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Value in Prop Bets

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Editor's Note:  Andy Iskoe's Sides & Total Selection for Super Bowl XLII are available as a Pick Pack selection and may be purchased at VegasInsider.com. Click to win!

Analysis from A to Z | Value in Prop Bets

One of the features that adds enjoyment to the Super Bowl is the annual POP to which we are treated. That's the Plethora Of Propositions that enable bettors to have action on virtually every play of the game. In fact, several Sports Books even offer a proposition related to the coin toss so it's possible to have action even BEFORE the game kicks off! (It's phrased as "which team will receive the opening kickoff").

Although the Super Bowl may be the most heavily bet game of the year it is generally not the most bettable game of the year. So much is known about both teams and so much attention is paid to almost every angle that most of the wagering possibilities may involve the many propositions that will be posted at the sports books in town, rather than just on the team to cover or whether the game will go Over or Under the total. Many of the 'props' are innovative and entertaining and are designed to provide action throughout the game. It is literally possible to have action on every single play of the Super Bowl if you play enough of the props.

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Much of the success of "prop" wagering dates back to Chicago's appearance in Super Bowl XX. In January 1986 the Bears were heavily favored over New England. But one special wager was offered -- will Chicago defensive lineman William "Refrigerator" Perry score a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Then Bears coach Mike Ditka had used Perry several times in the backfield, teaming with the great Walter Payton. Because of the lopsided pointspread in the game, novel ways to attract action were considered. As memory serves, the "Yes" was originally priced in the neighborhood of roughly 15 to 1 that Perry would score a TD. The novelty of such a unique wagering proposition caused an overwhelming number of bettors to take a flyer on that prop. At kickoff the odds had fallen to the vicinity of 4 or 5 to 1 and, sure enough, Perry did score a touchdown in the Bears' 46-10 rout of the Patriots. While the books lost money on that specific prop, they won a huge following and over the past 20 + years one of most anticipated events of the time between the Conference Title games and the Super Bowl is the release of the many props that can be wagered upon. From what used to be a page or two the offerings at some books fill more than a dozen double sided long sheets. Not only are there props involving the two teams in the game, some creative bookmakers offer props that tie certain events in the Super Bowl to other sports being played over Super Bowl weekend, both within the US and internationally.

A few thoughts on the multitude of propositions available at virtually every sports book in Nevada.

What began as a novelty over 20 years ago has become a phenomenon that is eagerly awaited every season. The growth has been geometric with several properties offering over one hundred different props. At the Las Vegas Hilton, for example, 21 full sized 8 by 14 inch pages filled with nothing but props are available.

A fair amount of creativity goes into the development of these props and considerable research is done in order to offer propositions that on the surface appear even. The use of a 20 cents line, or often a 30 cents line, ensures that the Sports Books will enjoy a healthy profit when all the results are in and the accounting is completed.

For the most part the props have been looked upon as secondary ways to bet the game, more often for fun than for huge monetary gains. But there may be some solid opportunities for nice profits as well.

Sure, there are professionals who scour the city for the best prices on the props and who have done painstaking research to uncover even the slightest of mathematical, or 'expected value' edges. And kudos to those who have the time, bankroll and resources to uncover those edges.

But for the majority of those who bet on the game the props merely serve to add enjoyment to the overall experience with the chance for earning a few extra bucks as the game unfolds.

In looking at the many propositions that will be available on the game it's important to note that there are two major types of prop plays. The first is a head to head matchup such as which QB will have more total yards or whether the total number of sacks will be over or under a specified number. The other type of proposition is one that has more than two possible outcomes such as the player who will score the first TD, the margin of victory by the winning team or the combination of the first half result with the total game result. These propositions offer more attractive odds since there are several possible outcomes while the head to head matchups are priced more along the lines of a fairly competitive baseball game in which the favored part of the proposition requires the bettor to lay around -160 and the underdog player gets +130 or +140.

Some of the props are fairly straightforward and involve just two options. An example would be whether or not there will be a score in the final two minutes of the first half. Your choices are either Yes or No. Usually the "Yes" will be favored for this specific prop. A similar type prop involving an individual player might be whether Giants QB Manning will have more or less than 21 pass completions in the game. Most of these two option props have low odds attached to them so that you might have to lay - 140 or - 150 on the 'favored' part of the prop while getting back + 120 or + 110 on the 'underdog' part of the prop. Many props are minus 110 either way. Some will have - 120/Even Money attached to the prop.

