Updated January 28, 2021 - 9:55 pm
In keeping with an annual Las Vegas tradition, the Westgate and William Hill sportsbooks posted their massive menus of Super Bowl LV prop bets on Thursday.
William Hill released 1,218 ways to wager on the game at 2 p.m., and the video wall at the Westgate lit up at 7 p.m. sharp with more than 1,000 wagering options on the Feb. 7 showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Westgate sportsbook director John Murray said the props account for more than 50 percent of its Super Bowl betting handle, or amount wagered, and William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich estimated props account for 40 to 45 percent of its handle.
More than 90 percent of the people in line at the Westgate were wiseguys, or sharp bettors, who were allowed to place two wagers to win up to $2,000 each before going to the back of the line to repeat the process.
“They’ll go through the line until they feel like the value’s gone,” Murray said. “Some of them will go through the line over a dozen times.”
The turnout was smaller than in years past, most likely because of the coronavirus pandemic. A steady stream of about 20 bettors cycled through the line for an hour. By 9 p.m., the sharps were done.
Some professional sports bettors, such as Jeff Whitelaw, made their own props and wagered on the biggest differences between their numbers and the books.
“I try to make my own numbers and then try to get sort of an idea or game plan of what I think’s going to occur in the game and try to play in accordance,” he said. “If the Westgate is off enough, I’ll make a play.
“I’ll play some stuff (Thursday), and I’ll play a lot of stuff the Saturday and Sunday of the game. The public will push some things out of whack a lot.”
For example, Whitelaw expects the masses to overinflate the quarterbacks’ numbers, so he’ll wait until close to game time to bet under on props involving Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady.
Mahomes’ over-under totals at William Hill are 27 completions, 41 attempts and 318½ passing yards.
Brady’s totals are 25½ completions, 39½ attempts and 295½ passing yards.
Pros vs. public
In general, sharps bet “under” and “no” on props, and the betting public bets “over” and “yes.”
“A lot of time, they’ll make a bet on something knowing the public will drive the price the other way, and they set themselves up for a big middle,” Murray said. “The only difference this year is we don’t know exactly how much public action we’re going to get.
“I definitely think tourism and foot traffic is going to be down from previous years because of the pandemic.”
Stuck in the middle
Many sharp bettors also will arbitrage, or wager on differences between books to guarantee a profit, aka a scalp.
One bettor who wished to remain anonymous found a scalp on Mahomes’ total touchdown passes. He wagered $2,000 to win $2,400 on over 2½ at William Hill at +120 and $2,310 to win $2,100 on under 2½ at the Westgate at -110. If it goes under, he’ll win $100. If it goes over, he’ll win $90.
Other bettors tried to middle numbers between books and win both bets.
Professional sports bettor Frank Carulli was at the Westgate trying to find middles on his mobile apps.
“You’re digging through a minefield to try to find a little nugget. But if you find one, it’s a home run,” he said. “It’s all who gets to it first. It’s a feeding frenzy for the people who try to find those.”
Carulli found a few middles, including betting Ronald Jones over 34½ rushing yards at the Westgate and under 40½ at William Hill; and Darrel Williams over 28½ rushing yards at the Westgate and under 35½ at William Hill.
Straight cash, Mahomes
For all the complex cross-sport props, Murray said the player to score the first touchdown will be one of the most popular props.
“One thing people are going to love to bet on this game is Mahomes to score the first touchdown,” Murray said. “He did it against Cleveland (in their divisional playoff game), and he did it in the Super Bowl last year and we got buried on that. I can already tell you, if Mahomes scores the first touchdown, we’re going to get killed on that.”
Mahomes is 16-1 at the Westgate to score the first touchdown.