Super Bowl 51 Props Report
January 31, 2017
By Marcus DiNitto
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Super Bowl prop betting highlights the stark contrast in wagering strategies between casual and sharp gamblers. Public bettors have a swing-for-the-fences mentality, looking to risk small amounts of money for the chance at a large payoff. Professional bettors are willing to grind out profits, even if that means laying big prices for relatively small payouts, the sort of bets casual bettors balk at.
For a primary example, look no further than the ‘will there be a safety’ prop. As the ‘yes’ side of that prop cashed at long odds in three straight recent Super Bowls (46 through 48), it became a trendy bet for the public. There have been nine safeties in Super Bowl history and none in the past two seasons, but that hasn’t stopped public gamblers from firing away on ‘yes’ in early wagering on Super Bowl 51 featuring the Patriots and Falcons.
The ‘no’ side of the safety prop, though, is the way the wiseguys go.
In fact, as of Monday at William Hill U.S., ‘no’ (-800) had drawn more money than any other wagering option on the seemingly endless list of props, while ‘yes’ (+550) topped the list in terms of ticket count.
You’ve heard the betting axiom "don’t bet a lot to win a little," but when wiseguys see value, they make a bet, even if that means risking eight times the money they can potentially win.
"It’s all value," said South Point sports book director Chris Andrews, who is looking at a similar yes/no split on the safety prop among the public and sharps at his shop. "I understand that principle and that makes a lot of sense most of the time. But sometimes you get something that’s a 3/1 favorite and it should be 6/1, and those guys will play it.
"Poker players were the first ones to start capitalizing on that (with Super Bowl props). There are certain things that were just underpriced and they started playing them, and it’s caught on with a lot of more sophisticated bettors, guys with a lot of money, because it’s hard to put up a lot to win a little. But a disciplined, professional gambler, that’s what they do.
"The (public) guys are going the other way," Andrews added. "They want to bet a little to win a lot and usually are not getting a lot of value for their money. But they win occasionally, too."
Here some other Super Bowl 51 props on which wiseguys and everyday bettors are on opposite sides. In every case listed, sharp money is on the favorite while public money is on the underdog.
-- Will there be overtime? Yes +525, No -750 (South Point)
-- Will there be a successful 2-point conversion: Yes +200, No -240 (South Point)
-- Will either team score three unanswered times: Yes -230, No +195 (South Point). "The public always bets ‘no’, and ‘yes’ usually wins," Andrews said. "The public’s all over the ‘no’ in that one."
-- Will there be a special teams or defensive touchdown: Yes +180, No -210 (William Hill)
-- First score of the game will be: Touchdown -175, Field Goal or Safety +155 (William Hill)
-- Last score of game will be: Touchdown -180, Field Goal or Safety +160 (William Hill)
-- Point spread proposition: Falcons +7.5 (-200), Falcons -7.5 (+175) (William Hill)
If you’re with Joe Public on any of these props or others, don’t let that diminish your confidence heading into Sunday. The wiseguys don’t always win.
"Who knows who’s right," said Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading at William Hill U.S. "The public could be right. The professionals don’t have to be right. They may dictate the market a little more, but it all depends on how the game breaks, plays out. (The pros) certainly don’t have to win."
William Hill Super Bowl 51 Props
Offense equals overs?
The Patriots/Falcons total sits at 59, which, if it holds, will be the highest in Super Bowl history. Naturally, that means when it comes to props, public bettors are giving hard looks to the ‘over’ – other than on things like punts, of course.
Total yardage, for example, has been bet up from an opener of 779.5 to 820.5 at the South Point. Conversely, the over/under on punts was bet down from 9.5 to 7, and Andrews acknowledged, "I probably opened that too high. ... They unloaded on the ‘under’ there."
Andrews said with that with two high-powered offenses taking the field at NRG Stadium on Sunday, he opened the ‘will there be a score in the final two minutes of the first half’ prop at ‘yes’ -340, significantly more expensive than about -280 for a typical NFL game.
If he were on the other side of the counter, Andrews would consider playing the favorite on this prop. "I know you have to lay kind of a prohibitive price, but I think it’s gonna win," he said.
At William Hill’s chain of 108 Nevada sports books, sharps bet Julio Jones’ receiving yards total from 113.5 down to 97.5, and Devonta Freeman’s rushing + receiving yards from 101.5 to 92.5.
"I think we shaded the early numbers a little higher because this is a high-scoring Super Bowl, anticipating the public does bet ‘over’ in most of the props," Bogdanovich said. "I think the professionals think it will play more normal, and they think these numbers are inflated."
Bogdanovich is prepared for the public to start hammering ‘over’ on the lower numbers as kickoff approaches.
"I don’t have a problem with it at all because we’ll walk ‘em back up the ladder if they want to keep betting over," he said.
Strategies to consider (not all good ones)
Pros have an advantage at the betting window most public gamblers can’t match: bankroll.
Money at their disposal allows sharps to employ certain strategies. One such strategy when it comes to props, Andrews said, is betting ‘under’ early and often. "You see a lot of big numbers, and a lot of wiseguys come in and bet almost everybody ‘under’," he said. "I think the strategy is they know they’re going to lose some of the bets, but they’re gonna win a whole bunch of them, too. Usually the pattern is – and not just with the Super Bowl, but any football game – one or two guys go off and have a huge game, and that takes away from everybody else...
"They’re just trying to grind out (a profit). That’s hard for the casual bettor. The wiseguys are looking to play a percentage and the smaller bettors, the public guys are looking to win every bet they make. The sharp guys know that’s really not possible."
Andrews, though, suggested a more affordable strategy for casual bettors.
While Andrews sees value on Patriots -155 on the money line, he would consider coupling that bet with a smaller wager on ‘no’ side of the ‘will the team that scores first win the game’ prop at +155.
"My theory on that is this is going to be such a high-scoring game (and) there’s going to be a lot of lead changes, so you’re either pressing your bet on the Patriots for a pretty good price, or you have a nice hedge bet the other way."
A bettor at William Hill tried a shotgun approach to the MVP prop, one we’re not sure we’d consider savvy.
"We had someone come in and bet every Falcon at a big price to win MVP, so that’s something William Hill has to sweat," Bogdanovich said. "He likes the Falcons and he thinks someone other than Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman will win MVP."
How big have props become?
Props are accounting for an increasingly larger percentage of overall Super Bowl handle, and this year’s combination of star power and high-scoring teams will only catalyze that trend.
"I have a feeling the props might out-write the actual game," Andrews said. "It’s the kind of game that’s going to be so high scoring that people will find players they want to bet ‘over’ on."
Added Bogdanovich, "It wouldn’t surprise me if it was 40 percent (of total handle) and closing in on 50 percent. Brady’s as big a name as there is. Matt Ryan’s probably the MVP. Then you’ve got Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and (Julian) Edelman, and it snowballs. Sports betting is on the rise to begin with."