Props with larger payoffs involve multiple options. The most popular of these would include the player to score the first touchdown. Here you can find odds of from 5 or 6 to 1 to as high as 50 to 1 or more. If you believe a New England player will score the first TD you might want to consider a play on TE Watson (10-1). For the Giants perhaps you might look at RB Jacobs (15-1). Ann oddball prop in connection with the first TD of the game is whether the player scoring that initial TD will be wearing an odd or even numbered jersey. Now THAT's creativity - and if you take the time to fully research it you might find an edge.

If you don't want to guess the specific player to score first you might consider a prop that simply asks you to pick the team scoring first and whether that score will be a rushing TD, passing TD, "other" TD or a FG.

There are literally hundreds of propositions that can be wagered upon. Considering the many variations that number increases into the thousands. Every play will affect the outcome of multiple props. They are offered as ways to further enhance the experience of watching the game and provide opportunities for profits.

The best advice for playing the props is to shop, shop and shop some more. Each property will put its individual slant on the props and there will be opportunities for getting better value by comparing the props at the different properties.

The preference here is to look for head to head props as opposed to selecting one result from a list of 5, 10 or even more possible outcomes such as the player to score the first TD of the game or the combination of winning team and final margin. Although the payoff on these multiple outcome props far exceed the head to head props you have a much better chance of collecting on the props that offer just two possible outcomes. A secondary preference within the head to head props is to look to play props that pay even money or better since for the most part the nature of the Super Bowl makes many of the props no better than 50/50 random occurrences such as the team to punt first or to make the initial first down. At the same time a well thought out analysis of how the game might unfold can be profitable in quite a number of the props.

Another way to approach props is to pair them off. An example is to look at playing whether each QB's first pass will be either complete or incomplete. Usually books have this proposition priced with 'complete' as the favorite for both quarterbacks. Playing the 'incomplete' at a plus price for each means that you only need one of them to hit to show a profit. Considering that both quarterbacks are likely to face considerable pressure and perhaps have a case of nerves early in the game suggests that the likelihood of both passers completing their first passes is less than the possibility that one or both of them will throw incompletions initially. At the Hilton, for example, the line for Manning's first pass to be complete opened -160, the incomplete +140. For Brady the complete opened -250, the incomplete +210. Not surprisingly, the "complete" has already been bet up for both QBs, making the "incomplete" even more attractive. For these so called "tandem" props you need just one of the two to hit in order to show an overall profit on the pair.

Propositions concerning the last team to score in the first half, the team making the most field goals and similarly worded props should be approached by looking to play on the underdog half of the prop due to the uncertain status of the conditions that might develop during the game such as which team will receive the opening kickoff. Recall that the line has New England a 12 point favorite. The "value" will be on the Giants in many of the propositions because the public will have an easier time making a case for the Patriots as the 'favored' team in props involving things happening first. The reality is that a great number of such propositions are independent of who you think will win the game or perform better.

Finally there are the inter-sport propositions that match up an event from the Super Bowl against an event from the NBA, NHL, European soccer, PGA golf, etc. Again, some astute analysis can provide an edge in making wagers on these 'fun' propositions. Surely from amongst the literally hundreds of propositions being offered even the most cynical person can find something to his or her liking.

Some of the initial thoughts on this season's props include the following.

One interesting tandem prop this season involves both punters and whether each will have at least one touchback. The "No" is a solid favorite for both. Whereas New England's offense is so potent and they often opt to "go for it" rather than punt on fourth down when in enemy territory the Patriot part of the prop might not offer much value. The Giants, however, are more likely to punt from around the New England 35 or 40 yard line rather than go for a first down or attempt a FG since failure would give the potent Pat's offense great field position. Thus a punt might well head into the endzone if P Feagles is unable to hit the coffin corner. At a price of + 175 the Yes for a touchback occurring has value.

Above all, remember that in the eyes of the most serious, professional bettors the Super Bowl is just another game and one that often offers little wagering value because the line is strong and heavily influenced by 'public' money.

Have fun. Enjoy the game. Good luck. And remember that the 2008 NFL season is just six months away.

  
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