LAS VEGAS — A primer on the fundamentals of betting the multitude of Super Bowl props that will be offered before the Patriots and Rams kick off a week from Sunday:
Try to be professional
While Super Bowl props are meant to be fun, we really need to treat these seriously and like an investment. It’s easier said than done, but let’s try to limit our bets to ones that have a better chance to happen than the odds we’re being offered. Unless you’re a true professional sports bettor and believe your research can outdo the oddsmakers and find edges, I believe you should trust that the bookies already have done the homework in setting the lines based on what teams or individuals average and shading for any other factors.
In that case, our job is to figure out what game scenarios might happen on Super Sunday that make the results more likely on one side than the others. For instance, did you see how the Patriots shut down the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce last week? If you had decided that Bill Belichick — who has a great reputation for taking away a team’s top weapon — was going to double-cover one or both of those guys, that’s the way you should have bet in the AFC title game props. Whom will Belichick try to take away on Super Sunday? What will the Rams do differently that might affect their and the Patriots’ props?
Trust your handicapping
You should tailor your props bets to how you handicap the game overall. Last year, I nearly swept my props because I predicted the Eagles to keep the game close and ultimately beat the Patriots outright. I cashed on the Eagles’ LeGarrette Blount to have over 7.5 carries against his former team, Blount over 27.5 rushing yards, Blount over 9.5 yards for his longest rush and Blount +180 to score a TD. I also nailed the game to be tied after 0-0 (that cashed early as it was 3-3 in the first quarter) and largest lead of the game to be under 14.5 points. I also truly believed the coaches would have some trick plays up their sleeves, so I went with Over 2.5 players (+180) to throw a pass, cashing when Danny Amendola threw his incomplete pass to Tom Brady and piled on with Trey Burton’s “Philly Special” TD pass to Nick Foles. That could be in play this year, especially if you believe Rams coach Sean McVay will let punter Johnny Hekker throw another pass.
Now, I should add a caveat: While I say to have your prop wagers fit your narrative of how the game will be played, you shouldn’t ignore value bets on the other team if they make sense. Not all props are going to win (or go Over) on the winning team nor lose (or stay Under) on the losing team, so approach each with a search for value.
Look Under rather than Over
Most bettors love to root for something to happen, as opposed to cheering for players to not pad their stats, so the vast majority of the individual player props are shaded higher than they should be. Thus, the value is usually on the Under (again, unless you can find reasons why a certain player will be used more than usual). In addition to just falling short of a season average that many of those player props are set at, you also have to factor in the chance of injury keeping a player Under (not that anyone would or should cheer for an injury just because it helps them cash a bet).
Bet as early as you can (unless …)
There’s a reason the professional bettors were lined up at the Westgate in Las Vegas Thursday night for the release of its props, and that’s because they wanted first crack at the openers to get the best numbers. Now, they don’t always bat a thousand, but if you think there’s an edge to be found, probably others see the same things and the best numbers won’t last.
While we’re mostly talking about “sharp” bets here, this can also go for popular bets that end up getting bet down. For instance, professional bettors usually bet on “no safety” and “no overtime” because the odds are set lower than the true odds on the “yes” because books know the public loves to bet those and cheer for those unlikely occurrences (of course, the sharps have been burned several times in recent years with a bunch of safeties and then the first and only overtime in Super Bowl history two years ago with the Patriots-Falcons).
Still, if you really believe we’ll have overtime (heck, why not, as both conference championship games went to extra time), then bet it early to get the best price before books lower it to limit their exposure. But — and this is a big BUT — if you’re able to monitor the lines on the props you like and can see which way they’re headed, that should tell you if you’re better off waiting. The more you follow the betting markets, the more you’ll make those right decisions.