LAS VEGAS — It was just a matter of when, not if, an octopus eventually would creep into the Super Bowl-betting shenanigans.
The Westgate SuperBook dangles 32 pages of proposition options for the Chiefs-Buccaneers game Sunday in Tampa, Florida, and its competition has invested just as much in staples.
William Hill offers 1,218 ways to wager on Super Bowl LV, including the temperature — 69 degrees — at the 5:30 p.m. kickoff. Weather Underground predicts it will be 66 between 5 and 6 p.m. Under is -130, or risk $130 to win $100. When has a weather forecast ever erred?
Will the opening coin toss be tails, as it has been in 29 of the previous 54 Super Bowls? Las Vegas handicapper Kelly Stewart has a position on heads and advises never paying more than a -103 price on the coin-flip prop.
A year ago, The Octopus crawled onto the Caesars Palace menu. Will the player who scores a touchdown also convert an ensuing two-point conversion? Eight points, the same number of suckered arms on a cephalopod mollusk.
The brainchild of Mitch Goldich, a Sports Illustrated writer-editor with a master’s degree from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, has stood on its own, taken its first, ahem, eight steps and is ready to sprint.
It has landed at Circa Sports, with yes at +1100 (risk $100 to win $1,100), no at -1800 (bet $1,800 to win $100). The shop took waves of yes action the first few days, not one on no.
“It’s just kind of a fun statistical novelty that happens every couple of weeks during a season, and it comes with a fun name and emoji,” says Goldich, a 33-year-old Philadelphia native. “The name is a big part of it catching on.”
PROP OPTIONS GALORE
Long Island handicapper Tom Barton backs Buccaneers tight ends Cameron Brate (at -140) and Rob Gronkowski (-110) to catch over 2½ receptions each. He sees Brate having a big game.
“He has outperformed Gronk for a few weeks now,” Barton says. “That [Chiefs coordinator Steve] Spagnuola defense leads to soft over-the-middle crossing routes, which helps opposing slot receivers and tight ends.”
Barton expects Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce to shine, too, and is on over 7½ receptions (at -150), over 98½ yards (-110) and -180 on him scoring a touchdown. “Especially after a less-than-impressive Super Bowl last year,” he said. “The Bucs’ safeties are hurting, so he can exploit that.”
Barton also has under 20 for rushing yards on Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has a bum toe. “The injury is a concern, and Tampa’s Devin White and Lavonte David are two of the fastest linebackers in the league. Mahomes won’t be taking off,” he said.
Circa sportsbook operations manager Jeffrey Benson agrees, and he and his team opened Mahomes’ total rushing yards at 15½, knowing others had posted 19½ or 20, to lure action on over. They’re leery about that toe.
“Mahomes might be skittish, in terms of taking off and running, given what happened on the read-option earlier in the playoffs,” Benson says. “Nose tackle Vita Vea is back for Tampa, too, and the Bucs’ run defense is great. That’s been constantly bet over.”
Barton also likes over 3½ combined sacks, at -130. In eight of the previous 11 Super Bowls, at least four sacks have been recorded. Vegas capper Dana Lane and others are bullish on Chiefs tailback Darrel Williams’ first rush to generate fewer than 3œ yards, at -140.
Benson watched early money favor under 4½ receptions (even) for Bucs receiver Mike Evans, over 2½ players to have passes (+200) and Chiefs receiver Mecole Hardman to have under 29½ receiving yards (-110) and under 2½ receptions (-140).
Stewart, though, nabbed +1700 on Hardman to score the game’s first touchdown and laid -140 on Bucs quarterback Tom Brady throwing an interception.
Over the years, she has polished her approach to this game, believing it doesn’t deserve extra investment just because of its magnitude or its menagerie of side-show props.
“I get it, it’s fun. You want action,” she says. “Just make sure you don’t give away any profits from a good NFL season.”
Stewart made no pregame side or total wagers last year. She observed. When the Chiefs trailed by 10 late in the third quarter, she took them to win outright at an in-game price of +240. The Chiefs beat the 49ers 31-20.
“That will most likely be my approach this year,” Stewart says. “It just makes so much more sense.”
AN IDEAL FIT
Russ Goldich, Mitch’s brother, worked at Caesars, where he befriended Jeff Davis, director of its sportsbook trading. Russ promoted Mitch’s creation last year, and Caesars posted it for Super Bowl LIV.
It became the property’s single-biggest prop liability, in the high six figures. Of course, it didn’t happen. Davis moved to Circa, toting the beast with him.
Circa is unique, with yes/no options on who will be MVP and who will score the first TD that nobody else offers. It even brought the popular Squares home game into the casino.
Match the last digits of the scores at the end of each of the first three quarters, or the final — 0-9 horizontally for the Chiefs, 0-9 vertically for the Bucs — and win big. If the game somehow ends, say, 32-22, the “2” and “2” square pays 250-to-1.
And Circa’s hold percentages usually are friendlier than the competition, all of which are direct charges from maverick owner Derek Stevens, who has revitalized downtown Las Vegas with his three properties.
“Our goal is to push the boundaries, to be as innovative as possible,” Benson says. “That’s kind of been our business model.” He called The Octopus coming to Circa “an ideal fit.”
Mitch Goldich attributes The Octopus name to pal Mike Wallace. DraftKings also posted it this week, pleasing Goldich like a proud papa.
“I’m looking forward to the day we have Octopus props every Sunday,” he says, “and players doing Octopus end-zone celebrations.”