Simply put, the NFL Super Bowl is three hours of the best professional football available in a given year, and it’s propped up by commercials, musical performances, and other ceremonial goings-on that draw hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide.
With the being said, the Super Bowl draws a lot of attention from sports bettors and not just casual fans or die-hards cheering their favorite on to victory.
Hell, an estimated $100 million is wagered on the Super Bowl through Las Vegas sportsbooks alone, with the total market (including estimates of unofficial bet totals and online sportsbook wagering) around $1 billion.
All on ONE. Single. Game…
Prop Bets Galore
Proposition bets, known affectionately as “props,” are wagers on otherwise trivial occurrences during the course of a game. These are examples from the infamous “exotic bet” category.
Rather than wagering on point totals, point spreads, or outright wins and losses, prop bets pay out based on the outcome of questions like “Which team will score first?” and “Which team will win the coin toss?”
Here are notes on some of the most-popular (and some of the strangest) Super Bowl proposition bets available through the world’s most popular bookmakers. Some are more exotic (read: financially-risky) than others, but some of these so-called exotic wagers can actually be handicapped, so to speak. Read below for details on Super Bowl-based proposition wagers.
The Coin Toss
Some Super Bowl propositions have become a kind of annual tradition for sports bettors. The best-known example of these traditional props are bets on the outcome of the coin toss at the beginning of the game. At least four standard props based on the coin toss exist – the outcome (heads or tails), the winning team, whether the team that calls the coin toss gets it right or wrong, and whether or not the team that wins the coin flip will win the game outright. No doubt other versions of coin flip props are available, but these four are the standard-bearers.
Because the outcome of these props is based entirely on a random event (the flip of a coin), there is no way for bettors to approach them in such a way as to gain an advantage. In other words, there’s no amount of research a person can do to help them predict the likely outcome. The volatility of placing a wager or group of wagers on a coin flip is attractive to some people, to others not so much.
First to Score
Like available proposition bets on the coin toss, “first to score” isn’t just one wager but a short list of them. Bettors can lay bets on which player from a list of individual players will be the first to score a touchdown, a wager on which team will be first to score a TD, or even lay money (with long odds and a big potential payoff) that neither team will score a touchdown all game.
A bettor familiar with both teams can make smart bets in these categories based on a real-world understanding of how the offenses and defenses on the field work. In the case of the various “first to score” props, an educated guess is actually worth something. To use the 2014 Super Bowl as an example, Marshawn Lynch was the first player to rack up six points early on in the second quarter, set up for the score after an interception. Lynch was the Vegas favorite for individual player to score first (5/1 at most oddsmakers around the world) in part because he’d scored three TDs in the first two games of the 2014 playoffs. The smart money was on Lynch because everyone expected the Seahawks’ workhorse to get the ball in the red zone after a Broncos turnover – which is exactly what happened.
File this one under the category of propositions that pertain to real in-game statistics. Wagers on who will be the game’s MVP should be self-explanatory. What may not be as self-explanatory is the betting strategy involved here, and with other prop bets attached to actual Super Bowl performance.
One tip for bets on the likely Super Bowl MVP is to look at who has won the award in recent years. This will help bettors understand the league trend – six out of the last eight game MVPs were quarterbacks, so the smart money may lie with one of the dueling signal callers. Then again, the MVP in 2014 was a defensive player on a team renowned for its defense, which may be a factor if one of the teams in the game has a monstrous D-line.
Other popular prop bets tied to real in-game activity include First to Score, Total Rushing Attempts, Total Tackles, etc. All of these are based on real-world stats that are fairly easy to research and handicap. Look at recent performance, consider the impact of the team on the opposite side of the field, and place an informed wager.
The National Anthem
A perfect example of a Super Bowl proposition that has nothing to do with the game on the field, every year bookmakers release a surprising number of odds on the performance of The Star-Spangled Banner. The National Anthem is sung by some form of singing celebrity, either from the pop or classical world, at the beginning of every Super Bowl. Even though it may seem like a silly proposition to wager on, this is actually another type of prop bet where research can pay off.
Consider the popular “How long will it take ___ to sing the National Anthem?” prop. This wager is made available an over/under proposition, and asks the bettor to wager on whether the singer for this year’s game will go over and under a certain amount of time. The over/under line varies based on the performer. For example, in 2014, a wager that Renee Fleming would fail to get the Anthem finished in under 125 seconds was listed at even odds at most books.
That number wasn’t pulled out of thin air – the bookmakers knew that Ms. Fleming was choosing to sing the anthem live, as opposed to recording it live before the game, which would give room for the correction of errors, and that she wasn’t particularly fond of cold weather, which can harm vocal cords.
When the Anthem finished, and Ms. Fleming’s time was clocked at 122 seconds, it was clear that Vegas knows how to set a line, even on some of their atypical propositions. But it’s also an example of how a smart sports bettor can do some atypical research to determine if these exotic bets are worth an outlay.
Super Bowl props range from the truly bizarre – “What will the halftime performer be wearing on their head?” – to the traditional.
Advantage bettors shouldn’t shy away from this form of exotic wager completely, in part because many available prop bets are based on facts that can be inferred from past experience and in-game circumstances. The trick with Super Bowl proposition wagers is to find the few available bets where you have an advantage and avoid the ones that are based more on random chance.