EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The bizarre first play from scrimmage of Super Bowl XLVIII had Peyton Manning shaking his head, the Seattle Seahawks celebrating wildly – and a handful of enterprising bettors rubbing their hands with delight on Sunday evening. The mix-up between Manning and center Manny Ramirez that led to Seattle collecting two points from a safety was about as improbable an opening to the championship game as could be imagined, yet a few clever souls predicted just that.
A spokesman for William Hill US, a division of Britain's largest bookmaker, confirmed that several bets had been taken on a Seattle safety as the first score at odds of 50-1. Overall it was a great result for the bookmaker, with the majority of bets taken for more conventional scoring methods, such as a touchdown or field goal for either side.
"It was a pretty strange way for the game to start like that and in that market that worked out as a big result for us,” said William Hill US spokesman Ryan Greene. "Not a lot of people are looking at that outcome for a way to start the game; the conventional thinking is going to go toward either three or seven points."
Odds were also offered at 5-1 for a safety to take place at any time during the game, a bet Chamath Palihapitiya, part owner of the Golden State Warriors, hit on.
Wow - I never start a Super Bowl this hot... pic.twitter.com/WykFN4Do9y— Chamath Palihapitiya (@chamath) February 2, 2014
The Twitter handle for William Hill US posted a photograph of a winning ticket selecting a safety as the game's first score, a $25 wager at 50-1 that won the bettor $1,275 at a location in downtown Las Vegas.
Another person claiming victory tweeted:
Social media was also abuzz with the rumor that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had collected $20 million from picking a safety, but Cuban's Twitter claim turned out to be a prank.
The Broncos' miscommunication was the worst possible start for Manning and his team and came just 12 seconds into the game, beating Devin Hester's 14-second touchdown return in 2007 as the quickest score in Super Bowl history.
In was the second time in three Super Bowls that a safety was called for the first score of the game, with Tom Brady penalized for intentional grounding in his own end zone against the New York Giants in 2012.
Want to watch the Big Game ads? Check them out here: