Gambling Expert Paul Bovi Comments on Betting Super Bowl XLV Proposition Wagers

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It was a feeding frenzy of Black Friday type proportions last Thursday as bettors swarmed the sports book of the Las Vegas Hilton looking to get first dibs on yet another rendition of Sin City’s most diverse smorgasbord of betting options for Super Bowl XLV, this year featuring the 6 time world champion Pittsburgh Steelers taking one of the NFL’s most storied franchises in the Green Bay Packers. The game will be played in Cowboy Stadium which has assumed honors as the worlds’ largest domed sports venue and features a mammoth sized high definition video screen that hangs amongst the 20 yard markers on both sides of the field.

The days in which the betting action was confined to strictly the point-spread and over/under are now a distant memory. Today the proliferation of proposition choices has turned the Super Bowl into a gamblers' dream with enough options to give even one of Charlie Sheen’s black books a run for the money.

'Prop' bets originated in the early 1980's as a whim and now provide an expansive wagering menu which ties in to individual players, team performance, and specific events that occur within the game, or in the case of the coin toss or duration of the national anthem, ones immediately preceding it. Variations of the point spread and total are also available.

For example, while the Packers have settled in as a 2.5 point favorite, a bettor that anticipates a Green Bay blowout could choose to lay more points in exchange for better odds. A Packer backer would be rewarded with a payoff of 5 to 1 if he or she were correct in their prediction that Green Bay would prevail by more than 14 points.

In recent years, prop wagers have taken on such a creative flavor, that they now link other sporting events taking place in and around the Super Bowl to players, stats, and events in the big game itself.

The Hilton features over 50 different wagers involving individual players and/or team performance of this years’ participants tied into other sporting events including 3 of the 4 NBA Contests, 3 NHL Games, a pair of European Soccer matches, college basketball, as well as the Phoenix Open and Qatar Masters Golf Tournaments all of which take place that very same day.

As an example, fans of Notre Dame hoops can get their day off to an early start by wagering that the Irish’ point total in their game against Rutgers will exceed Pittsburgh receiver Mike Wallace’ yardage total by more than 7 and a half. Fans of the NBA might be enticed by any number of props including LeBron James’ point and assist total combined up against the distance of the first successful field goal. The Heat are matched up against the Clippers Sunday in a game that is likely to conclude about 4 hours prior to the kickoff of Super Bowl XLV.

Other sports books also feature their own renditions of creativity when it comes to prop wagering. The Venetian is offering ‘Throw Back Props’, which takes the performance of this Sundays quarterbacks and puts them up against the opposing teams signal callers of yesteryear.

One such wager has current Packer QB Aaron Rodgers final passing yardage versus that of Terry Bradshaw’s total of 318 back in Super Bowl 13, a 35 to 31 Steelers’ victory over the Cowboys, which at the time was their 3 rd NFL Championship. One would have to spot Rodgers 42.5 yards if he or she were to back Bradshaw while a supporter of Rodgers could see him come up short by that number or less and still cash a winning ticket.

As props vary from venue to venue, and are often times created by innovative managers striving to set their book apart from the competition, the number of props that are available has grown each year, today exceeding 500 in number when accounting for Nevada and offshore outlets.

This year, sports books are reporting that prop betting has increased as a percentage of the total handle which is likely due to the competitive nature of this game resulting in some indecision on the part of bettors.

As of Tuesday evening, Harrahs’ properties, which includes Caesars Palace, Ballys, Planet Hollywood and Paris amongst others, are virtually split on side action as bettors are undecided when it comes to a clear cut winner. One has to look back Super Bowl 16 almost 30 years ago, when Joe Montana and the 49ers held off the Bengals by a score of 26 to 21, to find a point spread that closed at less than a field goal at the time of kickoff which this Sunday’s game is poised to do.

The sheer size of the prop menu will create betting opportunities, as the more options that the lines makers make available, the more prone he is to an oversight or miscalculation.

A classic example of that occurred in Super Bowl XXXVI as an 'over/under' prop for then Rams receiver Ricky Proehl, opened at 14.5 yards, which was inexplicably low based on the numbers which he compiled during the regular season.

Proehl played in all 16 regular season games that season and rang up 563 yards, an average of some 35 per contest and more than twice what the 'over/under' opened. Gradually the yardage moved up, eventually closing at 16 ½, as did the 'money'. By game time, one had to lay 150 to win 100, or 3 to 2, to wager that Proehl would exceed 16 ½ in terms of receiving yards . In the end, Proehl proved to be a bargain at any number as QB Kurt Warner found the Bronx Native and 4 time Super Bowl participant 3 times for 71 yards and delivering 'over' bettors some easy cash.

