Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2013 Super Bowl XLVII (47) Prop Bet: The Coin Toss/Flip

Leading up to the 2013 Super Bowl XLVII (47) between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, we'll take a look at Super Bowl proposition betting and all the fun, silly prop bets that surround Super Bowl 47 (XLVII). That includes proposition wagers on the Super Bowl coin toss, Super Bowl halftime show (Beyonce), Super Bowl National Anthem (Alicia Keys), Super Bowl Gatorade shower dump and much more. Follow along on the Super Bowl sidebar to the right and follow us on twitter for prop betting updates @stocklemonblog


The most bet on Super Bowl propositions every year have nothing to do with football and are graded and paid out before the game even begins. Count us among the masses who are more interested in the result of the opening coin flip and the National Anthem than we are the actual Super Bowl game. Though the games may not always be great (lately they have been), you always can count on one prop to truly be a toss up.

If our terrible word play didn't tip you off (or the title of the post, or the accompanying picture of a coin), we're talking, of course, specifically about the opening coin flip.

You don't have to know anything about the San Francisco 49ers or the Baltimore Ravens to bet on the coin toss, which is what makes it so popular with Mr. and Mrs. Joe America who might not otherwise watch football on a Sunday. In fact, you don't even have to know that those are the two teams playing in the game. All you need to know is that a quarter has two sides to it, heads and tails. Unless you aren't up to speed on your denominations of American currency, you're as well educated as any sharp bettor in Vegas when it comes to the coin toss.

Which is why so many of the people who "only watch for the commercials" are apt to throw some money down on the money being thrown up in the air. 

And while facts and trends and historical data will do you little good with a prop like this, it can't hurt either. So here are a few bits of info to help you call it in the air:

Your standard bets will come in the form of three variations: the classic heads or tails? Will the toss by won by the AFC (Ravens) or NFC (49ers)? And will the player calling the toss be right or wrong? In some places, you can also bet whether or not the team that wins the toss will win the game.

Here are some basic Super Bowl coin toss fun facts:
  • Remarkably enough, the 50/50 proposition that is a coin toss has, through 46 Super Bowls, been evenly split at 50/50. Heads and tails have each won the toss 23 times apiece, thanks to four consecutive wins for heads, including last year when the Patriots won the toss.
  • The team to win the coin toss is also very nearly a 50/50 proposition, but the Patriots screwed that one up by not winning Super Bowl 46. The winners of the toss have gone 22-24 through the first 46 Super Bowls (as we mentioned, last year's Patriots won the toss but lost the game). In fact, 11 of the last 16 teams to win the coin toss have proceeded to lose the game.
  • There is one stat where the results aren't as close to 50/50 as you would think. In fact, it isn't even close. Prior to last year, the NFC had won 14 consecutive Super Bowl coin tosses, but the Patriots ended the streak last year, cutting the AFC's coin toss loss deficit to 31-15. The NFC's coin toss dominance can't really be explained, as there is a 1 in 16, 385 chance of a conference winning 14-straight tosses before the Pats ended the run. OK, fine, we'll say it: it made no cents.
  • Only three teams have chosen not to receive the opening kick, The Cardinals in 2009, Packers in 2011 and the Patriots in 2012. All three instead chose to defer, which is becoming a more common strategy in today's NFL, taking a page out of the college football coaching guide. Those teams are 1-2 in the Super Bowl, if that matters.
  • As the visiting team, the Ravens will make the call of heads or tails, just as they did against the Giants in 2001 Super Bowl XXXV (35), when they lost the toss but won the game (tails won) in their first and only Super Bowl.
  • The 49ers hold an all-time record of 4-1 in the Super Bowl coin toss, losing only the toss in 1990 Super Bowl XXIV (24) against the Broncos (heads). They won that game easily and have won all five of their Super Bowls, regardless of the coin toss. They've won with tails three times and heads once.
Given that a coin flip has, as per its design, a 50/50 chance of landing on either side, the odds for the Super Bowl coin flip are even, minus some juice. Some books, to encourage betting on this prop that annually profits them millions from non-regular customers, have reduced the juice to more enticing levels such as (-102). We cited this last year (following link is slightly NSFW as it a close up of a bra, cheap and effective traffic ploy) as a reason not to bet the coin toss a year in advance at -105, and recommend saving a few quarters again this year and not betting on the 2014 Super Bowl XLVIII (48) coin toss ahead of time. Here are the bets you'll see this year:

What will be the result of the 2012 Super Bowl XLVI (46) coin toss/flip
Heads (-105)
Tails (-105)

Which team will win the 2012 Super Bowl XLVI (46) coin toss/flip?
Ravens (-105)
49ers (-105)

Will the player making the 2012 Super Bowl XLVI (46) coin toss/flip call be correct or incorrect?
Correct (-105)
Incorrect (-105)

It's obvious but we'll continue to mention it anyway: if you can find a book that has odds favoring one side of the coin over the other (you won't), take the better odds. At the end of the day, it's a 50/50 proposition, and you take any value you can find. 

We like history to repeat itself here and would venture to guess that the Ravens would call heads, as they did in 2001. Knife to our head (Ray Lewis will surely be one of the captains, so this is realistic), we're picking Baltimore to win the toss and give the AFC consecutive coin flip wins. We've got to deviate to the mean on that NFC/AFC disparity at some point, don't we?
Still don't have enough information to properly judge a coin flip? How about rewatching last year's toss just as a refresher course: 

Still don't have enough to toss around in that brain of yours? Well, then... you're overthinking it. It's throwing a quarter in the air, dude. Figure it out.