Friday, January 30, 2015

On the Props

Was spending part of today considering all of these Super Bowl prop bets. I was put in the mood to do so after having posted a discussion with Rich Ryan over on PokerNews the focus of which was Super Bowl betting -- this week’s “Inside Gaming” column.

As mentioned there, last year the Nevada sports books took in more wagers than ever before, besting the previous year’s record by a lot. They also profited considerably thanks in part to heavy action on favorite Denver and Seattle ending up crushing, earning more percentage-wise in nearly a decade.

Super Bowl prop bets are significant for the sports books, with many of them longshots and thus great opportunities for the books to win. The lines can be a bit skewy on them, too, which perhaps opens up some opportunities for savvy bettors. But on the whole they’re hard to read (at least for an amateur like me).

Among the items I read today was USA Today’s “19 craziest prop bets for Super Bowl XLIX.” Like a lot of folks this week, they look to Bovada -- the site we online poker players know better as the-one-that-used-to-be-Bodog -- as their source of props. Bovada has more than 500 prop bets listed, with practically every detail regarding what might happen in Arizona on Sunday covered.

These “19 craziest” ones include many with nothing to do with the actual game itself. Those include bets on Katy Perry’s wardrobe during her halftime performance as well as how many times she will be mentioned during the first half, whether or not Idina Menzel will forget a word of the national anthem, Bill Belichick’s hoodie color and type, which team owner (Robert Kraft or Paul Allen) will be shown more often during the game, the number of times Gisele Bundchen (Tom Brady’s wife) will be shown, the number of times deflated balls will be mentioned, the number of viewers, who the Super Bowl MVP will first mention after the game, whether Marshawn Lynch will grab his crotch after scoring a TD, and whether Bill Belichick will smile. Of these I most like the one about whether or not Al Michaels will make any gambling references during the telecast (i.e., to the point spread, over/under, game odds, prop bets).

Even the game-related ones have to do with extracurriculars, like the parlay pairing whether or not Punxsatawney Phil sees his showdow and the game’s outcome, or the one comparing the length of the Silva-Diaz UFC fight and LeGarrette Blount’s rushing attempts. In fact among these “crazy” bets are only four football-only ones -- whether or not Tom Brady will throw a TD or interception first, whether or not one of the kickers will win MVP, which Seattle player will catch their first pass, and how many field goals Seattle will make.

Every one of these feels like a sucker bet, as do many of the other props even if one might legitimately have an edge betting a particular side of them. Heck even the game itself -- which Rich tells me the Football Outsiders guys are describing as historically remarkable in terms of how mathematically even the two teams are talent-wise -- feels especially hard to predict.

Who do you think will win on Sunday? Other than the sports books, that is.

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