Super Bowl LVIII is shaping up to be the perfect gambling storm. The big game features two storied NFL franchises, including the reigning champion. It's a Super Bowl rematch from a few years ago. Then, there's the added intrigue of links to the hottest stars in entertainment, pop music, and even politics. Moreover, sports gambling has never been more publicly accessible, nor as widely popular. Oh, and for the first time ever, this year’s Super Bowl is being played in Las Vegas.
On second thought, this isn’t just a perfect storm – it’s more like a gambling hurricane with an exploding volcano, accompanied by a Taylor Swift soundtrack.
Predictably, Las Vegas sportsbooks report heavy interest, both in terms of the number of bets they’re taking and the amounts of wagers, which are as high as a million dollars on one side bet. The total handle (i.e., the amount of combined wagers on all game-related sides, totals, props, and exotics) is certain to be record-smashing. One reason for this explosion is the overwhelming number of betting options on a single game. Indeed, many local casinos offer hundreds of different props, which means tens of thousands of different wagering possibilities available to the public. In Las Vegas, you can wager on just about everything – from the opening coin toss to who will win the game’s MVP award.
For many years, the Westgate Sportsbook was ground zero for Super Bowl propositions. From its earlier days as the Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook, the Westgate was usually the first major casino to release hundreds of props. That pioneering trend continues. Last week, the Westgate opened up early with more than 800 props, mostly over/unders on individual player stats and "yes or no" questions on a particular occurrence happening during the game.
Today, most casinos have copied this winning formula and now offer an extensive menu of their own Super Bowl betting options. A savvy bettor can shop around to find the best numbers. Many props might appear to be the same, but the odds are often quite different across the street and down the block. Sometimes, the numbers are really "off" or just slow to react to market movement, which is why it pays to shop around.
With so many different options and opinions out there (many of them in conflict), where do you start? How does a smart bettor make sense of all the chaos and confusion, which in a casino is by design? Hint: The casinos love this uncertainty.
Getting started on propositions depends on your goals and objectives and how much time and energy you want to spend researching and number shopping. If you're doing this just for fun or to be "in action," that's fine. Find someone you trust (perhaps a football analyst or even a friend who knows the game), and go along with recommendations that make sense, paying particular attention to data-driven selections. If you're more serious and want to grind out a profit, that probably demands more time and work. But there are no guarantees.
I advise Super Bowl bettors who want a combination of fun with a bit of seriousness to pick the winning team in the game. Then decide how you think it will play out and find some props that conform to that projected outcome. For instance, if you think San Francisco will win a high-scoring game, that likely means you should also be betting multiple props on the 49ers players to go "over" on yardage and points scored.
Another example: If you think Kansas City will win a low-scoring game, that likely means betting multiple props on the 49ers players to go "under" on yardage while scoring fewer points. By doing this “combo pack” strategy, you can craft an investment portfolio that maximizes a big return if your prediction is correct. This can be much more fun than just picking a side. Of course, the opposite side of the betting outcome could prove disastrous. So think it through. Some bettors even like to do a bit of hedging, which means wagering on (seemingly) contradictory outcomes.
The opportunity to engage in live (also called "in game" betting) promises additional wagering opportunities. There's also halftime, which starts a whole new ballgame called the second half. Yes, the Super Bowl betting options seem almost unlimited.
I'll try to keep this generic. That means, I'll post props that stand out (appear to have value) without any bias towards either team or the over/under. What's important here are the props, the numbers (odds), and the data that makes it a compelling wager worthy of consideration:
[Please note all odds/numbers are subject to change]
For many years, one of the most reliable prop bets was wagering on the 2nd Half to be higher scoring than the 1st Half. Why? Answer--Defenses get tired as the game plays out and scoring gets easier. The trailing team in the Super Bowl often gets desperate and takes more chances in the 2nd Half. However, this trend seems to have faded in recent years and perhaps is now even reversing itself.
Consider the powerhouse "under" team that Kansas City has been all season long. Through 20 games (17 in the regular season plus 3 playoff games), the Chiefs are a staggering 18-2 to the "under" in the 2nd Half. This Chiefs team builds a lead and then sits on it. Their defense is also the NFL's best at making halftime adjustments.
San Francisco is also a good "under" team in the 2nd Half, especially when points were scored in the opening two quarters. In 13 Niners' games this season where the 1st Half went "over," the 2nd Half "under" went 9-5. Betting the 2nd Half to be higher scoring in this matchup requires laying -130. That number is simply not justified by the data. So, I'll take the plus money at +110 and look for more points to be scored in the 1st Half.
This wager means we expect the first touchdown will be a non-pass. We're aiming for one of three possibilities – either a rushing touchdown, a defensive score, or a kick return. The rushing touchdown appears most likely. First, San Francisco led the NFL in rushing touchdowns this season, with 27. San Francisco has also scored a touchdown on more than half of their first drives this season (10 of 19), which is positive data for a rushing touchdown prop.
Kansas City ran for only 9 touchdowns in 2023, but also relied more heavily on the run game later in the season. The 49ers potent running attack alone makes this a very attractive wager, but then when we add Kansas City's emerging rushing game, and the added bonus of a return or a defensive score, this wager appears to have value.
This prop compliments the first touchdown wager (e.g., rushing). We're aiming for a big score on this bundle of bets, which hits if Patrick Mahomes runs it in for the game's first score. While Mahomes failed to have a rushing TD this season, he's always a legit threat to run and possibly score. In a game of this magnitude, Mahomes is likely to take more shots as a runner. Let's also remember that he ran for a touchdown in his first Super Bowl game. We're getting one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league, in the biggest game of the season, in a situation where he's rushed for a TD in this spot before and getting 19-1 on the first score and +380 to score sometime during the game. We'll take it.
