Mispricing NFL Super Bowl props all too common

Jan 28, 2014 3:00 AM

There are some things winning professional bettors do that the average bettor simply cannot. Sometimes it’s a matter of talent. Sometimes it’s a matter of time commitment. Sometimes it’s a matter of resources.

Yet, in some cases, it’s reasonable for the average bettor to strive to emulate the pro. One example is conservative bankroll management (i.e., don’t bet so much that an inevitable losing streak causes you to go bust). Another example is shopping for the best number: every half-point counts. And the Super Bowl each year provides additional opportunities.

There is a tendency for the novice bettor to be confused by the point spread, while being unwilling to lay the big money line favorite (disliking the idea of betting a lot to win a little) – leaving the underdog on the money line as the only remaining viable approach to having some money down on the game.

Often, the disproportionate amount of novice underdog action on the money line depresses the dog payout – while offering a discount to those willing to lay the favorite price on the money line. Though far from a sure thing, laying -260, for example, on a favorite when the same spread during the regular season would typically require laying -350 is often a profitable bet.

This year, unfortunately, the near “pick’em” spread will diminish this money line mispricing because both teams are so close to -110 (both decreasing the deterrence to lay the favorite while limiting the amount of pricing adjustment possible).

Don’t fear! Another mispricing, which occurs every year, is on yes/no Super Bowl props offering a big payoff. First off, the prop must be two-sided. For example, Bovada.lv is offering a 25/1 payoff if the stadium power goes out again this year during the Super Bowl. But they are not offering the ability to lay an even bigger price on the “no.” This could be an appealing prop if you think the chance of another power outage is greater than 4%, but you have no way of betting against a power outage.

The average bettor would never consider laying the price required to bet against such a thing. As is often lamented on these pages, the average bettor has a strong bias toward betting a little to win a lot. The sports books know this, so they make such opportunities expensive. One way they do this is by charging much greater vig on big parlay card payouts. Another way is deflating the one-sided payouts, figuring the average bettor will accept a lower payout because they are so drawn to the opportunity of a lottery-like big return.

But, when both sides of the prop are offered, the lowering of the underdog payout means the lowering of the favorite lay price. For example, at the LVH (a sports book with a great history of offering a wide selection of Super Bowl props with fair payouts) you can get a +550 payout betting there will be a safety during the game. You can also bet on “no” safety, laying -800 or if there will be overtime (-900 no, +600 yes).

It’s quite possible you can find even lower lay prices if you shop around – often times low enough to be a profitable bet. When both the yes and the no are offered, payouts cannot be deflated without consequence. Local professional grinders like Steve Fezzik and Bryan Leonard search the prop sheets each year looking for the lowest possible big number lays, often finding profitable bets because they are willing – when the number is right – to risk a lot to win a little.

RJ Bell is the founder of Pregame.com - and co-host of FIRST PREVIEW, heard Monday through Friday at 10 am on ESPN 1100/98.9 FM. Follow on twitter: @RJinVegas. Discussion of this article continues at Pregame.com. Contact RJ at [email protected]

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