2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee Betting Preview, Odds and Picks

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It’s that time of the year again where preteens and other children, who have yet to hit puberty, make adults around the world feel like they never graduated middle school. Yes, I’m talking about the 92nd edition of the Scripps National Spelling Bee contest.

This year’s competition has set all-time records with the number participants and the total amount of cash prizes. Last year, there were 519 participants and it turned out to be a captivating contest of spelling superpowers. This year, there are 565 total participants, which is almost a 10% increase. Additionally, the 2018 Spelling Bee champ won $40,000 dollars. The winner of this year’s National Spelling Bee contest will take home $50,000 dollars.

With the increased competition and higher stakes, the 92nd Scripps National Spelling Bell contest will certainly make for compelling TV. It also makes for some exciting sports betting opportunities. National Spelling Bee betting sites have released several exciting spelling be prop bets to wager on. Let’s take a look at these bets, properly define them, use them correctly in a sentence, and see if we can spell “w-i-n-n-i-n-g.”

How to Watch the National Spelling Bee?

The 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee will take place live from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, from May 26th to May 31st. Although the preliminaries commence on Sunday, May 26th, the real fireworks don’t begin until Tuesday, May 28th, when Rounds Two and Three start. These rounds will also be when ESPN starts to televise the competition.

For the 26th straight year, ESPN will broadcast the National Spelling Bee. This year, the competition can be seen across all of ESPN’s TV stations and their app.

How to Bet on the National Spelling Bee

Since these contestants are relatively unknown children, there are no options to wager on an outright winner at the beginning of the competition. Furthermore, there are no moneylines or spreads. The only options for betting on the National Spelling Bee are prop bets. However, don’t let that fool you because these bets are quite entertaining and definitely add to the overall excitement of this contest.

The 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee Winner

The 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee winner was 14 year old Karthik Nemmani who was the vocab victor with the word “koinonia,” which means “intimate spiritual communion and participative sharing in a common religious commitment and spiritual community.”

He defeated 12 year old Naysa Modi who misspelled “bewusstseinslage.” On the surface, it looks like Modi got the harder word. She definitely got the longer word with 16 letters compared to Nemmani’s 8 letter word.

Scripps National Spelling Bee Odds

The following is a list of the most popular Scripps National Spelling Bee prop bets courtesy of BetOnline:

Will the Winner be Male or Female?

  • Male (-130)
  • Female (-110)

As mentioned, last year’s winner was Karthik Nemmani, a 14 year old male. That bumped the all-time total of boy winners to 47. However, the girls still have the slight advantage with 49 all-time winners. If you are wondering, the 96 total winners also include the years that there were co-champions.

Since 1997, there have been 15 boys who have won the National Spelling Bee and just 10 girls. With this year’s largest number of spellers ever (565), there appears to be more male spellers than females. After looking over the long list of entrants, I estimate that there are roughly 55% male and 45% female spellers. Please take into consideration that there should be a slight margin for error. In other words, do you know how time-consuming it is to count up all of the male and female entrants on the National Spelling Bee website?

One of the girls returning to the competition is Naysa Modi. Last year’s runner up looks to take home the money and the worldwide fame by winning this competition. It’s her 5th appearance in the National Spelling Bee. Rebekah Zeigler also joins Modi as being the only other speller to make their 5th appearance in this contest. In total, there are 162 returning spellers, which is roughly 28.6% of the entrants.

With the boys having owned the competition over the last two decades, and there being slightly more males in this year’s competition than females, I’m going with the “Male” betting option of -130 odds for the second straight year. C’mon boys, don’t let me down!

Spelling Bee Bet: Males (-130)

Will There be Co-Champs?

  • Yes (+250)
  • No (-400)

On the surface, these betting odds clearly favor “No.” And, after you see the data, you will know why. In the previous 91 spelling bee contests, there have only been co-champs on 6 occasions:

  • 1950
  • 1957
  • 1962
  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016

Typically, these odds would be even greater considering that only 6.5% of the competitions have ended with co-champs. But, since it happened three straight years (2014-2016), online betting sites feel confident in offering this prop bet at these odds.

Speaking of tandems, there are 7 sets of siblings in this year’s competition. Of those 7, two sets of siblings are twins. Wouldn’t that be exciting if they did a twin switch just before the final round in order to win the competition?

In the event of a tie (co-champs), the organization has changed its previous rules and will no longer have a tiebreaker test. Furthermore, the winners will split the First Place prize of $50K and the Second Place prize of $25K. That means the co-champions would get $37,500 dollars each.

For this bet, the smart money is on the “No” option with -400 odds. The “Yes” option isn’t worth a flyer considering the small number of times that there has been a tie.

Spelling Bee Bet: No (-400)

Over/Under for the Winning Word:

  • Over 9½ Letters (+100)
  • Under 9½ Letters (-140)

At first glance, many bettors would think that it’s the longer words that earn the final contestants a victory. However, that’s not always the case.

Since 1993, if you include the co-winners as well, the competition ending word finished Over 9.5 letters on 14 occasions. Ironically, the competition ending word also finished Under 9.5 letters on 14 occasions. So, if you are wondering why oddsmakers put the Over/Under at 9.5 letters, it’s because of the number of times it has gone Over or Under has been equal for at least the last 25 years.

In the last 10 competitions, the Over has hit 6 times and the Under has hit 7 times. As seen above, last year’s word was only 8 letters. If we go back to 2000, the Over has hit 11 times and the Under has hit 11 times. Once again, making the O/U at an equal amount of times.

