Bet on the Super Bowl with your head, not your heart

Super Bowl bets: read this article before you place them.
Photo: Steve Marcus

It’s more fun, but less lucrative, to bet Super Bowl propositions like a fan rather than a “sharp,” or professional bettor. A typical fan will root for a Super Bowl that looks something like last Sunday’s Pro Bowl—an abundance of scoring, with a final score in the 40s. In betting Super Bowl propositions (“props” in gambling lingo), that mentality can translate into making some of the worst sports wagers of the year.

Fortunately, it is possible to improve your performance in betting props by thinking like a professional gambler. Sharps seek out props in which so-called public money—betting dollars risked by fans or unsophisticated gamblers—influences the betting line, then look to take the other side. A typical sharp bettor will hope for a low-scoring Super Bowl, one marked by a series of sustained but boring drives. Ideally, most players, especially stars such as Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, will post statistics below their season averages, particularly in high-profile categories such as passing yardage. Few odd plays or unusual situations will occur.

Take the overtime prop, a perennial Super Bowl betting option. Even in a game with a tight point spread such as Sunday’s 2.5, there’s only a 6 or 7 percent chance the game will go into overtime. That means you would need at least a 14-1 payout to bet wisely for overtime. Yet a typical Vegas price is just 8-1, or plus 800 (bet $1 to net $8). It doesn’t mean you have to lay the minus 1,200 (bet $12 to net $1) betting against overtime, although many sharp bettors will. Just be aware that no sharp money will be on the “yes” side of the overtime prop.

Similarly, sharp bettors will bet against a 2-point conversion attempt occurring, especially at minus 300 or better. In props involving the yardage compiled by the most marquee players, they’ll bet the under, rather than the over, particularly after public money drives the number up.

So-called cross-sport props receive plenty of attention in the week before the Super Bowl. For example, the number of receiving yards by Green Bay’s Greg Jennings is favored by 8.5 over Phil Mickelson’s fourth-round score in the Phoenix Open. Several dozen cross-sport props are offered in Las Vegas, and they are all great … as conversation pieces. Few serious bettors pay them much mind.


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