How big is the Super Bowl nowadays? How about so big the Las Vegas betting action on the game alone is estimated to be in the low billions, Bovada's head oddsmaker Pat Morrow said via a telephone interview Wednesday.
It isn't just whether the Denver Broncos, a three-point favorite at Morrow's book, will defeat the Seattle Seahawks and cover the spread, either.
There are as many as 500 ways to take action on the game with props—bets on anything from the length of the national anthem to whether Richard Sherman will be interviewed by Erin Andrews on the field after the game, something Morrow is really looking forward to seeing.
"The business is booming in the past five to 10 years," Morrow said. "The Internet has made the world a lot smaller place. Also, the limits have grown larger, and there are more options on how to take action on the game."
And with props, there are seemingly infinite options, he said. In fact, sports publicist Jimmy Shapiro said if there is something you can think you want to bet on that Bovada doesn't have, it is interested in drawing up odds for you and allowing you to wager on it. All it would take is a simple email or perhaps a tweet to Bovada.
Morrow estimates a decade ago the various side bets on the Super Bowl represented less than 5 percent of the total money wagered on the game. That figure has grown to 35 to 40 percent, he said. That is a larger percentage of a number growing into the low billions, mind you.
So, yeah, big business all right.
The sportsbooks love the prop betting as much as the players do. Morrow said the house's margins there can help offset the losses on the game.
So are these props sucker bets? Morrow said not necessarily.
"They can be in the bettor's favor. Our focus is fairly razor sharp on the outcome of the game, but you can find some inefficiency in the marketplace there."
Yours truly is a Super Bowl prop-betting neophyte, but let's see if we can help you find some betting value in the vast world of Super Bowl XLVIII props.
The following slideshow outlines some of the wackiest ways to wager this weekend. I even tried to pick Morrow's brain along the way, so we will have some of his advice in there too—even if he is working for the house and paid to make it money.
The NFC was a 2.5-point favorite before Peyton Manning's Broncos knocked off the New England Patriots and Richard Sherman set the NFL world on its ear with this postgame rant. It moved the line to three points in favor of the Broncos.
The money has moved that line down to a mere two points at some betting locations, like Bet Eagle.
Kevin Bradley, Bovada's sportsbook manager, told us via email Thursday:
With only a few days away this looks to be our highest wagered Super Bowl ever, on pace to be 25% higher than last year. We are starting to see some more Seattle money and what was 60% of the action for the first 10 days on Denver is now down to 55% both on the spread and the money line. What surprises me is even with the weather looking to be warmer and less chance of snow, 70% of the bets are still on the Under 47.
This move is making the Denver Broncos an even stronger play. Remember, the point spread has rarely come into play in Super Bowl history, as we originally wrote here. Also, an increasingly favorable forecast has moved the total up a point to 48.
Here are the lines we see at Bovada as of Saturday morning:
Seattle Seahawks +3 (-110)
Denver Broncos -3 (-110)
Seattle Seahawks +150
Denver Broncos -135
Over 48 (-110)
Under 48 (-110)
One solid piece of advice in wagering on sports: Ignore what the public is doing. Have your own slant on the game. The money might be moving to the Seahawks, but beating Peyton Manning and the most prolific offense in NFL history should be a tall task even for the famed Legion of Boom.
The Denver Broncos laying three points is the play. You can even find it at two points in some betting locations now, as we mentioned above.
The unseasonably warm weather—dry with little wind—is headed for the best-case scenario for Manning and his aerial assault. It will be a close game that comes down to the fourth quarter, but the Seattle Seahawks will have a hard time matching wits with Manning and his receiving quartet in the hurry-up situations.
If you're going to play the total, the "over" is the smarter option. Again, ignore the big dollars being played on the under. Last year's Super Bowl looked like defense versus defense, and it went way over the total of 48 (34-31).
Denver (-3), parlayed with the over, is where I am going with this one.
Morrow has a favorite prop, even if it isn't lighting up the action (pun entirely intended). With this Super Bowl being played between two states that have legalized marijuana, it has become known as the Stoner Bowl or "Bong Bowl," as Morrow called it.
Heck, the photo above is of Bryan Weinman holding a shirt he is hawking at his registered Internet domain, StonerBowl.org, as the Associated Press' Gene Johnson reports, via theprovince.com.
Naturally, Morrow and Bovada wanted to be a part of the phenomenon. They posted a prop on whether the Super Bowl broadcast would mention the word marijuana during the course of the game. As much as Morrow likes the uniqueness of the prop, it doesn't figure to be a profitable bet.
