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.
— William Hill US (@WilliamHillUS) February 3, 2014
Another person claiming victory tweeted:
— Annie Heilbrunn (@annieheilbrunn) February 3, 2014
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.
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