How Betting on Super Bowl Props Became So Popular

Man Holding Money
Less than two weeks have passed since the New England Patriots outlasted the Los Angeles Rams in a 13-3 snoozer to win Super Bowl 53.

But where the big game lacked in offensive fireworks and compelling drama, it more than made up for it with a record-setting abundance of prop bets on the board.

Short for “proposition,” a prop bet is a special wager that concerns a single isolated aspect of a sports contest. Bettors who enjoy props can get action down on anything from which player will score the game’s first touchdown, to what color Gatorade will be doused on the winning head coach – and everything in between.

Don’t take my word for it though, just check out the list below for a small sampling of prop bets offered at the Las Vegas Westgate SuperBook for Super Bowl 53:

Super Bowl 53 Prop Betting Results

Prop Bet Result Odds
National Anthem O/U Time PUSH 1:49 N/A
Will Gladys Knight be Wearing a Skirt, Dress or a Gown Yes -175
Will Any Player Take a Knee During the National Anthem? No -700
Total Donald Trump tweets on February 3 UNDER 6 -120
Coin Toss Result Tails -105
Who will Win the Coin Toss Rams -105
Will a Non-QB Throw a Touchdown? No -600
What will be the first enforced penalty of the game? Personal Foul +550
First Pass Attempt – Tom Brady Interception +2599
First Pass Attempt – Jared Goff Incomplete +165
Total Yards on First Rushing Attempt – C.J. Anderson OVER 3.5 -115
Total Yards on First Rushing Attempt – Todd Gurley UNDER 3.5 -115
Total Yards on First Rushing Attempt – Sony Michel OVER 3.5 -115
Will There be an Onside Kick Attempt in the Game? No +110
Team to Score First Patriots -125
Team to Record First Sack Rams -110
First Score of the Game Patriots FG +350
First Touchdown Scorer Sony Michel +500
Patriots’ First Touchdown Scorer Sony Michel +250
Rams’ First Touchdown Scorer No Scorer +2000

And remember, that’s just a tiny taste of the more than 400 unique prop bets offered by the world’s largest sportsbook facility. Even with the two dozen prop bets posted above, however, you can see exactly how diverse and eclectic the Super Bowl betting market happens to be.

After all, where else can you plunk money down on the number of tweets Donald Trump will send from the Oval Office, how long soul singer Gladys Knight will take to complete her rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner,” or whether Tom Brady’s first pass attempt will wind up caught by a defensive player?

Speaking of “Tom Terrific” throwing an unexpected interception to open the game, bold bettors who backed this prop earned a whopping $2,599 return on a $100 wager. Not bad for bucking conventional wisdom and betting against the greatest playoff quarterback to ever step foot on an NFL field…

Super Bowl prop betting has become a big business for major sportsbook operators in Las Vegas and beyond. This year, the Westgate Superbook hauled in $400,000 in prop betting “handle” – or total wagers placed – within only three hours of posting the opening odds.

And according to Jay Kornegay – head oddsmaker and director of the Westgate SuperBook – his venue counts over 60 percent of its Super Bowl handle from prop betting. That’s enough for $70 million cash infusion on sports betting’s most important day of the year.

If you’re like millions of other Americans, the chances are good you placed a prop bet or two on Super Bowl Sunday. And if that’s the case, you might be wondering exactly where this entertaining annual tradition really came from.

Well, you’re in luck, as the history of Super Bowl prop betting is presented in detail throughout the rest of this page:

The Fridge Plunges in and Super Bowl Prop Betting is Born

Way back on January 26, 1986, football fans from coast to coast were suffering through yet another Super Bowl blowout.

Between the years 1984 and 1997, 11 of the 14 Super Bowls resulted in lopsided score differentials of 13 points or more. That means fans were treated to a meaningful 4th quarter with the game on the line only three times over a decade and a half.

Super Bowl XX was no different, as the vaunted Chicago Bears – owners of a 15-1 record and the greatest defensive squad ever assembled on the gridiron – were shellacking a shell-shocked Patriots team to the tune of 37-3 late in the 3rd quarter.

With Chicago on the goal line and poised to score yet another touchdown to cap their first Super Bowl victory, head coach Mike Ditka made a curious call that has since become the stuff of legend. Instead of handing the ball to future Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton – who had yet to find the end zone in the biggest game of his life – Ditka sent his massive 350-pound defensive tackle William Perry into the huddle.

Nicknamed “The Refrigerator” due to his stature and bulk, Perry took the handoff and pounded through the defense to score seven – the fourth time he had done so during a stellar rookie campaign.

The play didn’t do much to change the outcome of Super Bowl XX, but for sportsbook operators in Sin City, the “Fridge” plowing in for a score produced an immediate six-figure loss.

