What’s your best advice for betting the Super Bowl?
First thing: Take it as entertainment. In other words, you shouldn’t bet the Super Bowl thinking you’re going to pay bills [with your winnings]. Just have some fun with it, look at all the different proposition bets, and to make the game a little more interesting, try to find some [props] that might be decided in the second half. … With $5 minimum [bets], you could really have a lot of fun. I think sports gambling is one of the best sources of entertainment you can have. You can bet $10 on a game and enjoy it for three hours—or in the case of the Super Bowl, four hours.
Since your days at the Imperial Palace back in the 1990s, you’ve been known as the King of the Props. Why did you decide to expand your Super Bowl prop-bet offerings?
In the early 1990s, all the Super Bowls were blowouts, and we noticed that everybody was bored by the third or fourth quarter and actually leaving. Then in [January] 1995, the 49ers played the Chargers, and there was an 18½-point spread—there was no doubt who was going to win. So we decided to come up with props that would keep everybody in their seats and wouldn’t be decided until the third or fourth quarter, or maybe until the game ended. So we put up more than 100 props for that game, and it really took off. People loved them.
When I got in the business, I think there were 20 propositions, maybe. This year, we’ve got more than 350, which is our most ever. … I even have a couple of guys who come in here pretty much every year and bet every proposition—every single one.
You’ve been behind the sportsbook counter since 1987. What’s your fondest Super Bowl memory during that time?
Well, being a Broncos fan, the most memorable was when they beat the Packers [in Super Bowl XXXII]. But the next year, when the Broncos beat the Falcons in the Super Bowl, I was accused by a guest of calling [then-Denver coach] Mike Shanahan on the sideline to put in [backup quarterback] Bubby Brister, because we had a prop up—Will Bubby Brister have a rushing attempt?—and our thinking was that the Broncos were an 8½-point favorite; if they’re ahead and have the ball late, they’re going to take out John Elway so he could get his well-deserved ovation, and Bubby Brister would go in and kneel down. And a kneel-down is a rushing attempt—which we stipulated, because I didn’t want to fool anybody! Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. But the problem was they didn’t show it on TV; they were showing Elway on the sidelines, and they never showed the kneel-downs!
This guy comes in and says, “I know you’re from Denver! You called [Shanahan] to put in Bubby Brister because you guys needed a kneel-down.” And I was like, “Really, dude? Do you really think I have a hotline?—‘Hey Mike, put Bubby in!’”
What’s your favorite prop this year?
I wish we could put up some of the things the offshore books are able to do, like “How many times will [Broncos quarterback] Peyton Manning say Omaha?” but due to Nevada gaming regulations, we can’t; we’re restricted to the field of play.
One that’s new this year is the total yardage of all touchdowns combined, which is 74½. For us, that’s creative, because it’s something that’s actually within the game. I mean, we can have crossover-sports [props] all day; I can put up props matching LeBron James against something in the Super Bowl—we can fill three panels with stuff like that. So this was more creative.
If you were to lay your own money on that prop, which way would you go?
I believe it’s going to be a low-scoring game. It’s going to be a very physical, hard-fought—I’m not going to say boring game, but it’s going to be a very intense defensive battle. So if I was to wager on this particular prop, I’d probably wager “under.”
You’re a lifelong Broncos fan, but it’s very possible you might need the Seahawks to prevail in order for the LVH to profit. How do you internalize that?
Well, this will be the sixth Super Bowl that the Broncos have been in since I’ve been in the business, and out of the previous five, [the book] needed the Broncos four times. So that made it very easy! [Laughs.] The one year that we didn’t need the Broncos was when they played the Redskins [Super Bowl XXII in 1988], but I can tell you that I was rooting for the Broncos in that one. And this year it’s going to be a very similar situation, because it looks like [the sportsbook is] going to need the Seahawks.
It’s a little frustrating, because you’re always rooting for the book, but you always want to be that fan. I’m sure the book’s going to be fine and we’re going to do well on a lot of other things, so I’m still going to be rooting for the Broncos.
You OK with your boss knowing that?
He doesn’t read your magazine. [Laughs.]