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Prop bets keep ‘em watching

Nick Bogdanovich will be the first to tell you he knows absolutely nothing about handball.

But the man who oversees William Hill’s sports betting operation in the United States apparently knows someone who does. Otherwise, why would he have posted a proposition bet using the total goals scored in Sunday’s World Handball Championship between host Qatar and France against the number of total receiving yards for Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin?

“You’ve got to come up with different things,” said Bogdanovich, who gave “props” to Adam Pullen for coming up with all the crossover bets William Hill offered.

And so it was Sunday. Throughout Las Vegas there were hundreds of ways to have action on Super Bowl XLIX. From the most simple wager of which way the coin flip would land (it came up tails) to all the crossover props which ran the gamut from the NBA and NHL to soccer, golf, boxing, tennis, horse racing and college hockey, there was no shortage of opportunities.

Jay Kornegay, who runs the Superbook at the Westgate Las Vegas, had almost 400 betting options for his patrons. At the Westgate, prop bets accounted for roughly 55 percent of the Superbook’s Super Bowl handle.

“It was a small winner for us,” Kornegay said of the props, none, ironically, which included Seahawks receiver Chris Matthews who had a touchdown grab as part of a four-catch, 109-yard day and might have been the game’s Most Valuable Player after his coach Pete Carroll decided to throw the ball in the final seconds from the New England 1 rather than hand it off to the reliable Marshawn Lynch. “People were on things like ‘Will a team score three straight times?’, the ‘Over/Under on the shortest field goal at 25½ yards’ and the ‘Number of players throwing a pass at over 2½.’”

Nobody in town offered Matthews in their prop bets and Kornegay said the reason was simple — the guy hadn’t caught a pass all year.

“He was way under the radar so we didn’t bother putting him on the sheets,” Kornegay said. “What a hidden weapon he was for Seattle.”

At Wynn Las Vegas, prop bets accounted for just 15 percent of the handle on the game according to race and sports director John Avello.

“We had some horse racing crossover prop bets and a few other things but people mostly like to bet the traditional stuff,” Avello said. “People were betting the over on everything (Tom) Brady. But I don’t think we’ll get hurt on the props.”

Bogdanovich said people were betting the over on virtually everything at William Hill.

“Brady. Gronk (Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski). Lynch, Anything with those guys people were betting the over,” Bogdanovich said. But some of the crossover bets proved popular too.

“We also had a lot of action on a couple of basketball props,” Bogdanovich said, pointing to Steph Curry’s total points and rebounds in Golden State’s game vs. Phoenix Saturday (29) minus-4½ vs. Seattle’s Luke Willson receiving yards as a popular play (Willson didn’t have a catch). Another popular wager was Carmelo Anthony’s total points (31) Sunday for the New York Knicks against the Los Angeles Lakers minus-½ against the total points for the Seahawks (24). The NBA carried the day on both wagers.

At the South Point, it was all about the basics. With a $1,000 betting limit on prop bets, the South Point didn’t need to worry about being over-exposed on Sunday.

“We kept it simple,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, who estimated that prop bets would account for 30 percent of the South Point’s overall action on the game. “With our core business, we didn’t need to be extravagant. We need to be efficient.

“Nothing against the Westgate or William Hill. I applaud what they do. For us, we’re just giving our customers what they’re looking for. It’s the same thing every year. When people come into our place, they’re betting whether there’ll be overtime, if there’ll be a two-point conversion and whether there’ll be a safety. There’s plus money to be made on those and the bettors like it.”

There was one scary moment for the books at the end of the game following the Malcolm Butler interception of Russell Wilson at the 1 that appeared to have sealed the game for New England. There was a prop bet of a safety for the last score of the game at 40-1 and had there not been an offsides penalty against the Seahawks to give Brady and the Patriots a little breathing room, Brady might have elected to kneel down in the end zone and give up two points. Instead, Brady had room to kneel down and not risk additional points for the Seahawks and the Super Bowl safety streak ended at three.

“We were sweating that one,” Kornegay said.

But while the books may have lost on the game and the total, they said they were in good shape when it came to the prop bets. The house made some money while having some fun.

As for the Handball-Baldwin bet William Hill was offering? France beat Qatar, 25-22, to win the title and with the 47 total goals scored plus laying 1½, it bumped the total up to 48½. It meant Baldwin needed to amass 49 yards to be the winning side. He finished with only three yards, making the handball side the easy winner.

“It wasn’t a real popular bet,” Bogdanovich said. “I think we booked $61 total on it. But hey, it’s a fun thing and I can guarantee you we are the first ones to do a handball prop bet at the Super Bowl.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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Las Vegas handicapper Bruce Marshall is an analyst at VegasInsider.com. Each week, he provides the Review-Journal with NFL tech notes and trends.