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A bettor's paradise

Super Bowl Sunday means exotic, outrageous wagers

Posted: Thursday February 2, 2006 2:37PM; Updated: Thursday February 2, 2006 3:06PM
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Coin toss
The players and referees won't be the only people interested in the coin toss on Sunday.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
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It's a sure bet that the team that wins the pre-game coin toss in Super Bowl XL will elect to receive. That's what happened in the first 39 Super Bowls, and this one looks to be no different. It's a fairly safe bet that the player who calls the toss will chose heads. "I'm told that's how it's gone down in 31 of the last 33 Super Bowls," says Bill Krackomberger. "It's a macho thing. Heads is more manly than tails. Chalk it up to human nature." Or perhaps human man nature.

The Bronx-born, Jersey-raised Krackomberger is an expert in such matters. A professional gambler known the length and breadth of Las Vegas as Krackman, he has been tracking the coin toss for the last 10 years. "In all those years," says the onetime carnival carnie, "tails has only been called once."

The coin toss is one of the dozens of exotic side bets -- called proposition wagers, or "props" - that Krackman will make before Sunday's kickoff. The Super Bowl is the biggest betting event in Nevada -- more than $100 million is expected to be wagered on the game this year. And props are placed on just about everything but the final score.

"I always wind-up putting about 20 times more money on props than I do on who wins," says Krackman, who figures to ante up about $80,000 in all. "There are so many different ways to bet the Super Bowl that it's almost ridiculous."

You can bet on whether a streaker will dash onto the field. You can bet on whether the king in the Burger King commercials will score a touchdown. ("The king will reach the endzone," Krackman predicts. "Burger King wants to keep him happy, and scoring a TD will sell a lot of meat.") You can even bet on which song the Rolling Stones will sing to kick off the halftime show. ("It's gotta be Start Me Up," offers Krackman. "Sympathy For The Devil is my personal favorite, but it's way too long.")

The coin flip alone has four props, the most popular of which is "heads or tails." Krackman bets tails every year. "Traditionally, the 'head' on the commemorative coins used by officials has been puffed up," he says. Which, Krackman reasons, makes the coin ever-so-slightly top-heavy. "If you flip those coins 100 times, you'll see they come up tails a little more often." About 55 percent of the time, when he tried it.

Nobody in Vegas is quite sure which Super Bowl novelty wager came first, but just about everybody there can tell you the first big longshot that came in. Twenty years ago Caesars Palace gave 20-1 odds against William (Refrigerator) Perry rushing for a TD during Super Bowl XX. Though Fridge had scored twice during the regular season, Bears coach Mike Ditka had said he wouldn't deploy the lovably large rookie defensive tackle as a running back. But Ditka changed his mind and Caesars got stabbed in the back.

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