Since there’s no clarity in those numbers, let’s go even deeper by looking at the winning word stats for all 92 previous competitions:

  • 4-letter words: 1 time
  • 5-letter words: 2 times
  • 6-letter words: 7 times
  • 7-letter words: 11 times
  • 8-letter words: 13 times
  • 9-letter words: 19 times
  • 10-letter words: 13 times
  • 11-letter words: 10 times
  • 12-letter words: 9 times
  • 13-letter words: 7 times
  • 14-letter words: 0 times
  • 15-letters words: 1 time

From this data, we can see that the Over has hit 39 times and the Under has hit 53 times. That means the winning words have gone Over 9.5 letters just 42% of the time while Under 9.5 letters has hit 58% of the time. Furthermore, 9-letter words have been the most common winning lengths at 19. Just another reason why the oddsmakers set the O/U at 9.5 letters.

The smart money is on the Under at -140 odds, but the value is with the Over at +100 odds. That’s even money if you take the Over, which I am going to take. I like the value on Over 9.5 letters and feel that it’s going to win the competition this year.

Spelling Bee Bet: Over 9.5 letters (+100)

Will the Winner Have Braces?

  • Yes (+200)
  • No (-300)

The 2018 National Spelling Bee winner didn’t have braces. That drops the number of winners wearing braces over the last two decades to just under 20%. It also meant that since 2006, only 3 winners have had braces.

For analytical purposes, if you take a deep dive into the profile pictures of all 565 spellers, and factor out the ones that aren’t smiling, roughly 10% to 12% of the entrants have braces. That’s a small number considering how many spellers will converge on Maryland this week.

Of all the National Spelling Bee bets, this one is probably the easiest one to pick. Take the “No” at -300 odds. The “Yes” option isn’t worth a flyer.

Spelling Bee Bet: No (-300)

Will the Winner Wear Glasses?

  • Yes (-140)
  • No (+100)

Is there a greater stereotype in all media vehicles than a “smart” kid wearing glasses? When you close your eyes and picture someone who’s “smart,” odds are that you think of a person wearing glasses. Well, the entertainment betting sites also feel that way as they have made “Yes” the favorite for this prop bet. Before we jump on any stereotypes, let’s analyze the data.

At least 20% of this year’s entrants wear glasses. Now, that seems like a no-brainer to jump on the “No” option due to the large amount of spellers that don’t wear glasses, but I caution you of a hasty decision. Last year, we had similar stats and I quickly jumped on the “No” option. Then Karthik Nemmani went on to win the 2018 competition and he wore glasses.

Since 1993, 15 winners have worn glasses. Furthermore, 7 of the last 11 winners have also worn glasses. For this bet, the smart money might be on “No” due to the low amount of spellers wearing glasses in their profile pictures. However, the value and the momentum is with the “Yes” option. I believe this year’s winner will wear glasses.

Spelling Bee Bet: Yes (+100)

Final Thoughts on the Scripps National Spelling Bee

As someone who still remembers his 3rd grade spelling bee contest and all of the eyes staring at me when on stage, I have a soft spot for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. I also do my best to spell the words correctly that the kids in the final round are given. Nevertheless, there will never be any witnesses to my success rate.

A long time ago, I learned a lesson about humility that there’s always someone bigger, someone better, someone stronger or someone smarter. I just never imagined that this philosophy would translate into kids 7-15 years old. With that said, the Scripps National Spelling Bee offers entertainment and betting value. So, dust off your vocabulary skills, show off your word wizardry and have some fun with 92nd edition of the most famous Spelling Bee contest in the world.

92nd National Spelling Bee Betting Recap

  • Winner: Male (-130)
  • Co-Champs: No (-400)
  • Final Word Over/Under 9.5 letters: Over 9.5 letters (+100)
  • Wear Braces: No (-300)
  • Wear Glasses: Bet: Yes (+100)

Additional National Spelling Bee Data

For those of you that like to crunch numbers and analyze all of the data before placing wagers, here are a few additional statistical categories for you to explore. Hopefully, they can help you make a more informed wager on the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Where do the National Spelling Bee Winners Come From?

If you are wondering, the following states have produced the most winners:

  • Texas with 11
  • Ohio with 9
  • CO, PA, TN with 7
  • CA, KS, NY with 5
  • IA, KY, MO with 4
  • Indiana with 3
  • Seven states with 2
  • Eleven states and territories with 1

This year, Texas has the most spellers in the National Spelling Bee with 69 entrants.

How Old are National Spelling Bee the Winners?

Despite this competition being open to kids ages 7 to 15, there has never been a winner under the age of 11:

  • 11-years old: 3 winners
  • 12-years old: 19 winners
  • 13-years old: 46 winners
  • 14-years old: 28 winners

Clearly the older kids have a huge advantage over the younger ones. This year, it’s the same:

  • 7-years old: 1 speller
  • 8-years old: 2 spellers
  • 9-years old: 20 spellers
  • 10-years old: 50 spellers
  • 11-years old: 61 spellers
  • 12-years old: 128 spellers
  • 13-years old: 171 spellers
  • 14-years old: 129 spellers
  • 15-years old: 3 spellers

What Grades are the Spellers in?

This year, the most entrants are in the 8th grade with 216 spellers. Surprisingly, there is one contestant that’s in the 1st grade. Additionally, there are 9 spellers in 3rd grade, 35 spellers in 4th grade, 57 spellers in 5th grade, 100 spellers in 6th grade, and 147 spellers in 7th grade. Once again, this competition heavily favors the older kids in the higher grades

Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...

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