Editor’s Note: This story was written by Unabated user Bob R. about his experience last year spending two weeks doing Super Bowl prop betting, working alongside his betting partners in different parts of the country.
It’s minutes before the Eagles and Chiefs are about to play in Super Bowl LVII and I’m buried in spreadsheets. I’m trying to sort out two weeks’ worth of bets on everything from the first offensive play of the game to whether or not there will be a score in the final two minutes. But the phone’s ringing, and I need to answer it.
My friend and betting partner is on the horn. The books are about to lock all the pregame prop lines and we’re still finding things to bet on. Those last few minutes before kickoff are a flurry of max bets, deposits and more max bets.
While all that’s going on, Chris Stapleton belts out the National Anthem. There’s the coin toss and commercial breaks. It all nets us a few hundred from various plays. We’re off and running before the rest of the prop lines come down.
Kickoff was a wrap for most of the work: two weeks of an overly ambitious and slightly ridiculous cross-country prop frenzy. We made a little money. We learned a few things. Here’s how we did it.
I’m not the most gifted when it comes to working things out in my head, but I’ve done really well being the guy who shows his work. To that end, the plan was to build a far-reaching spreadsheet of Super Bowl props and hope that tracking prices would give me an edge over most bettors.
It took two years to build out, starting with Super Bowl LVI. That’s when I started tracking props after the Conference Championship games. It led me to some arbitrage opportunities. That summer I back-filled the sheet with the full run of props from that year, and calculated a synthetic hold in those markets to see where the best opportunities were.
Starting a Team
Beyond building the spreadsheet, I also needed to build a team. In this case, it was a small team, one friend and betting partner who I’d previously worked with. We’ll call him Al. Me and Al already had an established process for maintaining lines, tracking bets, results, reimbursements and the rest. We also brought in another friend, Billy, who could help place bets.
By the time the playoffs started we were prepared. We were confident we’d know what prices were available based on past years, and that we’d be able to get in enough bets to make a good return for two weeks’ work.
Al was based in Las Vegas and I was based in New Jersey, so we’d have access to plenty of markets across the country. It was go-time.
Sunday, Jan. 29: A Slight Detour
All of my best-laid plans for jumping on opening lines were put on hold before I could get started when I was offered the chance to see the Eagles demolish the Niners in the NFC title game. I’m an Eagles fan. How could I say no, knowing I’d be spending the next two weeks eyeballs-deep in Column BV, Row 741?
Monday, Jan. 30
My slow start carried over to today. I was caught off-guard by how many props were already posted on recreational books. I thought I had a pretty good idea of when to expect props to be posted, with most things I might want to bet on not posted until the first Thursday after the conference championships. Despite getting a late start, we still found a few bets worth making and stayed up too late doing it. That would become a trend.
Tuesday, Jan. 31: Know Your Bank
Al went down to Arizona for the day where there are different books available from what he could get in Vegas. He also discovered that his bank had different daily withdrawal limits at different local branches. If you’re traveling to bet, make sure you know all of your bank’s rules before you find yourself with limited cash flow.
Wednesday, Feb. 1: The Challenges of Kiosks
I moved my operations to Atlantic City. As I arrived, Al called. We worked out a strategy for depositing money at different Vegas books. Unlike most states, where you can quickly deposit directly from your bank account or PayPal, Nevada casinos make you deposit and withdraw in person.
I left to grab food (protip: buy a couple of sandwiches at a time and save one for lunch the next day so you don’t have to interrupt your number-crunching routine) and make some in-person bets. It didn’t go great.
Resorts Atlantic City has a DraftKings sportsbook, which was closed by the time I got there. And Resorts apparently doesn’t like customers using their kiosks. There was no posted max bet, and finding a Super Bowl prop was tedious. No searching, no categories. You had to scroll through every available bet to find what you’re looking for.
Thursday, Feb. 2: Rules, Limits, and Befuddled Employees
I slept in this morning knowing it was going to be a late night. It was the Westgate prop release night. After an Unabated livestream, I went back to Resorts. One of the employees told me only accepted $50 max bets at the kiosks because “bookies were laying off their action at the kiosks.”
That brought up a lot of questions that I didn’t want to ask, but he did walk me over to the betting window, where the clerk told me he could offer me $500 stake on some bets or $500 to win on others.
I’m pretty sure I was the first person to ask about Super Bowl props this week. Clearly I was more familiar with the bets DraftKings was offering than the clerk at the DraftKings sportsbook. I didn’t get everything I wanted, but managed to make three wagers, tipped the clerk for his trouble, and headed back to my hotel.
Meanwhile, in Vegas, Al picked up the full prop book at Westgate. The trouble was that we didn’t have a plan for what to do with those numbers while he was still there. We didn’t have any specific bets we were looking for and didn’t really know where to start, other than methodically working our way through the entire packet. The lesson: be prepared.
Friday, Feb. 3: Jersey Expands
By 8 a.m. the Superbook app still hadn’t updated with the props released in Vegas the night before, but Prophet Exchange added two-way anytime touchdown and sack markets. Later in the day Sporttrade also offered two-way anytime TD markets, so that meant a whole new section in the spreadsheet.
I hadn’t paid much attention to those props in the past, but when I looked at what was being offered I found some disagreement among the books, which usually means at least one book is wrong.
By the time it was dark out, I left to make some more bets and FanDuel at Bally’s and Caesars Atlantic City. By the time I got back Superbook had posted to the app. Finally, I went to sleep around 3:30 a.m.
