Handicapping Super Bowl Props



It's Super Bowl week in Las Vegas and Reno, meaning that sports bettors are focused on:

*Who they're going to bet on when Indianapolis plays New Orleans this coming Sunday.

*Which props they're going to bet on.

Proposition bets have become really BIG business for sportsbooks. And, they've become a headache for oddsmakers! But it's a good kind of headache because we know that coming up with appealing prop bets will help out our employers. If you give the public something to bet on, the public will lose!

Here's why prop bets make so much money for sportsbooks:

*Squares love them! The public knows this is the last football season of the year, so they want to place as many bets as they can afford. They don't think about being responsible, or trying to finish off their season bankrolls with a nice profit. They'll bet whatever they can afford to play...and often amounts that are beyond what they can afford.

*Sharps love them too, but limits are generally so small that they can't make a killing against a bad number. We're able to move off sharp action when we see it, limiting what they can earn. Or, if we sense that the public is going to come in strong the other way, we'll just stay on the side of the sharps and root against the public. Once all the money is in, so much public money is taking the worst of it that we'll be okay.

*There are several propositions where the bet is to guess which player is going to do something (score the first points, score the first touchdown, catch the first pass, get the first interception). These are always big moneymakers for the house because only ONE guy can be the first...and whoever bets on anyone else loses! These never pay at true odds. If the 'favorite' comes through, it doesn't pay much. If a longshot comes through, hardly anyone bet on him anyway! This is one reason NASCAR betting took a hit after some initial interest. Betting on whoever won the race meant most everyone lost their bets. That's not much fun. If we ran Super Bowl props in this style every week in the regular season, squares would grow to hate them. For one big game, they love them!

*In terms of individual player props...meaning Over/Unders on how many yards a quarterback will pass for, how many yards a running back will rush for, how many yards a receiver will accumulate with his catches, squares are VERY predictable in how they're going to bet. They always take the OVER!

Colts fans expect Peyton Manning to have a big day. Saints fans expect Drew Brees to have a big day. Saints fans are much more interested in betting Brees to go Over than they are to bet Manning Under. They'll root against Manning. But they won't bet that he won't get his yardage. So, virtually all square bets on player props are on the Over. That makes it very simple to 'tax' squares so they take the worst of it.

If oddsmakers think a QB will throw for 250 yards...we'll make the line 260 or more. If we think a running back will go for 80, we'll make the line 90. We're getting the 11/10 return on the lost bets, AND getting free yards in our favor. We just can't go wrong unless EVERY player clears their hurdles. We haven't had a Super Bowl shootout like that, really ever. Maybe this is the year it happens. But, even if the QB's have a big game the running backs won't...so there's some built in protection for the books.

You can see why the number of available prop bets has exploded over the years. THEY MAKE MONEY FOR THE BOOKS! Why only have a few if each new prop is a license to print money? I thought we were getting close to the limit for what the market would bear a few years ago. Turned out we've about doubled the number of props since then, and there's an appetite for more.

What's the SHARP way to play Super Bowl props? I always want you thinking like a sharp and betting like a sharp. If you're going to play props this weekend, here are some tips that will keep you from betting like a square:

*Don't bet on those horse racing type props where you're trying to pick which guy is going to score first or get the first interception. The payoffs are so bad on those that you're not getting what you deserve if you win. You're probably going to lose, and a victory isn't as great as you think. Just avoid them unless you think you have some sort of strategic read that isn't captured in the line. Maybe you know the team so well that you know which cornerback they're going to throw at. If he offers value as the first guy to get an interception, I could see the bet. For the most part, you're throwing your money away if you bet on these.

*Look to bet UNDER on individual player props rather than Over. This should be obvious to you based on our discussion today. And, you regular readers know I harp on this ever year. If we're jacking up the lines to tax the squares, then the value is in taking those free yards. You won't enjoy the 11/10 we get on last bets. But, those free yards will generally earn value over time. Again, maybe this is a dangerous year for that because of explosive offenses. Who would have wanted any proposition Unders in the Green Bay/Arizona game a few weeks ago? I can tell you that sharps are looking to bet Unders this year for the most part. They do that every season. Even if it doesn't work out this year, sharps are so far ahead over the years with the approach that they won't sweat it. You take the value and you let the games play themselves.

*Don't play hunches! This may kill squares more than anything. They imagine they can see the future, and they start making a bunch of crazy bets based the game they've dreamed up. I've heard guys sit at a bar and outline exactly what they think is going to happen quarter by quarter through the whole game. They're rarely close!

When a sharp makes a bet, he can explain exactly why he's making that bet. And, he can usually point to past games where things played out the way he's expecting. He'll show you why the running back will or won't have a good game. He'll show you why a quarterback is likely to struggle. The point is, he'll have REASONS! He's not just hoping something is going to play out a certain way. He expects it to. Big difference. Squares bet way too much on what they hope is going to happen, or on uninformed visions of how a game will play out.

*Respect your fellow sharps. I know guys, particularly in Las Vegas, who don't handicap the props themselves, they just monitor the sharp action from other people and follow along at slightly worse lines. As an oddsmaker, I know that our first guesses on what the prop lines should be are going to miss the mark sometime. Heck, I may have just invented the idea for the prop a few minutes earlier! I'll try to put up the very best number. Sometimes I'm wrong. A sharp will hit the opener and I'll move it a little. Other sharps riding the sharp action will come in some more...not having the full edge but enjoying enough to make it worth their while.

Sharps are picky when it comes to props...so sharp bets are truly meaningful. They have to REALLY like something to get involved. Their action must be respected. Do the best you can to monitor early sharp betting (chart the line moves before the public comes in over the weekend to invest), and see if you can exploit stale lines at other stores.



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