At least four times a week, I get an email like the one below:
"Week 13 odds and ends: Will Suh get fined again this year? Peyton Manning's future, Andy Reid's future..."
This one happened to be from Bodog. But I get them from Betonline and Sportsbook, too. Over the past five years, the instantly posted pop culture props have become a staple for online sports books. They cover everything from who will be the next head coach at Penn State (Dan Mullens at 7-4, Houston's Kevin Sumlin at 3-1, Harvard's Tim Murphy at 4-1, Rutgers' Greg Schiano at 5-1, Colts head coach Jim Caldwell at 15-1) to who will win "The X-Factor" (I'm not going to bother listing; haven't watched a second of the show -- just never got interested).
Sometimes, these props can make a book a little bit of money. Betonline had a First-NFL-Coach-To-Get-Fired prop. Tony Sparano had been the clear favorite and taken most of the bets. So when Jack Del Rio, who was 8-1, was canned early this week, Betonline did OK. "We took 54 bets on this prop," says Betonline's Dave Mason. "Only a few touched Del Rio. Our hold was a profitable 72.5 percent."
For the most part, though, these props aren't money makers. Limits are set at no more than $250 and even that figure is a rarity. Most places will stick to $50 or $100. And because the nature of these props is so volatile, bookmakers have to spend a lot of working capital reading rumor mill blogs and Us Weekly to make sure they aren't overexposed. "I'd say, over the long haul, we break even on these," Mason says. "But it does engage people, so it is worth it for us."
A couple of weeks ago, Ricki Lake went on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" to talk about her "Dancing With the Stars" prospects. At one point during the interview, she mentioned what the Bodog odds of her winning the competition were. "The next morning, we had a lot of people signing up for the site," says Bodog's head oddsmaker Adam Young. "And in the spot where we ask them how they heard of us, most of them listed, 'Ricki Lake on Jimmy Kimmel.' For a lot of customers, their first bets will be on props like this."