by Simon Noble - 02/01/2006
Now that it's finally Super Bowl week, bettors can celebrate that they'll have more betting options on this game than any other all year, as the one thing that the Super Bowl is known for, is the wide range of proposition bets offered. At Pinnacle Sportsbook you can bet on everything from the coin toss and first scoring play of the game, to the best Super Bowl commercial and first "Maddenism" announcer John Madden will utter after kickoff.
Although some of these proposition bets seem on the exotic side, they're a great way for smaller players to increase their bankroll because the lines are much more likely to be off. Normally there's only one person setting the line instead of at least a dozen separate odds makers who form the market for a side/total line on pro sports. Therefore when you wager on a proposition, it's typically your opinion versus just one odds maker. If you know more than that one odds maker, you are going to get the best of it.
Sports books know that propositions are dangerous. The risk of setting a bad price forces most online sportsbooks to use a 30 or 40-cent line on props with low wagering limits. At Pinnacle Sports Book, we're always looking to offer consistent value to the player which is why we use a 10 or 16-cent line on all of our proposition bets, giving bettors up to 75% better value on props than other bookmakers.
The biggest mistake that players and odds makers make when evaluating props is not understanding the difference between the median and the mean (average). For example, consider this prop from the NFC Championship game - "Will the first score be more than 24.5 yards?" During the game, there were scores from distances of 17, 1, 59, 39, 20, 1 and 47 yards. The average (mean) distance was 26.3 yards. If that were your only analysis, you might think that the price on the "Yes" would be a favorite, since the average is more than 24.5.
The correct way to analyze many of these types of props is to use the median. If you list the score lengths in ascending order, the median is the middle number:
If you knew before the game that there would be these seven scores, you'd price the "No" knowing the under would hit four out of seven times, making the no-vig price on the "No" -133 or (-4/3*100). In this instance, the first scoring play of the game was a 17-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck.
Although this concept is simple and rather obvious, it will pay dividends to anyone who spends time calculating the median. The median is useful on all types of props - from "length of first rush" to the "longest/shortest" props (where you use the median result from games for the whole season). In fact, there are two straightforward ways to accurately price these types of props.
First, you'll want to use as much data as possible. Seattle has played 18 games giving you a much better estimate of a fair mid-point. Then you'll want to adjust your data for the opponent. For example, you'll want to consider the distribution of scores by the Steelers this season. You may also want to ignore some data for games that aren't similar to the Super Bowl. Sharp bettors might only use Seattle data where the Seahawks were no more than a 7-point favorite on the assumption that they won't get as many long, easy scores as they did against weak opponents (i.e. Arizona where one game had 8 scores of 23 yards or more).
In addition to filtering the data, you can "tweak" it as well. Let's examine the following Super Bowl prop - "Total pass completions by Matt Hassleback (over/under 21.5)". His median on the season is 20, but he had more completions in games that Seattle lost or won by less than 7 points. Similarly, Pittsburgh allowed more completions in games they narrowly lost or won outright. If you go on the premise that Seattle won't blow out Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL, it makes sense to adjust the number of completions for Hasselback upwards. This shouldn't come as a surprise because teams don't usually run on third and long if the outcome is still in doubt.
Try to apply the ideas above on the proposition wagers currently offered for internet betting at Pinnacle Sportsbook:
Seattle (+4) v Pittsburgh; ML +176/-186
Every year we deal the Super Bowl, we see the same pattern. Money flows in continuously for the two weeks prior to the game with fairly balanced action until the last few days. Around Friday, money begins to pour in on the favorite. You can adjust your numbers to encourage buy-back from sharps near game time, but a bookmaker loses a lot of juice trying to balance the Super Bowl that way. We obviously want balanced action on the game, but not at the expense of losing too much potential vigorish as well. As a result, we have built up a sizable Seattle position anticipating the downpour of late money on the Steelers.
At the start of the week, we were trading Seattle at +3.5. With the combination of -104 style pricing which offers up to 60% better value on sides than other bookmakers and our slanting of the price to encourage Seattle bets, we've taken twice as many bets on the Seahawks as the Steelers. The sharps have expressed a clear opinion on the Seahawks - nearly all of the $100,000 limit bets we have taken have been from wise guys playing Seattle at +3.5 and +4. The Pinnacle Sportsbetting line now sees the Steelers favored by -4 -109.
Some of the larger professional players are favoring Seattle on the moneyline as well. Despite our $50,000 moneyline limits, we are taking many limit bets on the Seahawks. As with the spread, we are deliberately offering the best price on Seattle to build up a position before the likely influx of Pittsburgh money on the weekend. The price on the moneyline at current trading is Seattle +176 and Pittsburgh -186.
Bettis (PIT) Score a Rushing TD? (Yes -171)
This is an example of a difficult-to-price proposition. Bettis has scored TDs in 7 of the last 8 games, including all three playoff games. Before that, he only had TDs in 2 out of 10 games. When a player behaves differently in different parts of the season, it's dangerous to price these props. Despite missing the first three games of the season due to injury, he now has as many rushing TDs (12) as the rest of his team combined.
We initially opened the yes at -140, and took balanced action. The public clearly favors the yes, while the no is backed by several of our professional prop players. Prop players find Super Bowl props especially lucrative, as public money often drives the price off the fair number. This allows the pros to get multiple limit bets at a good price, instead of just one bet on more obscure props the public doesn't bet.
Hassleback Completions Under 21.5 (-130)
We opened the number at under 21.5 (-116) and saw moderate two-way action. Many propositions like this one are correlated to the game result. If Seattle takes a large lead or plays a close game, players find value in the under as the Seahawks would attempt fewer passes. If the game line of +4 is off (as many sharps believe), then many other prop numbers will be off as well. In a Seattle win or blowout, you'd expect less passes and completions from Hasselback and more rushing attempts and yards from Alexander.