Prop bets and novelty bets never get old. They’re not as straight-forward as traditional spreads and over/unders, but the fun that comes with betting on props and seeing them win is unlike any other feeling. This year, we had our fair share of amazing props that eventually cashed for those savvy enough to see them coming. Well, most of them, at least. Some props made the headlines for entirely different reasons. But the sheer fact that this particular prop caused an entire industry to look at itself and investigate the way it polices its own advertising standards. So without further ado, there are the top prop/novelty bets of 2014.
James Rodriguez – Golden Boot
Entering the World Cup, the glamor names to win the Golden Boot award (Top scorer for the entire tournament) were Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. It seemed fair because Ronaldo and Messi were, and still are, considered as two of the best football players in the world. Meanwhile, Colombia’s James Rodriguez was a young star that still didn’t have the cache of Ronaldo, Messi, and some of the best players in the world. Well, we all know what happened during the World Cup. With the exception of Germany actually winning the tournament, there wasn’t a bigger star in the tournament that Rodriguez. He scored six goals in five matches, winning the Golden Boot award despite getting 33/1 odds at the start of the tournament to do so. Hell, if you score goals like the one below, you deserve all the accolades you can get.
LeBron James – Free Agency Destination
LeBron James’ decision to go back to the Cleveland Cavaliers after spending four years with the Miami Heat not only sent Clevelanders into a frenzy, it also gave those who bet on his return plenty of reasons to be happy. At the onset, James was a strong favorite to stay in Miami. Sportsbooks even thought it was a lock, posting odds on him staying in South Beach at 1/4 odds. The next closest was him going back to Cleveland at 5/1 odds. Well, if people had the power of foresight and bet on a return to the Cavaliers, those who bet on that prop came out smelling like roses.
Oscar Pistorius – Paddy Power
This particular prop got a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons. At the onset of Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power posted an ad, saying that anybody who bets on the prop would get their money back if Pistorius ‘walked’. Not only did Paddy Power receive a ton of backlash for the tasteless ad, it also brought UK advertising into disrepute, forcing the Advertising Standards Authority to castigate Paddy Power after it received 5,525 complaints from the ad. That, by the way, was a record in the UK. Ultimately, Paddy Power also took the unprecedented step of apologizing for the ad, even if said apology still contained measured words like “occasionally” and “probably”.
Super Bowl XLVIII – Safety on First Play
This one had “improbable” and “unbelievable” written all over it. For the most part, people won’t remember the fact that Super Bowl XLVIII was the most bet-on sporting event in US sports history. It also ended up becoming one of the best days for sports books when they came out on the black to the tune of close to $20 million. But Super Bowl XLVIII, at least from the gambling side, will be remembered for two things. The first one happened, oddly enough, on the first play of the game. For the second time in three Super Bowls, the first scoring play of the game came from a safety. You would think that books would’ve protected themselves from that ever happening again. But in the days leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII, odds on a safety being the first score in the game were still at 60/1. Whoops.
Super Bowl XLVIII – Malcolm Smith wins MVP for the Field
The tricky thing about betting on MVPs is that sometimes, there is strength in numbers. Super Bowl XLVIII showed as much when Malcolm Smith, arguably one of the least heralded names in the Seahawks’ vaunted defense took home MVP honors in the game. The problem was, Smith’s name wasn’t even being offered in the Super Bowl MVP odds. His name, like all the rest that didn’t have their own names, were thrown into the “Field” at 20/1 odds.
Wrestlemania 30 – Brock Lesnar beats Undertaker
In terms of shock and awe, this one has to be the biggest prop bet of the year. Nobody, I repeat, nobody had Brock Lesnar penciled in as the winner of his match against the Undertaker on Wrestlemania 30 back in April. Taker came in with a 21-0 record at Wrestlemania and everybody figured that he would add another one to the win column to bring his record to 22-0. Heck, betting odds on the Undertaker were 1/50, which is about as close to an overwhelming favorite as you can get. Lesnar, on the other hand, came in at 12/1, but late action on the Beast pushed that number down to 8/1. Still, everybody thought Undertaker winning the match until WWE pulled the rouse on all of us with Brock defeating the Dead Man, legitimately shocking a lot of people.