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Gaming The Big Game


The amount wagered on the Super Bowl, including the various prop bets on events surrounding the action, is around $100 million in Las Vegas alone.


For gamblers of all stripes, the Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event of the year. The amount wagered, including the various prop bets on events surrounding the action (how many yards will Tom Brady pass for? will there be a safety?), is around $100 million in Las Vegas alone. Those prop bets, often unorthodox, are the best part of betting the Super Bowl.

When looking at prop bets, it's important to remember that the betting public loves the over (for example, the total number of sacks is over/under four). This stampede inflates the price, which is why we tend to go with the under. The one we like this time around is the under on total rushing yards for the Patriots. Most Sin City sportsbooks are showing an over/under of 122 yards. The actual number is liable to be closer to 100, making the under a good bet.

Not exotic enough? We saw a prop bet that asked the question: "Will any players be arrested before kickoff?" The yes and no were both listed at -110, which means you have to risk 110 to win 100. What we didn't see were any bets about Brady's protective boot, but we're keeping an eye out.

For those who prefer a straighter, narrower path when gambling, let's shift the focus to the betting line and total for Sunday's game. Like analyzing stocks, one need think in terms of probabilities. Our estimation of the fair line is the Patriots -10.5 with a total of 52 points.

A handful of factors go into handicapping a fair line for pigskin – statistics like Yards Per Play (YPP), for example. The current line in Vegas is Patriots -12 with a total of 54. An interesting thing to note here is that bookmakers want to create a line that facilitates two- sided action. In other words, they want a scenario where half the money is bet on the Patriots and half on the Giants. This doesn't necessarily mean oddsmakers believe -12 is fair. In fact, they may agree with us that -10.5 and 52 points is reasonable, but posting these on the board would encourage too much one-sided action.

The general public typically bets the favorite (in this case the Patriots) and the over, which skews the line from fair value. This time betting +12 on the Giants and under 54 is a slight advantage. The reason +12 isn't a large advantage over +10.5 is because betting +12 will cover approximately 53% of the time. The percentage isn't higher, because a margin of victory of 11 or 12 is an unlikely outcome.

To break even on a sports bet, one must win at a rate of 52.4%, because you have to risk 110 to win 100. In our opinion, taking the under 54 in the Super Bowl is a better play, because it's likely to happen 54% of the time, a full two points above our estimation of fair value at 52 points scored.

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