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Sportsbooks were ready to make a haul, then Patrick Mahomes rallied the Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass during a 31-20 comeback victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday.
(Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

Millions of dollars changed hands when Patrick Mahomes pulled off a historic heist Sunday by leading a Super Bowl-winning comeback that put the Kansas City Chiefs on top of the NFL world and left the San Francisco 49ers and their betting backers heartbroken.

Sometimes the buildup to the biggest betting event of the year can result in a letdown. This was not one of those times.

Bookmakers from coast to coast were set up for a super-size win before Mahomes passed for two touchdowns in the final 6½ minutes to lift Kansas City to a 31-20 victory over San Francisco. The Chiefs closed as one-point favorites, and the Over/Under was 53.

“Our best-case scenario was the 49ers and under the total,” said Jay Kornegay, vice president at Westgate SuperBook. “We got teased by the 49ers. It could have been a monster day. But the 49ers blew it.

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“Mahomes is just the best player in the league, and he might have beaten the best team. Mahomes just makes too many plays. He’s incredible. And he didn’t even have his ‘A’ game.”

Mahomes was also in the middle of three popular proposition wagers that made a major impact on the books’ bottom line, for better or worse.

Amid the celebration and confetti in Miami, Mahomes was voted the game’s MVP. The Chiefs quarterback was the -120 favorite to win it, but bettors sprayed action all over the board trying to hit a long shot.

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“The MVP was the biggest prop we’ve ever won,” said Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill sportsbook director. “And that was a prop you could not even book a few years ago.”

Before cleaning up on the MVP prop, the books paid out on Mahomes to score the game’s first touchdown at 20-1 odds. Mahomes scored on a one-yard run with 31 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

“That was a six-figure swing for us. It was our worst prop of the day,” Kornegay said. “We were in the hole right out of the gate.”

The total for Mahomes’ rushing yards resulted in possibly the worst prop beat — or luckiest win — in Super Bowl history. The Over/Under opened at 28½ and was bet as high as 38½ at some books. Mahomes was sitting on 44 rushing yards with a minute to play before kneeling for losses of five, three and seven yards on three plays to finish with 29 yards.

“That was brutal,” Bogdanovich said. “It’s one thing if he takes a loss for a couple of yards, but 15? It was incredible. There was a ton of action on that prop too. The sharps (professional bettors) were all on the Under, and the public kept betting it Over.”

PointsBet, an online sportsbook in New Jersey, opted to refund all wagers on Mahomes over 30½ rushing yards. There were no refunds from William Hill, which took more money on Mahomes’ rushing yards than on any other prop in the game.

Prop betting accounts for about 50% of the game’s handle at most sportsbooks. The Chiefs-49ers matchup was expected to threaten Nevada’s Super Bowl wagering handle record of $158.6 million set in 2018, when Philadelphia upset New England. The state’s figures announced Tuesday showed a wagering handle of $154.7 million. The books held $18.8 million for a 12.1 win percentage — the second-biggest win in the past 10 Super Bowls ($19.7 million, 16.5% for Seahawks-Broncos in 2014.)

“Not a lot of things were going our way in the early going,” Kornegay said. “When it was all said and done, it ended up being a decent day.”

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Bogdanovich said the William Hill bottom line was a winner, with sportsbooks in the Reno area getting an avalanche of action from San Francisco bettors. It was a different story at books in other areas of the country.

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“In Nevada, it was good, but all the other states were about break even or a small loser,” Bogdanovich said. “The California money was coming in on the Niners. Everywhere else — New Jersey, Delaware, Rhode Island, Iowa, Mississippi — we were high on the Chiefs. It just goes to show the regional bias.”

Win probability models showed San Francisco had a 96% chance of winning when it led 20-10 midway through the fourth quarter. Mahomes’ comeback drive started with a 44-yard pass to Tyreek Hill on third and 15 with seven minutes to go. Before that play, William Hill posted an in-game line on Kansas City to win at 6-1 odds.

The Chiefs scored on a one-yard pass from Mahomes to Travis Kelce and took a 24-20 lead after Mahomes’ five-yard touchdown pass to Damien Williams with 2:44 left.

“One play flipped the whole script, and that was when Mahomes floated that pass to Hill on third and 15,” Bogdanovich said. “The Niners had the game and just let it get away.”

Mahomes and the Chiefs share the favorite’s role to win the 2021 Super Bowl. William Hill posted Kansas City, San Francisco and Baltimore each at 7-1 odds.

Matt Youmans writes for VSiN, the sports betting network.


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