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2020 Super Bowl gambling: Inside the process of creating more than 400 prop bets for Chiefs vs. 49ers

24th January, 15:43

LAS VEGAS -- Two days after the NFL's conference championship games, Nick Bogdanovich and Adam Pullen are sitting at a desk with four computer screens and a stack of papers in an office 15 minutes southwest of the Las Vegas Strip. As William Hill's U.S. director and assistant director of trading, respectively, they are about to spend nine hours Tuesday on a singular task: setting the lines for Super Bowl LIV's many prop bets, from quarterback passing yards to team touchdowns to the likelihood of a safety.

The first debate set the tone for the full day: How many San Francisco 49ers players will get a reception on Feb. 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs?

"This is usually something that's either 6.5 or 7.5," Bogdanovich said, kicking off analysis. "Looking at [the 49ers'] last two playoff games, they've had four and five -- which is so low that it's not even funny. It's insanely low.

"We'll knock off the people who can make a catch. Emmanuel Sanders, we can count as one. Deebo Samuel can count as two. George Kittle is three. Those three will get one for sure. That brings us to, is Raheem Mostert going to get one? Is Tevin Coleman even going to play? Is Matt Breida going to get one? Kyle Juszczyk can catch the ball. Is he going to get one? Kendrick Bourne? It's scary that it's that low. We got a whole number, so it's either going to be 5.5 or 6.5."

Pullen responded, "Six, yeah. Seven seems like a stretch."

"So what are you thinking ... 5.5 over 50?" Bogdanovich asked. "I mean, six looks like the dead number. Do we want to use 5.5 over with a lot of juice or 6.5 under with a lot of juice? We could go 5.5 and really juice it high because they love betting pluses. The public might take a shot with the plus and I think we'll win it. I think 5.5 over $2.00?"

"Yeah, that's fine," Pullen said. "Because even if you use six, you'll probably get a lot of under money. If you take seven, they beat you. People have that six in their back pocket. They might not win, but it's a big difference."

At that point, the decision was made.

"We're going to use [-5.5] over $2.00, which means the under is +175," Bogdanovich explained, as the conversation wrapped up and the decision came down to financially encouraging people to bet under 5.5 San Francisco players get a catch. "We use the fairest juice in the history of props. There will only be one or two other places that use this fair of 'straddles.'"

And there you have it. The first prop bet for Super Bowl LIV from William Hill US takes about 90 seconds to finalize. All that's left is about 400 more to go through before the full sheet gets finalized Wednesday night. It's a monumental task led by two people inside of a windowless, 13x13 office on the bottom floor of a typical suburban office building that is shared with two investment banks.

The final William Hill US Super Bowl Props Sheet was pushed out Thursday afternoon. It is available for wagers at William Hill Sports Books in Nevada, New Jersey, Indiana, Mississippi, Delaware, Rhode Island, New Mexico and West Virginia as well as on the William Hill Nevada Mobile Sports App and the William Hill New Jersey Mobile Sports App. A similar version will be available in Iowa, as well.

Since the moment the clock at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, struck zeros and the matchup between the 49ers and Chiefs was set, Pullen and Bogdanovich have been crunching numbers ranging from basic regular season vs. postseason player trends to the habits of gamblers in matchups that lend themselves to higher-scoring affairs.

Each Super Bowl creates unique challenges for oddsmakers. This one is no different. The high-flying Chiefs offense led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes averaged 281.1 passing yards during the regular season and is at 304 yards in two postseason games. The 49ers defense, on the other hand, gave up a league-best 169.2 passing yards per game during the regular season. The total in this matchup has jumped up from its initial open at 53.5 points scored.

"There's no question that the higher the total, the more action there is in the prop bets," Bogdanovich said. "People love action. The higher the total, the higher the action. They're inclined to bet 'yes' and 'over,' so with the higher total, they're all like, 'Are you kidding me? Forty-three yards? That's supposed to be 60." They'll bet over blindly. That's their mindset."

That was a huge storyline in last year's Super Bowl. The New England Patriots topped the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in Atlanta in a game that didn't have a touchdown until Patriots running back Sony Michel scored from 2 yards out with 7 minutes to play.

"Last year was the best year we ever had for props," Pullen said. "The nature of the low-scoring game. Most of the stats went under."

"Then you have to avoid some landmines like safeties or an overtime or anything with a big 'plus' that give good value to the bettor," Bogdanovich interjected.

"Last year, if there wouldn't have been a touchdown in the game, at 300-1 or 500-1 or whatever we had it, that would have been a disaster," Pullen said. "Because people just bet that because the odds ... anything that's not normal is not good for us."

Prop bets aren't just fun numbers thrown out there to get people juiced for the big game. With so much interest and so many options out there, it's the most important two weeks of oddsmaking that pro bettors and the public feast on like a spread of hot wings at your local Super Bowl party.

"It's like mid-seven figures with what we did on the props last year," Pullen said casually. "I'd anticipate it being higher ... it typically grows every year."

New laws, which allow more states to get into the sports betting arena, have presented challenges to oddsmakers. Some states only allow for statistics-based prop bets to be made, while others have begun to post odds on ancillary events such as the color of the sports drink poured on the winning head coach. William Hill US is in constant contact with the administrations in each state to notify them of line movements and get feedback on what they will be posting inside their establishments.

By Tuesday night, the prop bet process is done. At that point, it's all about money. If pros jump on one particular side of the 49ers player reception total, Bogdanovich and Pullen will huddle and determine if it's enough of a reason to make an adjustment. For the next 12 days, it's their life -- the Super Bowl of oddsmaking.

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