Those rare miscalculations are just that, rare, but there are other keys to enjoying success in proposition wagering.

Zeroing in on any lingering injuries is obviously essential, but not to be overlooked is dissecting a coaches' game plan, which often times can spell the difference between cashing a ticket and doing your best impersonation of Bobby Knight with a chair.
That knowledge may provide insight as to how a player is utilized, for example, in the case of a tight end, whether for blocking purposes, or for going out on pass patterns.

Back in 2005, when Steelers ended up in the 'Big Dance' against the Seahawks, TE Heath Millers' over/under for catches stood at 3, which certainly seemed achievable for a stud receiver that caught 37 balls over his last 11 regular season games that season. Pittsburgh went on to win Super Bowl XL in defeating the Seahawks 21-10 but Miller had not even one ball thrown in his direction as Cowher used the then rookie out of Virginia for blocking purposes. In 2008, Miller made amends as he was the Ben Roethslisberger’s second favorite target in Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl victory over Arizona as he hauled in 5 balls for 57 yards. This year, Miller stands at 3 and a half catches which once again looks enticing. However, should the Steelers have trouble protecting QB Roethlisberger, which has been the case for much of the season, Miller may once again be called upon for blocking duties.

Back in that 2005 Super Bowl, the impending retirement of Jerome Bettis had odds makers in a tizzy, as it stood to reason that head coach Bill Cowher would spoon feed the 'Bus' in an attempt to send the 13-year veteran out a high note, especially if the Steelers opened up a comfortable lead, which is exactly what took place.

Those supporting that theory were rewarded as Bettis finished with 43 yards on 14 carries, in each case roughly twice his season average. However, those that wagered that 'the Bus' would reach the end zone were frustrated as he was stuffed short of the goal line on a pair of attempts, as Vegas bookmakers breathed a collective sigh of relief.

As Devin Hester high tailed it into the end zone after running back the opening kickoff 92 yards in Super Bowl XLI, won by the Colts by a score of 29-17, agony and ecstasy were the order of the moment as no less than five props were decided, including a 20-1 payoff to those that corrected wagered Hester would score the games' first touchdown.

Exposing yourself to elimination on the strength of one play can be dicey, and may result in an early shower, as was the case for those that wagered the longest touchdown during that impending Colt victory would be less than 43 yards.

7 years ago, in Super Bowl XXXVIII, those that chose to go under 15 ½ yards on Deion Branch's longest pass reception found themselves in that same shower as Tom Brady found the then and current Patriot receiver for a 16-yard reception on the games fifth play from scrimmage.

It's easy to overlook all of the factors that may affect your wager. When the Steelers grounded the Seahawks by a count of 21-10 in that 2005 Super Bowl, the final score might lead one to believe that Ben Roethlisberger easily out gunned Matt Hasselbeck in terms of passing yards. Not so fast.

The Seattle signal caller more than doubled the productivity of Big Ben, who managed only 9 completions in 21 attempts in tallying a meager 123 yards. Hasselbeck, in a losing effort, generated 273 yards while completing 26-of-49 passes.

Nothing unusual here as it is common for a losing QB to pass for more yards than their victorious counterpart, as coaches tend to sit on leads on top of going into prevent defenses, both of which will statistically benefit the signal caller of the team that is trailing. In this spot, should the Steelers by chance open up a double digit lead, Packer QB Aaron Rodgers could approach 50 attempts and pile up big yardage since the Packers are already much less reliant on their ground game. Rodgers over/under for yardage stands at between 273 to 279 depending on the venue, while the number of attempts are set at 35.

If your motivation is merely to enhance your viewing pleasure, then finding a choice amongst the bountiful buffet of options should be fun. If your goals are more financially driven, you will want t dismiss 80-90 percent of these prop bets as merely a flip of the coin while seeking out the best lines and odds, which vary a great deal from shop to shop on these types of wagers.

Speaking of the flip of the coin, the prior 44 Super Bowls reflects a 23-21 edge to heads though tails has been known to play well from behind. And if that is too long a wait to decide your fate, there is always the National Anthem, this year to be sung by Christina Aguilera which sports an over and under of 1 minute and 50 seconds. Good Luck and navigate wisely.

This may be reprinted with credit given to Paul Bovi


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Paul Bovi

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