The Super Bowl, like all major, established sporting events, is rich with traditions. There are things that just have to happen every year for it to feel like a Super Bowl. Some are universal and some are personal. For me, one of those personal traditions is when I annually set out to write about the dumbest bet in the history of the world - the Super Bowl coin toss prop bet .
Every year the sportsbooks offer drooling morons the chance to bet on whether the flip will be heads or tails. And every year people bet on it - thousands and thousands of dollars of bets. Anyone who bets on the coin toss is a danger to themselves and should be locked up immediately. The logic for that statement is obvious. A coin has two sides, so without even having to take off our socks to use our toes for calculations we can figure out that there is a 50/50 chance of either heads or tails. Sportsbooks charge -110 or -115 to make the bet, meaning you pay $110 or $115 to win $100. So, over the long term, unless you can somehow pick a completely random event with stunning accuracy, you are absolutely guaranteed to lose money.
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Many bets are bad bets, but books don't even try to hide this one. Super Bowl coin toss bets are a tax on the stupid.
Still interested in making a coin toss bet? Don't say I didn't warn you, but the least I can do is try to help. Here are a few 'useful' trends for your 'handicapping'.
History: There have been 50 Super Bowls played. The sample size is too small to expect exactness, but we should expect to see somewhere around an even split between heads and tails. And what do you know - tails has come up 26 times and heads 24 times. Tails is on a big three-year winning streak, though, so maybe it's hot. Or maybe heads is due. Or maybe it's totally random and what has happened in the past has absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the coin toss this year making betting on it at less than even money a fool's errand. You can decide.
Winning team: Last year the Panthers won the toss, decided that was victory enough for them on the day, and basically gave up on the game from then on. That marked the 26th time that a team had won the toss but not the game compared to 24 times that a team had won both. Over the last decade the coin toss winner has won the game five times and lost five times. In other words, there is nothing to see here - and not to spoil the rest of the article, but there will be nothing to see anywhere else, either, because it's a freaking coin toss.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have only played in the Super Bowl once. In 1999 they called tails and won the toss. It didn't help - they got steamrolled by the Broncos.
New England Patriots: The Patriots first played in the Super Bowl in 1986. It went poorly from the start - they had heads and lost the toss to the Bears and then were thoroughly humiliated in the game. In 1997 they won the toss with heads but lost to the Packers. In 2002 they had tails and lost the toss but beat the Rams in the game. In 2004 and 2005 they had heads both times, lost both tosses and won both games. In 2008 they had heads, lost the toss, and lost the game to the Giants. In 2012 they again had heads, but they won the toss for once. But then they again lost to the Giants. In the most recent appearance in 2015 they again had heads, again lost the toss, but won the game. So, what have we learned? New England sucks at coin tosses - they have won two and lost six. Pats fans will be hoping for another coin toss loss - they are 0-4 on the toss in the years they won the big game.
Location: Super Bowl LI is being played in Houston. Despite the favorable climate it's just the third time that the Super Bowl has been played there. The first was back in 1974 when the Dolphins won both the coin toss by cleverly picking heads and the game by cleverly scoring more points than the Vikings. It didn't return again until 2004 when the Panthers chose tails, won the toss, but then lost to the Patriots. So, in two Houston Super Bowls we have seen a split between heads and tails, a split between NFC and AFC winners, and a split between coin toss winners winning and losing the game. Again, trends are letting us down. Shockingly.
NFC: Alright, I'll admit that this one is kind of interesting. Meaningless, but interesting. Carolina's win last year in the coin toss marked the 20th time in 23 years that the NFC has won the toss. The problem, though, is that the winner of the coin toss is just 10-13 over that time in the game, so the NFC is clearly focused on the wrong prize. Overall, current NFC teams have won 35 of the 50 coin tosses.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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