That’s because Art Manteris – the current vice president of Stations Casino who served as head bookmaker for Caesars Palace at the time – used the Super Bowl to experiment with a little something he liked to call prop betting.

Given the propensity for blowouts in the big game during that era, Manteris was looking for any opportunity to attract casual bettors to his sportsbook. On a lark, Manteris posted a unique wager asking bettors whether or not Perry would score an offensive touchdown during the Super Bowl. Folks who answered “Yes” were offered 20 to 1 odds against, as Manteris was aware that Perry hadn’t rushed since November and didn’t think Ditka would buck the trend with a title on the line.

Soon enough, rival oddsmakers like Jimmy Vaccaro at the MGM were offering the same 20 to 1 odds, bringing scores of casual bettors to the window. By the time kickoff arrived, heavy action on Perry to score had drove the odds all the way down to 2 to 1.

And when Perry made his infamous plunge into the Patriots end zone, bookmakers throughout Las Vegas were forced to tally up losses well into the hundreds of thousands on a single prop.

But rather than turn sportsbooks off from prop betting, the Perry play wound up proving to be a pivotal moment in the history of sports betting.

Jay Kornegay Turns the Imperial Palace into Prop Betting Central

By 1990, with the NFL still stuck in an extended Super Bowl blowout rut, oddsmakers like Jay Kornegay were getting antsy.

Super Bowl XXIV featured the stacked San Francisco 49ers as huge 12-point favorites over the Denver Broncos. With quarterback Joe Montana on the cusp of his third Lombardi Trophy, Kornegay needed a way to get bettors interested in visiting his Imperial Palace sportsbook for the big game.

At the time, sportsbooks offered a standard slate of 25 or so prop bets for the Super Bowl, but as he told RotoGrinders in a recent interview, Kornegay had a greater vision in mind:

 “It was a standard menu of propositions back then.

It wasn’t really given a lot of thought but more a sidebar to the Super Bowl.

Back in those days a lot of people considered those sucker bets.”

Thinking on his feet, Kornegay found a way to connect the Super Bowl with the brightest superstar in all of sports.

He created a prop bet which asked bettors who would score more points that Sunday – the 49ers or Michael Jordan. Folks who backed “His Airness” must have loved to see Jordan light the scoreboard up for 39 points, but Montana and Jerry Rice connected again and again in a 55-10 rout of the Broncos.

Even then, Kornegay knew that the future of Super Bowl betting involved cobbling together as many creative prop bets as humanly possible:

“It was just so popular. Everybody couldn’t get enough of that one.

We knew we had something big.”

To hear Kornegay tell it in his interview with RotoGrinders, the man who now heads up the largest sportsbook on the planet at the Westgate SuperBook saw prop bets as a hook to keep gamblers interested until the final whistle sounded:

“We started thinking of propositions as a way to keep people interested in the game to the very end because so many were blowouts at the time.

In the early 90s we came up with some prop bets that wouldn’t be decided until later in the game and there was a lot of interest in them. We were pleasantly surprised.”

Five years later, Super Bowl XXIX once again featured Montana and his Niners dynasty taking on the San Diego Chargers. With the point spread set at an absurd (-19) in favor of the 49ers – by far the largest Super Bowl spread ever posted – Kornegay once again turned to his prop betting back of tricks to bring bettors through the door.

As he explained to RotoGrinders, Kornegay increased the betting limit on props from $50 to $150, while significantly expanding the selection of wagers to choose from:

“There was no doubt who was going to win in 1995, so we really took the proposition menu to a new level.

We came up with over 100 different props for the game, which really took off. At that time, we were the only ones that had an extensive menu of propositions. From that point, we knew we were on to something.”

Over the last 25 years since Montana and his 49ers covered that enormous spread in a 49-26 rout, Super Bowl prop betting has taken on a life of its own.

Opening coin flips, halftime performer hair color, Presidential temper tantrums on Twitter – literally anything goes these days.

Kornegay’s operation at the Westgate Superbook posted 440 unique prop bets for Super Bowl 53, and you can bet your bottom dollar that the menu will grow even larger when next year’s big game rolls around.

Conclusion

Prop betting appeals to casual football fans and diehards alike for one simple reason – versatility. Instead of limiting yourself to the point spread or final score total, prop bets allow you to digest a steady stream of sweats and results as the Super Bowl festivities stretch on. And as history has proven, even the dullest blowouts where all drama on the field has long since vanished can still produce wild prop betting swings.

When the two-week hype period for Super Bowl 54 begins next January, do yourself a favor and study the full prop betting slate to find fun wagers that tickle your fancy – you won’t be sorry.

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