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A primer on prop bets

Jan 27, 2004 6:46 AM

If you’ve been to any sports book in the past few days, you’ve likely seen pages upon pages of Super Bowl propositions that can give the bettor action from the coin toss to the final gun.

In general there are two types of proposition bets — the one-on-one prop and the "needle in the haystack" prop.

The one-on-one prop involves making a wager on one of two possible outcomes, such as, whether or not there will be a safety, or whether Panther quarterback Jake Delhomme will complete more or less than 171/2.

In most instances, there is a 30-cent spread line, for example, the favored part of the proposition requires you to bet $1.40 to win $1.00 while the underdog will be priced at plus $1.00 to win $1.10.

The needle in the haystack prop requires choosing one possible outcome from a list of many possible results. Examples would include which player will score the first touchdown or exactly how many points New England will score. The odds vary in these props with several longshots priced at odds of 30-1 or higher.

There is a hybrid prop that offers usually three or four possible outcomes such as combining the first-half result with the full game result (such as yard gained, points scored, etc.), or the teams that score first and last in the game.

But the vast majority of props fall into either the head-to-head or needle in the haystack category.

The betting preference is for the head-to-head match-ups since there’s a one in two chance of being right, and proper analysis can often tilt the odds in your favor.

Keep in mind that many of these propositions are based on seasonal averages. The style of play and the anticipated pace of play can often give insights into which props have the best chance of succeeding.

Often there are props that are paired and the intention is to cash one of the two. For example, each year there are props regarding each quarterback’s first pass attempt and whether it will be complete or incomplete. Almost always the complete choice is the favorite, so by betting that each initial pass will be incomplete you can profit if only one quarterback is off on his first attempt.

In looking at specific propositions for the Super Bowl, the following may be worthy of consideration.

Total Made Field Goals OVER 31/2 is priced at plus110. With both teams having solid defenses it is quite likely that drives will stall. Both teams have excellent place kickers.

First touchdown will be other than a passing TD is priced at plus 120. This includes, of course, rushing touchdowns that can occur when inside the opponents’ 10 yard line, but also kick returns, fumble returns and interception returns.

UNDER 41/2 different Panthers to have a rushing attempt is priced at plus 110. Aside from Delhomme and running backs Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster, perhaps Muhammad can be expected to touch the ball on a trick play. The Panthers may not want to try to be to fancy and just stick with what has worked for them all season.

Carolina to convert a fourth down attempt is priced at plus 160. Since both teams rely on defense we might see the Panthers attempt to go for it several times in New England territory rather than punt or attempt a field goal. The chances are increased later in the game when the Panthers are likely to be trailing. Note that the same prop for New England has the Yes priced at minus 180, so there may be some value in playing the Pats to not convert a fourth down attempt at plus 150.

There you have a few tidbits. Enjoy the game and the parties and remember that the 2004 season is just six months away!