Props galore as Super Bowl 50 is here

Feb 2, 2016 3:07 AM

Wagering on the winning Side and Total is only a part of the options available for the Super Bowl and, in recent years, has become a smaller portion of the overall handle.

For the last 30 seasons wagering on the various propositions associated with the Super Bowl has developed from being a novelty to a significant portion of a bettor’s portfolio.

When Chicago faced New England in Super Bowl 20 the 15-1 Bears were 10 point favorites over the Patriots, the largest point spread in more than half a decade. In order to attract more action a proposition was offered as to whether or not William “The Refrigerator” Perry, a Bears’ defensive lineman who had lined up in the backfield several times during the regular season as a blocker for Hall of Fame RB Walter Payton, would score a touchdown.

Originally offered at a price in the range of 20-1 to 25-1 the prop drew enough action to close in the vicinity of from 4-1 to 5-1. Sure enough, with the Bears leading 37-3 late in the third quarter, Perry scored on a 1 yard run and turned the books into a loser for that prop. But in reality that prop, which had garnered nationwide attention and publicity in the week leading up to the game, it became a “loss leader” for the industry it spawned and continues to grow some three decades later.

Over the next few years the number and variety of props increased at a modest pace before exploding about a decade later and that growth continues to this day. Virtually every Sports Book in Nevada offers dozens if not hundreds of props. Long acknowledged as the leader in these offerings, Jay Kornegay and his staff at the Westgate are offering in the vicinity of 400 separate props for Super Bowl 50.

There are several types of props that can generally be classified into two types – head to head props and multiple option props.

Head to head props have two options – Yes or No and Over or Under are the most common of these. For example, will Player X’s total rushing yards be Over or Under 64.5 is an example of the latter prop. Will either team successfully convert a fourth down is an example of the Yes/No prop.

Another example of the head to head prop may involve which of two choices will be greater. These props often involve events in multiple sports such as the total number of pass attempts for both teams versus the fourth round score of a specific golfer in that week’s PGA tournament or the total points in a specified NBA game played earlier in the day vs the total rushing yards for both Super Bowl teams.

For the most part these props add enjoyment to watching the game and make it possible to have action on virtually each play in the game, often beginning with the pre-game coin toss before the game to the player who will be named MVP after the game. The MVP prop is new for this season after the Nevada Gaming Commission granted approval for this type of prop that involves an election by enough voters so as to virtually eliminate the possibility that the results can be influenced by any single voter. Could this be a prelude to offering such an opportunity for the upcoming presidential election come November?

The second type of prop, the “multiple option,” involves picking from 3 or more possible choices, such as the player to score the first TD, the combination of the halftime score and the final result or even the specific number of points scored by either or both teams.

Often known as “needle in the haystack” props attractive odds are offered for these props although the odds are less than what the mathematical probability suggests they should be. Often an option priced at 25-1 should be more accurately priced at 75-1 or an option priced at 5-1 should be more accurately priced at 7-1, etc.

Most professionals will avoid these props because of the negative expected value and the Books having a huge edge. But these props have become very popular over the years (and very profitable for the books) and thus they continue to be offered and expanded. These should be viewed more as “fun” wagers although there will be a single winner in these props that can pay off at generous odds.

There are an increasing number of professional bettors who seize upon the opportunity to exploit what they perceive as weak lines in many of the props based on their extensive analysis and data base research. Often these sharp bettors are at odds with the general public in that the pros will find value in laying prices whereas the public will tend to play the plus prices.

Logical arguments can be made for both strategies depending on the data relied upon. The professionals laying the prices will base their decisions on historical data that suggests certain props occur more often than the offered price, when converted to a percentage, will suggest.

While in the aggregate the percentages are in their favor there are situations in which those percentages will backfire, such as safeties occurring in three straight Super Bowls prior to last season. The pros bet against a safety occurring, laying 8-1 while the public took the 6-1 odds that there would be a safety.

At the same time the pros will often lay the 10-1 or so against there being overtime – something has not yet occurred through the first 49 Super Bowls. The public will often take the plus price even though the odds are considerably less than they should be, even taking into consideration the history of overtime games in general and not just Super Bowl and/or Playoffs history specifically.

Keep in mind that the Super Bowl is a unique event and an astute analysis of the props can result in concluding that, despite the historical data, a number of the props are close to fifty/fifty in a single, isolated game scenario. Which makes taking the plus price a defensible action even if the historical data would suggest otherwise.

One strategy to consider is to look at props that are not related to who you think will win the game itself. Because Carolina is the clear favorite most of their props will be priced towards the OVER or the YES. Denver’s props will often be priced towards the UNDER or the NO. Yet many props will not be related to how the game ends but rather to what may occur during the course of the game – third down conversions, number and distance of field goals, team to score first, type of the first score, etc.

One prop I play every season is the prop for each quarterback’s first pass to be incomplete. The “incomplete” is always priced in the plus 140 to plus 160 range. If just one of the quarterbacks throws an incompletion or an interception on his first attempt the dual prop produces a net profit.

Another prop worth considering is that there will be a special teams or defensive touchdown scored. With a pair of strong, aggressive defenses with many playmakers this prop, often priced in the plus 1500 to plus 180 range, has occurred frequently over the past decade.

Regardless of how you choose to bet the Super Bowl the event itself has become an unofficial holiday with parties galore. This game will provide the lasting memory of the 2015 season. Let’s hope it lives up to the hype and anticipation and delivers a game that rivals some of the great Super Bowls to which we’ve been treated recently. And showing some profit would be nice as well.

Enjoy the offseason.

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]