I can’t resist one more wager on Patrick Mahomes – the rusher, not the passer. Prediction: Mahomes will run the ball. This is especially true if his receivers are covered, which has happened quite a bit with this offense (especially in 2nd Halves). Furthermore, the "over" on rushing yardage has hit in all three of Mahomes' Super Bowl appearances. Mahomes is never afraid to run with the ball. He also stretches forward for added yards when other quarterbacks will take a knee in surrender mode. This is the game where he's willing to run.
If you like Kansas City at +2 for the game, then playing them in the 1st Half at plus-money seems mandatory. The Chiefs have looked solid in all three playoff games, particularly in the opening two quarters. By contrast, San Francisco has gotten off to two notoriously slow starts, scoring just 14 first-half points combined in their two playoff games. What's the compelling reason why the 49ers will suddenly find their offensive spark early in the game and win in a stadium where they haven't played before? (Kansas City plays annually at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.)
Getting +1.5 is tempting, but the vig price is a bit high at -137. Instead, I'll go with the proven champ priced at +112 to hold the lead at halftime. Obviously, a tie means this wager is a push.
This prop is tricky. It's critical to consider the number of kickoff returns expected by each team. More returns means more opportunities for a longer return. Given the total (O/U), we expect about 5-6 kickoff returns per team. But that number will be considerably fewer if one team doesn't score as many times, since they won't receive as many kickoffs. Assuming it's a close game and the number of kickoffs are about even, Chiefs PK Harrison Butker enjoys a clear advantage with the superior leg.
About 60 percent of all NFL kicks result in a touchback (no return). This number is even higher inside domes, since weather and wind are not a factor. That said, Butker's touchback average is 69 percent of kicks. By contrast, 49ers PK Jake Moody averages a touchback about 60 percent of the time, which is only league average. We must pay a much higher vig price on this prop to take Kansas City, but we think it's justified here since the 49ers might not even get to run back a kick return.
For this prop to cash, we just need the game to be tied sometime after the first score. All it takes is one more tie at any point thereafter for the wager to cash. This prop won last year when the Chiefs and Eagles traded touchdowns on their opening drives for a 7-7 tie. Before that, the prop lost two years. However, this bet cashed in the four previous Super Bowls. It’s gone 6-3 in the last nine years. The low pointspread is a clear acknowledgement that the 49ers and Chiefs are close to evenly matched. This adds to the possibility of a tie game happening at some point after the first score. [Note: props to Dave Tuley for this prop strategy.]
The "yes" on this proposition is usually a sucker bet and many have fallen for it in past Super Bowls, including yours truly. However, I've learned my lesson and see this as a solid bet on the Under 2.5.
This prop essentially asks if any additional players -- aside from Patrick Mahomes and Brock Purdy -- will have a passing attempt. Taking a look at both teams this season, non-QBs have thrown only four combined pass attempts. The Chiefs attempted 3 passes (1 WR, 1 RB, and 1 punter). The 49ers attempted only 1 pass from a non-QB (a WR). That's only 4 of 39 games with a non-QB passing attempt. Both backup QBs did play, but those were in late season meaningless games. For the "yes" to hit, that probably requires an injury to either of the starting QBs. Mahomes has been healthy throughout his career, and while Purdy had injury problems last season, I expect he won't be running much more risk missing any action. I'd price this at least -250, if not higher.
This is also phrased by some sportsbooks as an over/under prop on QB Purdy interceptions at +/- 0.5 (note the decimal). We're basically betting that the Chiefs will pick off a Purdy pass at least one time. He threw 11 picks in the regular season, plus 1 more in the playoffs. Kansas City ranked as the 4th-best pass defense in the league this season.
If the 49ers are trailing, especially late, that increases the chances of an interception. This is a reasonable price to lay, especially in a game where Purdy is competing on the Super Bowl stage for the first time. We already know what Mahomes can do. The verdict remains out on Purdy.
I'll go with the more experienced championship-level team that's won in this spot before, especially since they're getting points. I believe the Reid-Mahomes duo will get Super Bowl ring number three. My bet is on Kansas City +2.
My final prediction is….Chiefs 27 49ers 17
Always opinionated and often controversial, Nolan Dalla has been betting the NFL and writing about football handicapping longer than either Patrick Mahomes or Brock Purdy have been alive. This year, he had three entries in the 2023-24 Westgate SuperContest that ended up finishing 2nd, 4th, and 6th out of 1,301 total entries, winning more than $190,000. Nolan's picks have been posted free at his website (nolandalla.com) where he's enjoyed 9 out of 12 profitable seasons. He also goes on massive tilt when losing, and is known for some epic, profanity-laden rants.
Nolan Dalla has the unique perspective of gambling from all vantage points -- as a player, writer, and casino executive. Dating back to 1993, Dalla first worked for Binion's Horseshoe as Director of Public Relations, then served as the longtime Media Director of the World Series of Poker, as well as Communications Director for PokerStars.com, which became the world's largest poker site, and then Creative Director for a live-action poker show broadcast on CBS Sports. He has been at the epicenter of the most formative years of poker’s global expansion and has been directly involved in any of the decisions that led to its growth worldwide. Dalla has been featured and quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Las Vegas Sun, Cigar Aficionado, Casino Player, Poker Player, Poker Digest, Poker Pages, Gambling Times, The Intelligent Gambler, and more. He's written an estimated 7,500 articles on all forms of gambling.Read Full Bio