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Super Bowl coin toss: Everything you need to know


Super Bowl coin toss: Everything you need to know

The Super Bowl is one of the most high profile betting events of the year. The main event in the NFL season provides a huge variety of weird and wonderful betting propositions. Super Bowl coin toss betting may be entirely random, but it has become one of the most popular, and yet misunderstood, Super Bowl bets. Read on to learn more about the Super Bowl coin toss odds.

The coin toss is one of the most famous Super Bowl prop bets and has assumed such importance that a specially minted coin is used, with both teams appearing on the tails side and the venue and year on the heads side. It is often suggested that because the coin used is made for the specific occasion, there is a chance that Super Bowl coin toss betting might be biased. This is fun for conspiracy theorists, but is of course nonsense - hence why the Super Bowl coin toss odds are always the same and always equal.

  • Margin - The implied cost of placing a bet set by the bookmaker. Bookmakers inflate the perceived likelihood of an event - as represented in their odds - suggesting it is more likely than underlying probability.

Super Bowl 2020 coin toss odds

Coin toss outcome

Odds*

Heads

1.97

Tails

1.97

Super Bowl coin toss: Who flips and when?

The Super Bowl coin toss has become so significant that since 1978, a nominated celebrity has flipped it. This has added to the spectacle of the coin toss, but it doesn’t always go smoothly. In 2012 Curtis Martin, an inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was set to flip the coin but ended up as a spectator to referee John Parry who mistakenly took the honours. The "ceremony" of the Super Bowl coin toss takes place approximately three minutes before the start of the game.

Who calls the Super Bowl coin toss?

The AFC is designated as the home team for every even-numbered Super Bowl, so in 2021 – Super Bowl 55 – the NFC Champions (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) will be the home side. They will also be the first team in Super Bowl history to actually play at their home field as well (Raymond James Stadium). This designation allows the Buccaneers to choose which colour jerseys to wear. Anyone interested in irrelevant trends might take note of the fact that they have choose to wear their away colours (whiite), meaning the Kansas City Chiefs will be wearing red. This is because 13 of the last 16 Super Bowl winners have worn white.

Because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get to chose the uniorm, the Kansas City Chiefs get to call the coin - something that obviously won't actually affect the Super Bowl coin toss odds.

What does winning the coin toss mean?

After the designated team chooses heads or tails for the Super Bowl coin toss, the referee confirms the call mid-toss. This ensures that there is no mistaking what was said – a rule change resulting from the 1998 Thanksgiving Day Game between the Pittsburg Steelers and the Detroit Lions.

On that occasion, Referee Phil Luckett heard Steelers running back Jerome Bettis call heads, while Bettis swears he said tails. When the coin landed tails side-up, Luckett awarded possession to the Lions, who went on to win the game – something that changed the coin toss rules forever.

The team that wins the Super Bowl coin toss then has the option of choosing to receive the ball, or to select which side they wish to start in the big game.

Up until the early 2000s it was thought that it was better to start with the ball with the logic being that starting the game on an offensive drive is better, with the chance of an early confidence boosting score. This meant the standard choice had been to receive. However, since then it has become clear that there is actually a small advantage to be gained from starting with the ball in the second half and thus, the standard choice is now to defer.

Is winning the Super Bowl coint toss significant?

In 54 Super Bowls the winner of the coin toss has gone on to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy 24 times (44%), losing 30 times (56%). People may argue that, based on these figures, the Super Bowl coin toss has some influence on the outcome of the game. However, even with a far greater sample size you would still struggle to justify such a statement.

The magical NFC streak

There is nothing wrong with indulging with fun bets like Super Bowl coin toss betting, so long as you are clear that it is entirely random, and provides poor value, and that you keep these principles in mind if you intend to bet for profit.

One of the reasons that the Super Bowl coin toss has captured bettors’ imagination is that from 1998 to 2011 the NFC recorded 14 consecutive wins – that’s two to the power of 14, or odds of 16,001.00 (+1,600,000). This, along with the NFC's 68.5% win rate in the Super Bowl coin toss (37/54), has given rise to a familiar misconception about random events such as a coin toss (people begin to believe that it isn't actually random).

Many bettors fail to see that as the coin has no memory – each flip is totally independent – and a streak over 54 coin tosses isn’t statistically significant. This is explained by the law of large numbers (something that has also been discussed in a separate article regarding the Gambler’s Fallacy).

