Betting on the Super Bowl Coin Toss
Compared to an average NFL player or coach, Joe Football Fan knows squat about football. Common football fans can’t translate “G 2 Split Flank Fing 80 Hot X Tennessee”. They don’t understand complex offensive line protections or exotic blitzes. Even something as seemingly straightforward as a receiver route tree can be beyond the comprehension of millions of people that plan on watching the Super Bowl.
However, every football fan understands, “heads or tails.”
Therefore every football fan is equipped to bet on the Super Bowl coin toss.
The Kansas City Chiefs will take on Tampa Bay at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 7 in Super Bowl LV. This single sporting event will be the single biggest sports gambling event on the planet this year, with nearly $7 billion wagered on last year’s Super Bowl.
The majority of the money bet on the Super Bowl is bet on the side or the total. Kansas City is currently a -3.0 favorite and the total is 56.5. But one sportsbook manager estimates that nearly 30 percent of the book’s handle will come from money bet on proposition bets (or “props”) that have no direct impact on the game.
The public’s favorite prop: betting the Super Bowl coin toss.
On its face, betting on the coin toss is about as idiotic of a bet as anyone can make. This is a pure 50-50 proposition and there is absolutely no handicapping or strategy involved. It is, for lack of a better word, a guess.
Now, a simple-minded retort would be that all gambling is merely “guessing” since no one knows what is going to happen. That’s true, in a freshman-philosophy-student-kind-of-way. But there is an enormous amount of data and strategy that goes into something like betting on the Super Bowl total, which has a wide variety of potential permutations and outcomes.
A coin toss, on the other hand, is as basic as it gets.
And that’s why I think that’s one of the main reason that people like betting on the Super Bowl coin toss. It is simple. A coin toss represents something elementary and straightforward. Compared to the chaos and confusion of an NFL game, the coin toss seems like something that a bettor can control. That’s nonsense, of course, but that illusion of control -- specifically because there AREN’T a seemingly infinite amount of outcomes – can be a strong psychological driver for gamblers.
That brings me to the second reason that I think that people like betting on the Super Bowl coin toss. The reality is that the Super Bowl is the largest cultural event in this country and one of the largest in the entire world. The draw and meaning of something that big isn’t lost on people. And there are people desperate to be a part of something that monumental. That’s why people who don’t otherwise bet on football bet on the Super Bowl: they feel like it means more and they feel as if their wager inextricable links them to this monolithic human event.
If you bet on the Super Bowl – even if it is the coin toss – you are part of the Super Bowl.
(Of course, some guys just want to bet on the coin toss so that they can brag about having bet on the coin toss. In the sports gambling industry, those people are know as schmucks.)
Now that we’ve established a psychological reasoning for wanting to bet on the Super Bowl, let’s get into the mathematics of it.
And math shows that it is still a terrible bet.
Betting on a coin toss is kind of quintessential example of how sportsbooks make their money. There are two possible outcomes (heads or tails), and each one has a 50 percent chance of taking place. The sportsbooks offer bettors a chance to wager on either outcome, but they attach the standard 10 percent “juice”, “vig” or “vigorish” to the wager.
What this means is that you have to bet $110 to win $100. What it also means is if 50,000 people bet $110 on heads and 50,000 people bet $110 on tails, the sportsbooks are going to walk away with $500,000 in profit no matter what the coin lands on.
In the 54-year history of the Super Bowl coin toss, tails has come up 29 times compared to ‘just’ 25 times that heads has come through. That nominal discrepancy has come thanks to a recent run of tails, with the coin’s butt coming through in six of the last seven years. This surge by tails follows a dominating five-year stretch of heads from 2009-2013, the longest streak for either side in Super Bowl coin toss history.
Because of the popularity of Super Bowl coin toss betting, the sportsbooks have diversified their wagering options. Books offer the opportunity to bet which team will win the coin toss or to bet on a sort of parlay wager that includes picking whether or not the team that wins the coin toss also wins the game.
The road team gets to make the call on the coin toss. This year Kansas City will suit up as the road team this year – home and road designations rotate from AFC to NFC each year – so they will get to call the toss.
Again, there is no real strategy or mathematical advantage to this prop. And therefore, as a professional handicapper I have to politely suggest that you would be absolute foolish for betting it.
But a problem is only a problem if you have a solution. And my solution is to recommend an alternate prop bet for you to place your hard-earned money on. These props are generic in that they are generally offered every year regardless of which team is playing. And both offer much better value than the coin toss:
Shortest Rushing TD Scored 'Over' 1.5 Yards (+120)
One-yard touchdowns are a lot more rare than they seem. It is not like it was 30 years ago when a team will get the ball inside the five-yard line and then run three times trying to pound it into the end zone. Teams throw at the goal line all the time. (Just ask Seattle. D'oh!) And to get set up at the one-yard line you almost have to just get a pass interference call. There have only been eight one-yard touchdown runs in the last 19 Super Bowls – and two of them came last year. I think these touchdowns are kind of flukes. I don't think there will be any one-yard scores in this game, and I love the plus-money value on this one.
Also, if you bet the coin toss because you don’t want to watch the entire game, then here is a prop
First Score Of The Game By Either Team Will Be: Field Goal (+180)
The first score of the game has been a field goal for three straight years and four of the last five seasons. Now, going back further, the first score of the Super Bowl has been a field goal in seven of the past 14 years. That basically makes it a 50-50 proposition similar to the coin toss, right? But the difference is in the juice. For the coin toss the juice (or vig) is usually -110 or -105. For this wager it is +180 for a field goal compared to -240 for the first score being a touchdown. All of the value is on the field goal.
Think of it this way: if you were going to bet on the coin toss, and heads paid out nearly 2-to-1 and tails paid out less than half of that then, knowing what you know about the odds of either coming up, wouldn’t you put your money down on the option with the higher payout? It’s the same principle here.
Carpe diem. Good luck.
Robert Ferringo has been the top football handicapper in the country the past 10 years, earning nearly +40,000 in total football profit (average profit: ++3,800). He has also posted 8 of 10 winning seasons (including four straight winning years) and produced an amazing 56 of 87 winning football months over the past 14 years. Robert has hit at nearly 60 percent winners over his last 1,000 totals picks and has posted 12 of 14 winning Super Bowls.
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