Saturday, Feb. 4: Know Thy House Rules
Al was meeting a local friend for breakfast in Las Vegas. He stopped at South Point, where they would take $2,000 on props in person, despite accepting just $200 on the app. That was useful intel, but as the day went on I didn’t hear anything more from my usually very responsive friend. Maybe a week of staring at computer monitors while surrounded by people having fun in Las Vegas finally got to him and he needed a break? I went back to work, and was relieved to find out hours later that he lost his phone, and the casino got it back to him.
I used the quiet time to organize. Circa added two-way anytime TD, sack and interception markets. I discovered 0.25 and 0.75 sack lines, which clued me in that I better familiarize myself with how house rules worked around what counted as a sack.
WynnBet finally seemed to have a full list of props that matched up with what I found posted there the year before. While I was on my own late at night, I added an easy to read tab with a list of possible things to bet the next morning, or afternoon, or whenever I woke up. Social norms regarding times to be awake or asleep had long since been abandoned.
Sunday, Feb. 5
When I woke up, my phone lost all mobile connectivity. The clerk at my provider’s shop replaced my sim card, but not before eating up a chunk of time I didn’t really have to spare. I checked lines for some books that I had been ignoring because I couldn’t bet enough there to bother and then walked Billy through making some bets.
Monday, Feb. 6
Billy had trouble setting up a new account, so that limited some of what we could bet later in the day. Al did some scouting around Las Vegas and learned the BetFred book at Virgin was scheduled to open on Thursday. Then he stopped by some Strip properties to find out what props they already had available and when they planned to release others.
There was some news about the upcoming game, too. The total inched up half a point during the day, and some of the Kansas City injury information was starting to clear up. That would soon clear the way for more player props to show up on the books. In the meantime, I continued to scour what lines I could see and once again well past what we would consider the middle of the night I found a few that looked like they were worth betting, but I wanted to talk them over with Al first.
Tuesday, Feb. 7: Late Night Betting Blues
One bad thing about finding bets in the wee hours of the evening is that you may not be able to bet them. Another is that you may not even be awake to bet them the next morning. It was after 11 a.m. before I crawled out of bed.
Al had deposited money with a couple sportsbooks in Reno where he suspected we might find some different lines on some of these props. He was right. What we didn’t account for, though, is that most of these Reno books were set up like some Las Vegas books. They would offer you a reasonable bet limit in person, but would not do so on their apps.
One of these places did allow rebets, about once an hour. Better yet, it didn’t move their line on the number of receptions for Philly’s Quez Watkins all day, even after rebets. We got down eight different bets on him Under 1.5 receptions at -140, each to win $200.
Maybe not the best move to stay in the good graces of that book, but after two or three max bets, you’d think they’d consider moving their line. Watkins, for the record, finished with one catch for 8 yards.
Wednesday, Feb. 8
I found more bets in the middle of the night, but fortunately most of them were still available by the time I thought it was a reasonable hour to contact Billy to make those bets.
Al had a lot of ground to cover, starting with some scouting to find out if any other books in town were going to release more props. He also took a drive past Hoover Dam to make a couple bets using the sportsbooks available in Arizona.
Thursday, February 9: Rounding Into Form
It was another late night, but we were getting closer to game day, so I woke up focused and ready to go. I ran into a problem with one of the exchanges not taking one of my bets because they declared the “outcome volatile.”
Out in Las Vegas, we found we could bet $500 on some props on the South Point app, as opposed to the $200 we found on others.
By this point we’d been able to build up arbitrage positions on some props. We had “First offensive play: run” at -120 and “pass” at +140. We had the “yes” on “Will there be a successful two-point conversion” at +120 and the “no” at -105. The portfolio was rounding into shape.
Friday, February 10
Real life intruded at the start of the day, as I could only put off errands for so long and I expected a busy weekend. I returned home and stocked up on pizza for the weekend.
We still had a fair amount of money stranded in Reno, so we made a few somewhat low-value bets to put it to use. One of the books was also offering a very generous moneyline on the Chiefs, so we ended up with some money on KC +120. (The Unabated Line for the moneyline closed at Kansas City +108.)
It was closing in on the time time when public money might start moving markets, so I took a deep dive into our numbers. I wanted a good baseline for where player props lines were going into the weekend.
Saturday, February 11
Al had breakfast at the South point so I checked the lines while he was there to see if there was anything we wanted to get down on before he left. Somewhere along the way the Unabated Superstream became my background noise while I continued checking lines. It was reassuring to hear Rufus Peabody ask the same questions we did about where to deploy his bankroll around Las Vegas. We also noted some interesting line moves, as the Superbook briefly had a slightly off-market line on the Eagles for about an hour during the Unabated stream.
Shutting down for the night was tough. There was a lot of work still ahead of us.
Sunday, February 12: The Big Fallout
The morning saw us pick off a few more straggling plays.
Around 3 p.m., Al and I convened to talk over our positions and whether we wanted to hedge out of some plays we made early on. We emptied the last of our bankroll on some props with thinner edges that we had passed on earlier in the week.
After trying to watch the game with one eye and live bet with the other, I had a fairly accurate idea of what our results were and an absurdly large balance on one large national sportsbook, where I won every single bet I made there.
I had a few tickets to cash in Atlantic City, but there were some other problems that lingered.
Al ended up with money marooned in different locations in Nevada. He would have cashed tickets the Monday after the game, but William Hill’s software collapse took days to sort out. He also had to make an extra trip up to Reno to collect that money. And Billy had trouble logging into one of the New Jersey books, so it was a few days before we could make sure bets on that site were graded properly.
When the dust finally settled, we were sitting on a 4.12 percent return on investment. Solid business for two weeks’ worth of work from the Jersey shore to the Vegas desert and points in-between.
Now it’s time to take last year’s lessons and put them to work in Super Bowl LVIII.