"'No' is a significant favorite, so it doesn't generate much of a betting handle," Morrow said. "It's a fun bet. I just wish it would have taken more money."
Morrow did mention the game being on Fox as opposed to ABC or NBC might help, because "Fox is racier," he said. Still, "No" opened at minus-900. A mention of marijuana on the broadcast would cash $550 on a $100 wager.
Will the announcers say the word "marijuana" during the game?
Yes: +550 (11/2)
No: -900 (1/9)
You shouldn't play this—or do drugs—but if you want to spark up some fun, bag a nickel, dime or quarter (more completely intentional puns) on "Yes."
Will Richard Sherman be interviewed on-field after the game by Erin Andrews on the live Fox broadcast and shown on TV?
Bovada's Morrow certainly hopes so, and it has nothing to do with earning the house some of the bettor's money. Morrow told us:
My favorite prop that is generating handle is whether Richard Sherman will be interviewed by Erin Andrews after the game. It would be hilarious and awesome to see Part II of that interview. Of course a lot would have to happen, since the Seahawks are an underdog. They would have to win, and Sherman would have to do something in the game.
We couldn't find this prop posted online, but Shapiro and Morrow said it can be wagered on at Bovada. Sherman is one of the more popular players to watch in the game and with prop bets.
Here are some of the other ways you can wager on the trash-talking shutdown corner:
Total tackles and assists
Over 3.5 -115
Under 3.5 -115
(Bovada is clearly banking on Sherman's intelligence here, expecting he won't put his team in an uncompromising situation—at least until the game ends.)
Unnecessary roughness penalty?
Pass interference penalty?
If you are a Seattle Seahawks fan or a Sherman supporter, you're not going to like this writer's advice. The Broncos are going to win, so bet "No" on a Sherman-Andrews interview—even if Fox should make one happen regardless of the game's outcome.
As for the other props:
- Under 3.5 tackles and assists—Peyton Manning tends to throw away from great corners
- No on a Sherman interception—for the same reason
- Yes, or no play, on a taunting penalty
- Yes, or no play, on an unnecessary roughness penalty
- Yes, or no play, on a pass interference penalty
Enough of Morrow's favorite props. His job is on the line if he does too much damage to Bovada's margins—although he admits Super Bowl props are posted not to earn more for the house as much as to introduce casual bettors to Bovada and the industry.
Easily my favorite prop among the some 500 Bovada offers is:
Will Michael Crabtree mention Richard Sherman in a tweet during the Super Bowl from kickoff until final whistle?
Not only do I like this one because I truly believe Sherman's antics warrant some retribution, and karma will eventually hit him back, but you get some value here. A $100 bet—Bovada has limits on this one—can net you $300.
Whenever the house limits the amount of money you can bet, you have to figure it is not quite sure it has enough information to be certain of its odds.
While Crabtree is likely too big of a man to concern himself with what Sherman is doing this Sunday from kickoff to final whistle, it would be interesting to see him rip the man who ripped him, say, if Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas burn him for a touchdown.
Heck, if you have a buddy who knows Crabtree on a personal level, can you ask him to just tweet out the word "Sherman" @KingCrab15 right after kickoff? I need a new iPad.
That is a joke, but I had to ask Bovada's Morrow if the books fear for insider trading such as that on these unique props. It wouldn't take much for a personal friend to ask Crabtree to send that tweet and make some money on the house. Morrow said the books put limits on props like that for that reason, and Crabtree's NFL contract isn't worth the potential connection to gambling.
Still, though, seriously...let's get Crabtree on Twitter Sunday evening.
Call me a sucker, an eternal optimist or a lover of drama, but I am going with the value on "yes" here. Sick 'em, Manning, Thomas and Crabtree. That cocky son of a gun deserves to be served some humble pie at this Super Bowl party.
Since the NFL controversially awarded the first outdoor, winter Super Bowl to the New York metro area, it was a fear winter weather would wreak havoc on the game. Naturally, sportsbooks want bettors to wager on the weather conditions too.
Will it snow during the game?
Yes +300 (3/1)
No -500 (1/5)
We asked Bovada's Morrow about how often the books change the lines on these props. It is not often, usually, but one that is monitored multiple times a day is the snow prop, he said.
The odds haven't changed much because the weather forecast hasn't from the national weather services, but Morrow said the books raise the limit you can wager on this as the day draws closer and the forecast can be more accurately projected.
