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Super Bowl Betting

For bettors, there’s nothing quite like the Super Bowl. With literally hundreds of different ways to wager on the biggest NFL game of the year, sportsbooks continuously try to come up with new ideas for Super Bowl betting, especially proposition bets that include anything and everything, from how long the national anthem will last before the game begins to what color the Gatorade will be for the winning team after they claim the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

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Point Spread

The trophy itself is named for the legendary head coach of the Green Bay Packers that led them to wins in each of the first two Super Bowls in 1967 and 1968. The Packers were heavy favorites in Super Bowl I (-14) and II (-13.5), and they covered the “point spread” easily in both games. The point spread is the betting line set by oddsmakers, who try to determine the difference between the two teams in order to get equal action on both sides.

For example, Green Bay was viewed as being two touchdowns better than the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I. Bettors could then choose whether they thought the Packers were either undervalued by taking them or overvalued by picking the Chiefs as the underdogs.

As it turned out, Green Bay was the right side as a 35-10 winner in the first Super Bowl, with the margin of victory more than 14 points. To cash a ticket on Kansas City, the margin of victory needed to be less than 14 points. If the point differential between the two teams ended up being 14 points, it would be considered a “push” and bettors who wagered on each of them would get their money back. 

Total or Over/Under

The total or “Over/Under” as some refer to it was introduced the following year when the Packers played the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II. Unlike the point spread, oddsmakers look to set a number of combined points both teams will score in the game, and then bettors choose whether there will be more (“Over”) or less (“Under”) than the total. In Super Bowl II, Green Bay beat Oakland 33-14, and the total was set at 43. So the combined number of points between the Packers and Raiders was 47 points, going “Over” the total.

Moneyline

A third way to bet on the Super Bowl game result is called a “moneyline” wager. This is a simplified version of the point spread that takes the points out of the equation and lets the bettor simply choose which team will win the game. The big difference here is that a team favored by a larger number like 14 points would require the bettor to lay a significantly higher amount of money than one favored by three.

Likewise, a huge underdog like the New York Jets – 18-point underdogs in Super Bowl III – would pay off a huge amount. Generally, a 3-point favorite in football is equivalent to a moneyline of -155, where the bettor would lay $155 to win $100 and take back $255 total with a win. A 3-point underdog is then worth +135, or $135 based on a $100 wager. The bigger the number, the bigger the price for a favorite and the bigger the reward for an underdog.

Super Bowl Props

Proposition bets or “props” did not come along until much later, becoming very popular in the 1980s when Las Vegas sportsbooks looked for additional ways to draw in bettors to their casino properties. William “The Refrigerator” Perry really put props on the map in Super Bowl XX when his Chicago Bears met the New England Patriots.

Perry had rushed for two touchdowns as a rookie for the Bears in 1985 and also caught one, giving oddsmakers the perfect opportunity to set a prop on whether or not he would score one in the Super Bowl. Legendary Vegas oddsmaker Michael “Roxy” Roxborough opened Perry at 15/1 odds to score a TD in Super Bowl XX, and bettors put so much money on him that the line dropped all the way down to 5/2. Perry scored a TD in a 46-10 Chicago rout, and props exploded.

Today, nearly every Vegas and offshore sportsbook that offers Super Bowl betting action likely has their own unique props. Some are based purely on player performances, such as how many yards a running back will have in the game, how many pass attempts a quarterback will throw, how many points a kicker will score, etc.

Others are team-based props for each team or both combined, like how many sacks will a team have, how many points will a team score, how many interceptions by both teams, etc. Still more props focus on single events that happen before, during or after the game. The most common prop of that variety involves the coin toss, which occurs prior to kickoff.

Bettors can wager on whether the coin flip will result in heads or tails and which team will receive the opening kickoff based on that result. In addition, some of the more wacky props involve nothing that happens on the field at all. Instead, there are Super Bowl props offered revolving around the broadcast of the game along with commercials aired during breaks. Which sideline reporter will be shown first? How many times will they show the star quarterback’s family? What will the TV rating be after the game? These are just a few examples of props.

But not everybody can get to Vegas or bet the big game online through offshore sportsbooks. For those who still want Super Bowl betting action, “squares” are a means to enjoy betting with your friends and win some money in the process. Each individual puts a certain amount of money into a group pool, which is then awarded to participants at different points of the game, usually halftime and at the end.

Each participant is assigned two numbers through a drawing, one that is the last digit of one team’s score and the other that is the last digit of the other team’s score. All of the participants’ numbers are displayed on a square, which is how it gets its name. If the score matches both numbers, the winner is awarded a pre-designated amount from the pool.

While these are the main ways people can participate in Super Bowl betting, there are always additional options created every year with entertainment in mind. Props in particular are continuing to grow and becoming more fun. The possibilities are endless.

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