Betting on Super Bowl MVP voting?

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Photo: Jim Prisching / AP
Jeff Haney

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers won the Most Valuable Player Award in Sunday’s Super Bowl, rewarding bettors who backed him at odds of about 3-2, or plus 150 (bet $1 to net $1.50). Of course, none of those wagers took place in Nevada casinos.

The state’s sports books are not permitted to accept bets on the Super Bowl MVP because it’s the result of a vote and technically not decided on the playing field. (The Super Bowl MVP is chosen by 16 media members who account for 80 percent of the ballot and online voting by fans that accounts for 20 percent.) For now, the proposition remains the domain of offshore gambling operations and illegal bookies stateside. But that could change by next year’s Super Bowl thanks to the Nevada Gaming Commission’s recent regulatory decision that allows casinos to book wagers on non-sporting events (yes, including the Oscars and U.S. elections), provided they can demonstrate the wagering will be equitable and aboveboard.

Betting on the MVP provides an intriguing, potentially profitable, option for Super Bowl gamblers. Here’s one way to analyze the proposition: Consider that heading into this year’s game, the winning team’s quarterback had earned the MVP in three of the past four Super Bowls, a 75 percent rate. The betting market gave the Packers about a 60 percent chance of winning outright, based on the game’s money line of minus 150 (bet $1.50 to net $1).

Say you gave Rodgers a 75 percent chance of earning the MVP in a Green Bay victory, a reasonable inference. Then you were essentially looking at a two-leg parlay (Packers victory plus Rodgers MVP) that should pay about 1.2 to 1, or plus 120. That makes the actual retail price of plus 150 on Rodgers an “overlay”—betting lingo for an advantageous wager. Where does that extra value come from? Well, this year Rodgers bettors were “fading”—or taking the other side of—dreamers betting on long shots like Cullen Jenkins and Lawrence Timmons, who had virtually no chance of being named MVP.

Some handicappers would classify the MVP betting proposition as a “derivative,” or a wager that is somewhat dependent on the game’s point spread but priced differently. Playing derivatives is really just a fancy way of saying you should strive to get the best bang for your buck, based on your handicapping opinion. At its heart, that’s what the game of sports betting is all about.


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