USA TODAY Sports Weekly

PROP WA­GERS IM­MENSELY POP­U­LAR

Fans can make many nov­elty Su­per Bowl bets

- Marc Lawrence @Mar­cLawrence Spe­cial for USA TO­DAY Sports

Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Gam­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, Amer­i­cans will bet $4.2 bil­lion on Su­per Bowl 50, up 8% from last year. Nearly 97% of those bets, $4.1 bil­lion worth, will be wa­gered il­le­gally, a stark dif­fer­ence from the roughly $115 mil­lion bet legally on Su­per Bowl XLIX last year.

The il­le­gal mar­ket is es­ti­mated to be 35 times greater than the le­gal one.

So how does Las Ve­gas com­pen­sate for the rev­enue lost on the big­gest bet­ting day of the foot­ball sea­son? It turns to Su­per Bowl props. A propo­si­tion bet is a nov­elty wa­ger not in­volv­ing the fi­nal score. Ac­cord­ing to Jay Korne­gay of the West­gate Las Ve­gas Su­perbook, his op­er­a­tion ex­pects prop bets to ac­count for 60% of its to­tal wa­gers on this year’s game.

“The evo­lu­tion of prop wa­gers re­ally took off in 1995 be­cause that Su­per Bowl was go­ing to be bor­ing,” Korne­gay said, re­fer­ring to San Fran­cisco’s 49-26 vic­tory against the San Diego Charg­ers in which the 49ers were 18-point fa­vorites. “Back when the Su­per Bowls were blowouts, the games were bor­ing, and the props would keep peo­ple en­ter­tained in the se­cond half. The props be­came pop­u­lar, and that’s why we started to ex­pand the menu. ... Thanks to props, ev­ery play meant some­thing.”

FIRST SCORE

Prop play­ers at the West­gate Su­perbook will en­joy the lux­ury of more than 400 props for Su­per Bowl 50.

Ac­cord­ing to Korne­gay, the most pop­u­lar prop is the player to score the first touch­down. If you’re right, it’s a nice pay­off.

The lead­ing con­tenders, and the odds that they score first, in this year’s Su­per Bowl:

The Bron­cos’ Em­manuel San­ders, left, and De­mary­ius Thomas both are 10-1 to score first Sun­day.

From the Carolina Pan­thers, Cam New­ton, Greg Olsen and Jonathan Ste­wart at 8-1; Ted Ginn Jr. at 10-1 and Corey Brown at 12-1.

From the Den­ver Bron­cos, Em­manuel San­ders and De­mary­ius Thomas at 10-1 and C.J. An­der­son, Owen Daniels and Ron­nie Hill­man at 12-1.

Or, if you’re brave, you can bet that there will be no touch­down scored and get 200-1.

In the pre­vi­ous 49 Su­per Bowls, wide re­ceivers lead the TD brigade, scor­ing the first touch­down 21 times, with Bran­don LaFell find­ing the end zone first with 9:51 re­main­ing in the se­cond quar­ter for the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots last year.

Run­ning backs are right on their heels with 17 ini­tial scores. Tight ends have scored the first touch­down five times, with quar­ter­backs, kick re­turn­ers and de­fen­sive play­ers at five times each.

COIN TOSS

An­other out­ra­geously pop­u­lar prop is the coin toss. It’s su­per fast (pun in­tended) and takes place be­fore the game starts.

The coin toss can be bet one of two ways, ei­ther heads or tails or the con­fer­ence that wins the flip.

In its 49-year his­tory, there have been 25 heads and 24 tails in the Su­per Bowl coin toss. Should tails come up this Sun­day, it would mean a 50-50 split through­out 50 years of Su­per Bowl his­tory.

The NFC has won 33 of 49 pregame calls, in­clud­ing 16 of the last 18.

MVP

Ne­vada sports books will be of­fer­ing odds on the MVP for the first time. In the past it wasn’t al­lowed be­cause of the vot­ing process. As such, of the more than 400 props be­ing of­fered by the West­gate Su­perbook on Su­per Bowl 50, wa­ger­ing on the game’s MVP fig­ures to be hot and heavy.

