Monday, January 23, 2006

Super Bowl 'props' likely to hit the betting boards

Scalped from the Las Vegas Sun:

An early look at some unspectacular but profitable Super Bowl 'props' likely to hit the betting boards

With the Super Bowl less than two weeks away, the minds of sports bettors in Las Vegas are turning to the propositions -- or "props," meaning unique, offbeat wagering opportunities -- that sports books will be offering on the big game.

The really fun props involving over/unders on the statistics of individual players and the like will come later. So will those crazy "cross-sport" props that link various aspects of the Super Bowl to the day's baskeball, hockey and golf action.

In the early going, we're more concerned with some of the old standbys, the nuts-and-bolts props you can count on seeing on the betting boards each year.

These props might not be sexy or outrageously creative, but historically they have been profitable for sharp bettors ...

* Overtime

Depending on your method of analysis, the odds against the Super Bowl going into overtime are likely about 15-1 to 20-1. But if past years are any indication, bettors will have the opportunity to lay a much shorter price that the game will not go into overtime, probably in the neighborhood of minus-600 to minus-800.

That's an example of what gamblers call an "overlay," meaning a wager that offers favorable odds to the bettor.

For instance, last year at this time, the Palms sports book opened "no overtime" at minus-600 (risk $6 to win $1), though it was bet up quickly to minus-850. The Las Vegas Hilton opened the same prop at minus-700; and Harrah's and the Rio had it at minus-850. At any of those prices, I'd consider it to be among the very best bets in the casino.

The top price you'll see on "yes, the game will go into overtime" will be around 8-1 or 9-1.

The people who get excited about a 9-1 payout on the Super Bowl going into overtime must be the same people who get excited when they make a blackjack and it pays off at odds of 6-5.

* Total turnovers

Most teams that advance to the Super Bowl are fundamentally sound enough to take care of the football. I don't think this year will be an exception.

Typically the over/under on fumbles lost by both teams is set at 1 1/2. Last year, the Hilton opened "under 1 1/2" at minus-130 (risk $1.30 to win $1) with "over 1 1/2" even money.

The over/under on interceptions by both teams is usually 2 1/2 with a heavier premium on the under. Last year at the Hilton, the under was minus-180, the over plus-150.

Because both of these props went "over" last year (there were two lost fumbles and three interceptions), I expect to find more attractive prices when I bet them "under" this year.

* Will either team score in the last two minutes of the first half?

The odds on this prop are usually a function of the total number of points both teams are expected to score in the game. For example, two years ago the over/ under in the Super Bowl between the Panthers and the Patriots was 38 1/2 points, and the odds on "yes, there will be a score in the last two minutes of the first half" were minus-200.

Last year, the over/under in the game between the Patriots and the Eagles was 47 points, and the odds that there would be a score in the last two minutes of the first half were higher, at minus-250.

As long as you figure about 50 points will be scored in the Super Bowl (a reasonable assumption), in his 2001 book "Beat the Sports Books," author Dan Gordon makes a compelling case for betting that there will be a score in the last two minutes of the first half at odds of minus-220 to minus-235.

I predict those odds will be available this year.