Right now, Accuweather.com has game-time temperatures above freezing—you can bet on that too—with clear skies. Snow is an underdog this Sunday, along with the Seahawks.
As for whom Bovada and other sportsbooks rely on for their weather forecasts, Morrow gave a generic response. He did say you might be able to catch some value if the forecast changes and you make a wager before the books can adjust the odds, though.
Don't let hype get the better of you. We won't be watching a Super Bowl in a winter wonderland, unfortunately. "No" is the better bet if you don't mind the paying the 5-1 odds.
The mysterious power outage in New Orleans last year has rendered a prop Bovada's Morrow considers the "craziest" among the some 500 offered this year.
Will the power go out in the stadium during the game?
Even more interesting than this prop is the fact Morrow had to alter the line from its original 25-1 odds.
"There has been some money come in that has made this a small liability for us," Morrow said.
Wow. Conspiracy theorists, stand up! Now if that happens again, we might be asking some questions about the MetLife Stadium personnel—half-kidding.
Sportsbooks wouldn't have dreamed of a prop like this until it happened after halftime a year ago.
"We're not that clairvoyant," Morrow said.
Now, it might be a Super Bowl prop indefinitely.
Despite the fact that some money is making this prop a liability, as Morrow said, you have to figure the NFL doesn't want the embarrassment of another long power-outage delay. (But, hey, Super Bowl commercials are big money too!) Don't touch "Yes" on this one.
Who the heck is Renee Fleming? I kept that question to myself because I am embarrassed to admit I have no idea who she is after hearing she will be singing the national anthem.
I did ask Bovada's Morrow what the most popular prop is outside of the game's total, which has become such a commonplace wager in sports, it is almost as popular as the game's winner. Morrow answered quickly.
"The coin toss, because it is simple, but that is also boring," he said.
Fans of props like that one because it's easy and out of the way early, he added. One of the interesting and most popular props every year is the length of the national anthem. But bettor beware:
"We're pretty good at it," said Morrow, who admits his people have become fairly accurate on the length of the Super Bowl national anthem over the years.
If you are looking to find value in Super Bowl props, it is advisable to not bet against the numbers. Statistics never lie, they say; they also tend to work in the house's favor. Sportsbooks limit the amount you can bet on certain props if they lack confidence in their numbers.
"Player-performance props can have higher limits, because we can throw math at it," Morrow said.
Like the work they put in on the length of the national anthem.
How long will it take Renee Fleming to sing the national anthem?
Over two minutes, 25 seconds +120
Under two minutes, 25 seconds -160
More anthem props
Will Fleming forget or omit at least one word?
Yes +250 (5/2)
No -400 (1/4)
Will she wear gloves when she starts singing?
Yes -200 (1/2)
No +150 (3/2)
If she wears gloves, what color will they be?
Any other color 3/1
What will be higher?
Seconds in the national anthem sung by Renee Fleming -120
Peyton Manning passing yards in the first half -120
Don't bet against the house's odds on the length of the national anthem, even Morrow admits that, and he wants you to place action and keep solid margins for the house. He said candidly:
The national anthem has a high success rate for us, yes. We are usually close to a half-second on it. It is really hard to beat us on that. So, if you're looking for value on props, look elsewhere.
With that in mind, we see a pretty good value on that last anthem prop above.
Knowing the house is pretty certain Fleming's anthem is going to be with a half-second of 145 seconds—and Manning is facing the famed Legion of Boom in the outdoors during the winter—bet as much as you can afford and the house permits on Renee Fleming singing for more seconds than yards Manning passes for in the first half!
Even for a writer expecting a Broncos victory and hoping for Manning humbling Richard Sherman and co., we should expect Manning to start cautiously and slowly in the first half throwing the ball downfield against the Seahawks. He will be under 145 yards in the first half, while Fleming is right at 145 seconds on her national anthem.
If you lose your house, you will be left crying Sunday night. If Knowshon Moreno was caught gushing tears before a regular-season game, you have to bet he will be tearing up for the Super Bowl.
Will Knowshon Moreno cry during the singing of the national anthem?
This line opened at 4-1 on him crying, according to Shapiro. It is now closer to even. The betting public agrees, and you still get value on Moreno's tears.
Expect him to have his emotions flowing down his cheeks more than ever. Heck, the free-agent-to-be has more than just a world championship at stake in the biggest game of his life!
He can earn himself a life-size nest egg. Earn yourself one here too.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.