the SuperBook’s -450 odds on that specific prop that were nearly three times better than anywhere else he had shopped. Most outlets, he says, had -1200 odds.
During the season, of Hekker’s 51 punts, only one sailed into the end zone for a touchback, according to NFL.com statistics. His punts averaged 44.2 yards, with a long of 59 yards.
“I just got in line,” says Mike A., “and hoped nobody else would bet it until I got to the window.”
Nobody else bit. Mike A. got the -450 odds he’d been hoping to nab. The SuperBook had +375 on ‘Yes’, that Hekker would record a touchback.
Not long after Mike A. returned to his buddy, Joey D., sitting at a tall round table on the SuperBook periphery, the property’s oddsmen had altered ‘No’ on that Hekker prop to -550, Yes to +425.
Mike A. had likely single-handedly moved the odds of a prop at the Westgate SuperBook.
A Super Bowl Props Cornucopia
Small groups began gathering about 30 minutes before the SuperBook released its numbers at 7 p.m., when maybe two dozen punters lined up at the single props window.
Each was allowed to make two wagers before recirculating to the back of the line. By 8 p.m., that line was only six or eight deep. But pockets of two or three people were analyzing data in notebooks, or skimming through computers, in chairs or at the bar, and returning to that window.
The eminent Michael “Roxy” Roxborough was among those reviewing the hundreds of Westgate appetizers.
A legendary Las Vegas sports betting figure, Roxy was interested in how certain numbers were moving, but that’s the extent to which I can write about what most piqued his curiosities.
He neither cared to mislead anyone, nor wished to have odds affected by others buying into his theory of how a certain aspect of the game might play out.
The usual suspects are on the SuperBook’s props menu, but executive vice president Jay Kornegay’s lieutenants — as they do annually — took it to another level in 2022. Among this year’s offerings:
- Will Brooklyn guard James Harden have more points plus rebounds plus assists, (-.5), than Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford’s longest pass completion? Thursday evening, both Yes and No were -110.
- Will the Vegas Golden Knights have more Stanley Cup Series victories (-140) than Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow’s touchdown passes (+120).
- Will Liverpool star striker Mo Salah collect more goals that Sunday at Burnley than Stafford’s second-quarter TD passes? Salah -140, Stafford +120.
- Which will be higher, the Waste Management Phoenix Open victor’s winning score, or Burrow’s gross passing yardage (-14.5), both at -110?
- Will Justin Thomas’s fourth-round score in Phoenix (-5.5) be higher than Cincinnati tailback Joe Mixon’s rushing yards? Both -110.
NCAA Tournament Ties
Not surprisingly, there are two props that use Colorado State’s Feb. 11 basketball game against Fresno State.
Kornegay is a Colorado State graduate.
(Don’t fume, Colorado grads and fans; two props feature the Buffaloes’ hoops game against Utah that Saturday. Yes, Northern Colorado, you’re included too, in a couple of plays involving your Feb. 14 tilt against Southern Utah.)
Of the many impressive parts of his team’s output, says Kornegay, is that no fewer than eight props are tied into the upcoming NCAA hoops tournament, whose championship game is April 4 in New Orleans.
Kornegay attributed those beauties to Ed Salmons, the SuperBook’s vice president of risk management.
“It’s like having action over a two-month period,” says Kornegay. “I believe many will find those very intriguing.”
For example, Purdue’s NCAA Tournament wins (+.5) vs. Mixon’s first rushing attempt (-.5)? Both -110.
Or, Villanova’s NCAA Tournament wins (-.5, +110), or Rams first-half touchdowns (+.5, -130)?
“Making these props is always a challenge for our team each year,” says Kornegay. “[But] we always strive to come up with something new and interesting.”
For another year, mission accomplished.