With online gambling legislation loosening up, it has never been easier to wager on sporting events – especially professional football. With the biggest game of the year-  the Super Bowl, is the vast array of proposition bets available. Propositions are bets that go beyond the game itself and are designed to get even the non-sportsperson in on the action and excitement of the big game!

Proposition bets, referred to as prop bets, are the type of bets that can cover the entire spectrum of just about everything in the game. It can be as basic as which team scores first or which quarterback throws more touchdown passes, to old standbys such as the start of the game coin toss, or the length of the National Anthem. If you can think of a bet, odds are pretty good there is an option for it.

Some places will even let you propose your own proposition- a “prop” prop if you will. But let’s not get carried away. As it is, typically the wager amounts for these types of bets are capped to prevent any type of “insider knowledge” to game the system. Sounds funny? The sound team, staff, and everyone who works with the Superstar singer picked to sing the National Anthem will have a decent idea from rehearsals or pre-taping exactly how long their rendition will be. The same goes with the staff making the Gatorade for the players (which eventually gets dumped on the winning coach.) Yes, you can wager on the flavor/color of Gatorade in the Super Bowl.

Some prop bets are more popular than others. Here are some of the most common ones we see, specifically for the Super Bowl.

  • Heads or Tails on the coin toss. You can literally bet on the outcome of the coin toss that decides who gets the ball on the first kick off.
  • The length of the National Anthem. This is extremely popular, and wagering levels increase significantly once the singer for the upcoming Super Bowl is announced.
  • First team to score. These bets are particularly popular when the Super Bowl features teams with a high-powered offense.
  • Winning team margin of victory bet. This is a little tricky as it isn’t to be confused with the actual “spread” on the game. In a fairly even matched contest (with the Super Bowl being the final competition between the two best teams) the spread for the favorite should be minimal- usually not much more than 3 points. The margin of victory is a different bet whereby you are wagering upon how much you think the winning team -doesn’t have to be the favorite- will win by.
  • Number of touchdown passes a quarterback throws. Again, this is a very popular bet when you have a typically very prolific quarterback featured in the game.

As is the case with all forms of gambling, there are no “gimmees.” From a funny, psychological perspective, more money typically favors betting “heads” in the coin toss, although the results are exactly as you would expect- almost a near even split between heads and tails since the first Super Bowl, with a statistically insignificant edge going to “tails.”

While the average margin of victory has been a whopping 14 points (which seems to fly in the face of the average favorite “giving” only 3 points, this number reflects a few blow out Super Bowls where there were very lopsided victories. The number is closer to 6 points over the last ten Super Bowls.

The clearest pattern seems to be in picking the favorite to win “straight up” or “money line,” having won roughly 35 of the previous 53 contests. Betting the favorite in this fashion results in a skewed payout (you get less money for betting more due to the perceived advantage.) Keep in mind, the favorite has actually LOST against the spread more often than not.

The average length of the National Anthem is one minute and fifty-six seconds. Jewel clocked in the fastest time at one minute, twenty-seven seconds. Alicia Keys holds the longest mark at two minutes thirty-five seconds. This is actually a very interesting bet, because most online betting houses set the time limit at a flat two minutes. In the last ten years, only a couple of performances have eclipsed that two minute mark, making this a fairly compelling prop bet.

Another popular wager is the most valuable player candidate from the game. The patterns typically show that the quarterback has won more often than not. It is extremely rare that a defensive player has won this award, but occasionally, an impactful player on defense capable of changing the direction of the game has won the award.

Lastly here is a bit more advanced betting idea which gets into the area of “betting value.” There are several prop bets that offer a “yes” or “no” answer. Examples are will a sack be awarded or will there be a safety in the game. For many of these types of bets, the “no” option comes with a significant amount of “juice”. With the specific event is so unlikely to happen, that in taking that side, your payout is minimal for the risk. This is where the idea of “value” comes into play. Using the example of “Will there be a safety in the game, yes or no?” Given the likelihood of a safety is minimal, the juice is -1000. This means you need to bet $1000 to win $100. Seems ridiculous, right? However, on closer analysis, during the regular season there was an average of only 17 safeties in 256 games, which means we would not be likely to see a safety in 93.4% of the games we watched. At a rate of -1000, that is the equivalent of 90.9% possibility of happening, thus creating a “value proposition” of 2.5%. It may not seem like much, but believe it or not, that is a TREMENDOUS edge.

For the casual fan, you may not want to bury yourself in the math and minutia of analysis available for all the wagering types. You might just want to watch the game and make a few small fun wagers on “feelings.” There is really nothing wrong with that provided you aren’t putting junior’s college tuition on a feeling about the color of Gatorade being poured on the winning coach. Besides, most casual fans of the Super Bowl are more focused on the commercials rather than the game. Guess what- on some online sites you can even wager on those commercials. The number of car advertisements, alcohol advertisements. It is safe to say, when it comes to the Super Bowl and prop betting, the sky is the limit!

By Steve Simmons