Th­ese were the open­ing odds on MVP con­tenders: New­ton at 5-7, Pey­ton Man­ning at 7-2, Ste­wart at 15-1, Olsen at 18-1, An­der­son at 20-1 and Ginn, San­ders and Thomas at 25-1. In ad­di­tion, lineback­ers Luke Kuechly of Carolina and Von Miller of Den­ver were in­stalled at 25-1.

Be­fore back­ing New­ton as the MVP of Su­per Bowl 50, you might want to con­sider league MVP quar­ter­backs have strug­gled in Su­per Bowl games, go­ing 6-12 straight up (SU) and 5-11-2

against the spread (ATS), in­clud­ing 0-5 SU and ATS since 2002.

OVER­TIME OR SAFETY

While there has never been an over­time game in the his­tory of the Su­per Bowl, many fans are fas­ci­nated by the pos­si­bil­ity.

Per­haps it’s the en­tic­ing price (+550) or the no­tion that the ab­sence of over­time in 49 games means there is a stronger like­li­hood of the first one hap­pen­ing sooner rather than later.

An­other pop­u­lar prop is whether a safety will oc­cur. This prop also is an ap­peal­ing +550 pay­off at the West­gate Su­perbook.

Af­ter a run of three con­sec­u­tive Su­per Bowl games in which a safety oc­curred, there was none last year. Teams that record a safety are 6-3 in Su­per Bowls.

CROSS PROPS

An­other highly pop­u­lar prop is meld­ing other sports with the Su­per Bowl game. Th­ese are com­monly re­ferred to as “who will have more” bets.

Last year the West­gate Su­perbook fea­tured 48 cross-sports op­por­tu­ni­ties; this year it has upped the ante by 10. They in­cludeDwyan­e Wade’s points vs. Man­ning’s com­ple­tions, Stephen Curry’s three-point field goals made vs. Olsen’s re­cep­tions and LeBron James’ points vs. the short­est made field goal.

Col­lege bas­ket­ball also joins the fray with Con­necti­cut’s points vs. Jonathan Ste­wart’s rush­ing yards and SMU’s first-half points vs. New­ton’s rush­ing yards.

Golf of­fer­ings in­clude Phil Mick­el­son’s fourth-round score vs. Ginn’s re­ceiv­ing yards and Bubba Wat­son’s fourth-round birdies vs. San­ders’ re­cep­tions.

BEST BETS

Prom­i­nent pro­fes­sional Las Ve­gas hand­i­cap­per David Malin­sky shared a cou­ple of props he will have an in­ter­est in Sun­day:

Man­ning un­der 235.5 pass­ing yards: “As straight­for­ward as it gets, but I see the Den­ver game plan built around ball con­trol and short passes, try­ing to get as many run­ning snaps as pos­si­ble. Given the low per­cent­age I ex­pect when the Bron­cos do try to at­tack deep down the field, it will take more pass at­tempts to get to this plateau than I ex­pect to see.”

Philadel­phia 76ers firstquar­ter points vs. the Brook­lyn Nets over Den­ver first downs: “I be­lieve the mar­ket­place re­mains be­hind the curve on just how good the 76ers have been since Ish Smith came on board to run the show at point guard, with their abil­ity to chase down the War­riors the lat­est ex­am­ple. Brook­lyn is a rud­der­less team play­ing aw­ful de­fense, so in what should be a loose game I can see a quick pace. Mean­while, the Bron­cos face some dif­fi­cult matchups to stay on the field against the Pan­thers, and with ball con­trol be­ing their game plan, it will also mean a rel­a­tively low snap count as well.”

CLOS­ING THOUGHT

When asked his worst night­mare with props, Korne­gay said, “We al­ways in­cur li­a­bil­ity with ‘Will there be a safety?’ and ‘Will there be over­time?’ Ugh. If a game ever goes into over­time and is de­cided by a safety, I will be look­ing to up­date my ré­sumé.”

Let the games be­gin.

Lawrence is pub­lisher of the weekly “Play­book Foot­ball” news­let­ter at Play­book.com and host of the “Marc Lawrence Against the Spread” foot­ball pod­cast.

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FRED VUICH, AP
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