Expert Tips and Advice for Betting Super Bowl Props in 2018
There is one thing that makes the Super Bowl indeed the greatest of all NFL games. It's not the quality of the game - the Super Bowl is as likely to be a dud as any other. It's rarely the halftime show - though I still think of that crazy walking lion of a couple of years ago. And it's certainly not how fast the game flies by - this is one endless endurance test of a sports viewing challenge.
But, despite all of those issues, what makes the game so great? Prop bets.
There are props offered on every game of the NFL season, but the variety of the props on this game, and the creativity used to design those props, is beyond those other games by a factor of 100. There are props on every aspect of the game and on so many things that are completely meaningless and basically irrelevant.
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I love prop bets, and there are two big reasons for that. There's the challenge. They are like a puzzle where you have to first figure out what they are really about and then try to figure out how to solve them. And, more importantly, there are some props offered every year that offer great value. The sides and totals are bet to death in games like this, and value can be very tough to find . In the world of props, though, there are so many options that many are overlooked and value can be found. Often, tons of value. You have to be careful, though - for every prop packed with value there are 10 that are absolute duds. You need to be able to tell the difference. Luckily, here are five tips to help you do just that:
1. What's going to happen?: This is the obvious and crucial starting point. Before you can look at props to see if there is value you have to put in the work to figure out what you expect from the game. You don't just randomly go car shopping before you have put some thought into whether you are looking for a sports car, a pickup or an SUV. And you don't look for props before you have thought about which team has the edge, what style of game you expect to be played, how the offenses match up with opposing defenses, the coaching battle, the health of the teams, and so on. Until you have the framework of expectations in place you are just picking blind when looking at props. So, figure out who is going to win and how they are going to win.
2. Get shopping: You need to look around for the sportsbooks that are offering the props you want at the best price. That should be obvious. What I'm really talking about here, though, is that you need to make sure when you are shopping around for bets to make that you are making bets that make sense as a whole package. You don't want to be making bets that can only win if other bets you have made lose. For example, you wouldn't want to simultaneously bet a series of props that are optimistic about the offensive stars of one team and another series that are really bullish about the defense of the other team. It's hard enough to come out ahead when you have made good bets, so don't sabotage yourself and get in your own way.
3. Polish up the abacus: Math can be scary for some people, but if you are going to bet props successfully you can't avoid it. You need to understand what a prop is actually asking, and then you need to figure out if the odds offered for that prop are fair - or, hopefully, more than fair. To explain we will look at my most hated bet in the world - the stupid coin flip prop where you can bet if the coin flip will land on heads or tails. We can easily figure out the chances of either outcome - heads is exactly as likely as tails, so the chances of both are exactly 50 percent. That means that we are going to lose exactly as much as we win. So, if we were able to make a bet where we would earn more if we win than we lose if lost the bet then we would make that bet every single time - and bet it aggressively. But that's not the case. The standard price on that bet is -105 or -110, which means that we will lose more every time we bet and are wrong then we will make when we bet and are right. So, over the long term we can be 100 percent certain that if we kept betting at these prices we would go broke. And there is no handicapping skill involved, so there is absolutely nothing we can do to overcome the long-term house edge. It is a total sucker bet. Now, not all prop bets can be broken down as easily as that one, of course, but many - and I would say that all the worthwhile ones - can be examined from a math basis without needing an advanced degree. The more time you spend doing this the easier it is to come out on top in the end.
4. Take a step back: Listen to that old nugget of wisdom - check yourself before you wreck yourself. There are a ridiculous number of options - the books in Vegas are offering more than 400 props this year, and there will be many more than that available online. Given all that choice it can be very easy to go crazy and bet more props than could ever make sense. You need to focus on only betting the (probably) small handful of props that offer the best value and ignoring all of the rest.
5. Know your numbers: There's that old saying - those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it. This is very true when it comes to prop bets. It can be easy to make assumptions about prop bets - oddsmakers design them so people do just that. But you need to be sure that the assumptions you are making are actually true - that recent history actually supports them. Let's looking at passing, for example. There is a belief that we are in a peak time for passing in the NFL - that the aerial game is where things are at offensively. And as a result of that, casual bettors will tend to lean towards expecting big performances through the air in the Super Bowl - and bet props accordingly. While it could indeed happen - both Tom Brady and Nick Foles have a 300+ yard game in the playoffs so far - history doesn't really back up the expectation. There were 256 games played this year in the NFL - and every year since the last expansion. That means that there are 512 starting QB performances per year. This year there were 98 passers who had 300-yard games. That sounds like a lot - and you could hear that without context and think that we are indeed in an aerial era. But the truth is that there were 108 300-yard games in 2016 and 132 in 2015, so we are actually seeing a pretty notable decline. Ninety-eight out of 512 is 19.1 percent of games with a 300-yard passer. In the 102 Super Bowl starting performances all time we have seen 20 300-yard games. That's 19.6 percent. So, we are actually seeing big games at a slightly lower rate now than we have historically in the Super Bowl. That doesn't mean that Brady or Foles can't have a big day, of course. It just means you have to have a better reason than your sense of the prevailing trends of the times to bet that they will.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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