A lack of understanding about probability amongst the general public becomes apparent when we hear of speculation about the coins being biased. Others, as previously mentioned, also claim this could be possible due to the fact that they are especially made for the occasion. While this is an interesting narrative that odds to the fun of the Super Bowl, it simply isn't true.

Is there value betting on the Super Bowl coin toss?

Putting the fun element to one side, on its own, the Super Bowl coin toss is a bad bet. The odds are 50/50 and therefore should be priced at 2.0/2.0 on both sides, with zero margin. However, it's unlikely you'll find any bookmaker offering this. This bet actually provides a great explanation for how bookmakers work, and how to work out how much your bookmaker is charging you.

Pinnacle prices the Super Bowl coin toss odds at 1.970/1.970*, which is a margin of just over 1.5% – which is likely as low as you’ll find online. Anyone looking to place a big bet on the Super Bowl coin toss can get limits of $10,000 for the bet which is also the highest available online. While the low margin and high limits don't necessarily matter for a fun bet like the Super Bowl coin toss, this low margin and high limits policy also applies to regular markets at Pinnacle, providing bettors with better value than anywhere else online.

Many other bookmakers are offering this bet at 1.871/1.871 which is a 7% margin. If you want to maximise your return your choice of bookmaker should be obvious, and even though this is just a fun bet, the principle is the same whatever you are betting on, you want the best value - use Pinnacle's margin calculator to work out how much margin is being applied to your bet.

The history of the Super Bowl coin toss

Super Bowl

Heads/Tails

Toss Winner

Toss Winner Conference

LIV

Tails

San Francisco 49ers

NFC

LIII

Tails

L.A. Rams

NFC

LII

Heads

New England Patriots

AFC

LI

Tails

Atlanta Falcons

NFC

50

Tails

Carolina Panthers

NFC

XLIX

Tails

Seattle Seahawks

NFC

XLVIII

Tails

Seattle Seahawks

NFC

XLVII

Heads

Baltimore Ravens

AFC

XLVI

Heads

New England Patriots

AFC

XLV

Heads

Green Bay Packers

NFC

XLIV

Heads

New Orleans Saints

NFC

XLIII

Heads

Arizona Cardinals

NFC

XLII

Tails

N.Y. Giants

NFC

XLI

Heads

Chicago Bears

NFC

XL

Tails

Seattle Seahawks

NFC

XXXIX

Tails

Philadelphia Eagles

NFC

XXXVIII

Tails

Carolina Panthers

NFC

XXXVII

Tails

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC

XXXVI

Heads

St. Louis Rams

NFC

XXXV

Tails

N.Y. Giants

NFC

XXXIV

Tails

St. Louis Rams

NFC

XXXIII

Tails

Atlanta Falcons

NFC

XXXII

Tails

Green Bay Packers

NFC

XXXI

Heads

New England Patriots

AFC

XXX

Tails

Dallas Cowboys

NFC

XXIX

Heads

San Francisco 49ers

NFC

XXVIII

Tails

Dallas Cowboys

NFC

XXVII

Heads

Buffalo Bills

AFC

XXVI

Heads

Washington Redskins

NFC

XXV

Heads

Buffalo Bills

AFC

XXIV

Heads

Denver Broncos

AFC

XXIII

Tails

San Francisco 49ers

NFC

XXII

Heads

Washington Redskins

NFC

XXI

Tails

Denver Broncos

AFC

XX

Tails

Chicago Bears

NFC

XIX

Tails

San Francisco 49ers

NFC

XVIII

Heads

L.A. Raiders

AFC

XVII

Tails

Miami Dolphins

AFC

XVI

Tails

San Francisco 49ers

NFC

XV

Tails

Philadelphia Eagles

NFC

XIV

Heads

L.A. Rams

NFC

XIII

Heads

Dallas Cowboys

NFC

XII

Heads

Dallas Cowboys

NFC

XI

Tails

Oakland Raiders

AFC

X

Heads

Dallas Cowboys

NFC

IX

Tails

Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC

VIII

Heads

Miami Dolphins

AFC

VII

Heads

Miami Dolphins

AFC

VI

Heads

Miami Dolphins

AFC

V

Tails

Dallas Cowboys

NFC

IV

Tails

Minnesota Vikings

NFC

III

Heads

N.Y. Jets

AFC

II

Tails

Oakland Raiders

AFC

I

Heads

Green Bay Packers

NFC

*Odds subject to change

 

 


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https://www.pinnacle.com/en/betting-articles
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