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Super Bowl Coin Toss – The Science Behind

Malcolm Darnley

Updated: Feb 11, 2024

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If you flip a coin the exact same way, at the exact same speed, in the exact same conditions, the outcome should be repeatable.

That is what I believe.

The speed, force, rotation, and technique of a coin toss always change depending on who is flipping the coin.

Meaning, that what makes the outcome of a coin toss a random occurrence is not that a coin was flipped, but how that coin was flipped.

Eight coin flips have occurred over the last seven Super Bowls, including the overtime toss in Super Bowl LI.

There have been some controversial flips along the way.

Using science, modern-day technology, and relevant coin flip data, we give you a new perspective on how to bet the opening toss of Super Bowl LVIII.

Handicapping The Super Bowl Coin Toss

What makes this a very difficult bet is that most regular-season data on referees does not help because of the Super Bowl “guest coin flipper factor.”

Our hypothesis coming into this study was that each referee would have their own flipping style.

A flipping style all of their own that might influence the outcome of a flip to have a slight, long-term tendency to land more on one side or the other.

By studying regular season flipping trends for each referee, we could get an idea of how the Super Bowl coin toss would play out.

Unfortunately, we can no longer assume that a referee who flips Heads 62% of the time during the regular season would be more likely to flip heads during the big game.

The majority of Super Bowl Coin Tosses are now being performed by “Celebrity Flippers,” with the referees doing hardly any flipping of their own.

Diving Into Super Bowl Coin Flip Data

When you include the overtime coin toss in Super Bow LIl, there have been eight coin flips during the last seven Super Bowls.

Of those eight flips, five were taken by “Amateur Flippers”, and three were performed by people I would consider “Coin Flipping Experts.(Two NFL referees and Billie Jean King)

Amateur Coin Flipper Results

Super BowlFlipperTechniqueResult
SB LVIIFabresha FlyntCTails
SB LVSuzy DornerAHeads
SB LIIIDr. Reverend KingBTails
SB LIICpl. Woody WilliamsD***Heads (tainted data)
SBLIGeorge Bush Sr.DTails

I have seen videos of all five coin flips listed above, and the letter grades for each of their techniques were assigned by me.

The SB LII data is interesting because the coin toss is performed by a decorated war hero, Corporal Woody Williams. However, just before he flips the coin, NFL Head Referee Gene Steratore calls him Mr. Wilson.

Not Mr. Williams.

Corporal Williams handled the situation with the class you would expect from a decorated veteran.

But – Being called the wrong name in that situation would rattle the best of us.

During his flip, the coin slipped off his thumb early; it never fully rotated and was hardly representative of a War Hero’s flip capabilities.

For that reason, I don’t like to include Cpl William’s data when we analyze the amateur coin flippers.

Focusing on the other four flips, we see a natural tendency for the coin to land tails when the overall flipping technique is considered average to poor. (3 tails | 1 heads)

We had our theories about why this might be happening, but needed more data to prove our point.

“Professional” Coin Flipper Data Analysis

Our professional coin flippers consist of tennis legend Billie Jean King and two NFL referees.

Professional Coin Flipper Results

Super BowlFlipperTechniqueResult
SB LVIBillie Jean KingBHeads
SB LIV(Ref.) Bill VinovichDQ’ed***Tails (tainted data)
SB LI (OT)(Ref.) Carl CheffersA+Heads

These three Pro Flippers are all people who have the experience and athleticism to flip a coin properly.

During SB LIV, head referee Bill Vinovich surprised a lot of people by using what I describe as an open-hand technique.

Instead of resting the coin on his thumb and propelling it upwards by flicking his thumb, Vinovich rested the coin more in his fingers and used an “open-hand” flip technique.

I’m not against this style of coin flipping, but I don’t think you can include it in the traditional thumb-dominated coin flip data results we are seeking.

Therefore, I have excluded this data from our results.

That leaves us with two professional coin flips, each performed using a very athletic, traditional thumb-based technique.

Both tosses, maybe not surprisingly, resulted in Heads.

Amateur vs Professional Flippers

  • Excluding tainted data, three of the four amateur coin flippers had a TAILS result. (75% tails)
  • Excluding tainted data, 100% of our professional coin flippers had a HEADS result.

The conclusions we can draw from the above data are obvious, but many of us aren’t able to properly explain WHY they occurred.

A quick lesson on the First Law of Thermodynamics might help us better understand why a professional coin-flipping technique might be more likely to land Heads.

First Law Of Thermodynamics

Definition:

“The first law of thermodynamics is often formulated as the sum of contributions to the internal energy (U) from all work (W), done on or by the system, and the amount of heat (Q) supplied or withdrawn from the system in a thermodynamic process.”

(Source – Laws of Thermodynamics, Wikipedia)

Cards on the table, I am not a scientist, but I am pretty good at word searches and several other word-related games.

Even with the First Law of Thermodynamics clearly outlined above, not everyone will grasp how it impacts the traditional Super Bowl opening coin flip bet.

Let me interpret the First Law for you as I understand it.

In the above definition, (U) represents Internal Energy.

Obviously, for energy to be produced, we need body parts to move while flipping the coin.

Another way to look at it is – the more things are moving in your flipping technique, the more energy that is being produced.

If you watch the video of amateur vs. professional techniques, you will see the Pros using more knee bend (more knee bend = more force) and properly following through with a full arm extension, even after the coin has left the thumb-flipping surface.

This technique produces more overall (U) than what Amateurs produce, and the results above suggest that this style is more likely to result in Heads landing face up.

If it was a math formula, it would look something like this:

(100% +75% / 2 = 87.5%)

Meaning: When an amateur coin flipper flips a commemorative Super Bowl oversized coin with poor technique and little or no knee bend, there is an 87.5% chance it lands tails.

We have found our edge.

Super Bowl LVIII Coin Flip Prediction

Now that we fully understand the style and technique that is most likely to result in a coin landing Heads or Tails, we need to analyze who will be performing Super Bowl LVIII’s ceremonial coin toss.

If we can determine whether this year’s flipper will have a professional or amateur flipping technique, we have given ourselves a significant advantage against the sportsbook.

  • Teva Loft,
  • Morgan “Bula” Montgomery,
  • Kaulana Tihada
  • Kuola Watson

The four players listed above are all members of the Lahainaluna High School football team, located inside a Maui town that was completely destroyed by a deadly forest fire. (One of the deadliest wildfires recorded in U.S. history.)

The four of them are also this year’s Super Bowl honorary captains.

For many of us, flipping a coin in front of thousands of people, with millions more watching around the world, might seem like a big deal.

But after what these four young adults and their entire town have gone through, I have no doubt the flipper of the coin will deliver a high-arcing, majestic toss – that will rotate the exact right number of times in the air… and eventually, LAND HEADS.

As long as they remember to bend their knee to generate more (U).

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