NFL betting: The history of the Super Bowl coin toss
The American Gaming Association estimated that over $7.6 billion was bet on last year's Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals. That figure will probably be higher this year as another NFL season culminates with a Super Bowl matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs.
A large part of that massive figure will be invested in the flip of a coin. Of all the ridiculous props offered for every Super Bowl, the coin toss is far and away the most popular every year. It makes sense. There are plenty of people who watch one football game a year, with that one game being the Super Bowl. It's hard for those people to accurately break down coverage schemes or target shares for a team's receiver group. Everyone, at some point in their life, has flipped a coin. Everyone knows it's a 50-50 proposition. There's no handicapping here, and you get immediate action before the game has even started.
While a coin flip is a 50-50 chance, there are plenty of theories and thoughts about it. Some people think that one side of the coin is slightly heavier, which makes it more likely that side lands face down. Other people think that coins bounce more on turf than grass. Of course, there's the ever-popular "tails never fails" theory.
While we recognize that a coin flip is an independent event with a 50-50 chance of landing on either side every time you flip it, it's the Super Bowl, and we're analyzing a coin flip way more than we should be. Let's dive into the history of the coin flip and recent trends.
Sometimes, tails does fail
Despite what some people have been telling you for years, tails does fail sometimes. In fact, in Super Bowl history, it has failed over 48% of the time, including back-to-back years and four of the last five years.
Through 56 Super Bowls, tails has been the winning side 29 times while the coin has landed on heads 27 times. If you've bet $105 on tails in every Super Bowl at -105 odds, you've won a grand total of $65 over 56 years. That's an average return of $1.16 per year.
Tails bettors haven't had much fun in recent years. The two most recent Super Bowls have seen the coin toss land on heads. Four of the five most recent coin tosses have landed on heads.
Overall, the coin toss has been a streaky proposition for the last 25 years:
Super Bowl LII to Super Bowl LVI: 4 of 5 heads
Super Bowl XLVIII to Super Bowl LI: 4 straight tails
Super Bowl XLIII to Super Bowl XLVII: 5 straight heads
Super Bowl XXXII to Super Bowl XLII: 9 of 11 tails
This is the Chiefs' fifth Super Bowl appearance. In their first four Super Bowls, tails went 2-2. Kansas City lost three of four tosses. On the other side, this is Philadelphia's fourth Super Bowl. Tails has been the winning side in two of their first three Super Bowls. Philadelphia has won two of three tosses, but lost their most recent toss against New England in Super Bowl LII.
Coin toss winner has struggled to win the game
If you're looking to bet the coin toss and want to tie your action to the actual football game that takes place after it, consider betting the team that won the coin toss to lose the game. For eight consecutive seasons, the team that has won the coin toss went on to lose the Super Bowl.
The most recent team to win both the coin toss and the football game was the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. Of course, Seattle won the toss and deferred their choice to the second half. On the first offensive play of the game, Denver Broncos' center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball over the head of Peyton Manning, which resulted in a safety.
Tails is popular early bet
If you're looking to be a contrarian bettor, you're probably considering betting heads for the opening coin toss. Unsurprisingly, tails is the choice of bettors in the early going as plenty of people live and die by the mantra that "tails never fails."
Currently at BetMGM, 56% of bets and 59% of the money is backing the opening toss to land tails. Both sides are available at -105 odds at BetMGM.