Randall the Handle's Super Bowl betting guide
Will Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco throw an interception during the Super Bowl? That's one of many prop bets you can make for the big game. (ADAM HUNGER/Reuters)
So, you’re a square.
Don’t take that as a derogatory jab. It’s not at all. It’s merely a way that seasoned gamblers or ‘sharps’ describe beginners or novices.
However, gambling has never been more popular and more accepted in North America as it is today, and squares are becoming more rounded.
Live casinos, online gaming, fantasy sports, lotteries, bingos, poker and more provide plenty of options for the betting public.
As a result, not being familiar with any of it can suddenly make you feel the same way as the only person in a group that’s not watching a hit TV series that everyone is incessantly raving about.
This being Super Bowl week, that feeling can be exemplified more than ever.
As we head towards the big game, point spreads and prognosticating are popular topics of conversation. As a square or a neophyte, you want in.
Come Sunday, you want to be rooting as much as the next guy and it would be nice to understand what it is exactly that you’re rooting for.
Don’t fret. There’s plenty of time and we’re here to help.
Below, you will find the various ways and explanations that a bet on Super Bowl XLVII can be made. From the traditional ways to the wild and wacky propositions bets offered in today’s vast marketplace, there’s something for everyone.
THE POINT SPREAD
SAN FRANCISCO -3½
The point spread is the most common and popular way of wagering on NFL football. Not surprisingly, it is also the most agonizing gambling mechanism ever produced. The point spread is equivalent to a handicap. Since all teams are not created equal, oddsmakers allow for one team to ‘spot’ the other team some points. In Sunday’s game, San Francisco is the favourite while Baltimore is the underdog. If you choose to back the 49ers, you are required to give 3½ points to the Ravens. Meaning, if you take San Francisco, not only must they win the game but they must win by four points or more in order to cover the spread. Conversely, if you were to back the Ravens, they can lose the game but cover the point spread if they lose by 3 points or less. Of course, if Baltimore was to pull the minor upset, they would cover the spread as any points allotted are not needed in an underdog victory. Just to be clear, here are some examples with results.
Final score 1: San Francisco 27, Baltimore 23
*San Francisco covers as they won by more than 3½.
Final score 2: San Francisco 20, Baltimore 19
*Baltimore covers as the 49ers won but not by more than 3½.
Final score 3: Baltimore 24, San Francisco 17
*Baltimore covers as they were the underdog and any points offered were irrelevant
Tip: The point spread is the great equalizer. With it, bad teams are suddenly on par with superior opponents. Be careful. Point spread money is the life blood of the bookmaker. Your online sportsbook director or local bookie isn’t driving a high end car from selling pencils.
SAN FRANCISCO -1.80
This bet is simple – sort of. Just pick the winner of the game straight up and you win your bet. However, there’s a catch. Since San Francisco is favoured to win, you will have to give odds to back them on the moneyline. In order to win $1.00, you would have to be willing to risk $1.80 should they lose. Conversely, there is a reward for taking the underdog Ravens on the moneyline, as a $1.00 risk will net you a $1.60 reward, should they win the game.
Tip: Betting on big moneyline favourites is dangerous business. While it sometimes looks like an easy win for the favoured team, nothing comes easy. Also, when you lose those bets on the pricey favourite, you have a lot of ground to make up. On the flip side, very few things in life are more gratifying than cashing in on a moneyline underdog.
SAN FRANSCICO vs. BALTIMORE
TOTAL: 47 points
The total is also referred to as the OVER/UNDER. It’s a rather straightforward wager. The total is a number that oddsmakers set where you can bet if there will be more (OVER) or less (UNDER) combined points scored in the game. In this Sunday’s contest, if you think there will be a fair amount of scoring, you’d go OVER 47 total points. If you think it will be a defensive battle, you would take UNDER 47 total points.
Tip: Squares typically bet on OVERS simply because our sports culture likes scoring. Oddsmakers know this and they inflate the numbers as such. Betting the UNDER is more prudent but it requires that you root for the clock and that can be excruciating.
THE HALFTIME BET
TO BE DETERMINED
Because there weren’t enough ways for the house to try and pick your pocket, the popularity of halftime betting has increased dramatically over the years. Halftime betting allows for the bettor to place a wager between the first and second halves of games. For all intents and purposes, the second half is treated as the start of a new game. For example, the 49ers are leading at the half by a 17-3 count. Oddsmakers then put up a number that applies to the second half only, i.e. Baltimore minus 3. What, you say? Baltimore is now the favourite? Yes, they are. Seeing that the game was expected to be fairly close, the line is set accordingly while it also correlates with the game’s original point spread. If you think Baltimore will make it close, you would then spot the 3 points the same way that you would spot points with a favourite to start a game. If you feel that the Niners will hold this lead or extend it in the 2nd half, then you would back them. Remember, the start of the 2nd half is treated as 0-0 no matter what the score is.
Tip: Don’t double pneumonia yourself. If you’re team is doing poorly heading into the 2nd half, refrain from going in for more. If they happen to come back, you can still win your original bet. If they continue to stink the joint up, take your lumps and move on.
THE PROPOSITION BET
A proposition in Las Vegas used to have a different meaning. Super Bowl XX, which was also played in New Orleans, marked the beginning of new era in sports wagering. With the Chicago Bears as a prohibitive and popular 10-point favourite over the much inferior New England Patriots (no, not those Patriots as Tom Brady was only 8-years old at the time), sportsbooks needed to offer more than the standard betting menu. Sportsbook director Jimmy Vaccaro of the MGM Grand decided to cash in on the popularity of the 300-something pound William ‘the Fridge’ Perry by offering odds of 40-1 that the lineman would score a touchdown. Both the media and the public caught wind of this odd option and by game time, with money pouring in on it, the odds had dropped to 5-1. Coach Mike Ditka of the Bears also found out about it and with Chicago dominating the game, coach allowed Perry to carry the ball on a short yardage play near the end zone, resulting in a Chicago touchdown. Hence, the proposition, or “prop” bet, was born.
Today, prop betting has become a huge feature, primarily in football’s biggest game. There is an endless amount of props being offered from various books worldwide that range from the coin flip to whether Ray Lewis will cry or not.
Of course, while some are just for fun (will Beyonce show cleavage during halftime show?) and have very small limits, not all props are propaganda. Some offer real value. Let’s look at some of both.
THE VALUE PROP
WILL JOE FLACCO THROW AN INTERCEPTION?
As your parents probably told you, it pays to do your homework. Flacco has now gone five games without an interception. The Ravens’ quarterback has thrown 156 consecutive passes without an interception, including 93 in the playoffs. Flacco is in a groove and we’re being offered odds to ride along. In addition, San Francisco’s defence is not exactly the ball hawking type with only 14 INT’s during the regular season. Good value on this one.
WILL EITHER TEAM SCORE IN THE FIRST 6 1/2 MINUTES OF THE GAME?
Oddsmakers sometimes get lazy or perhaps overworked. They are forced to come up with dozens of props in a relatively short period of time. Scouring through them all usually uncovers an oversight or two. This prop has been around for years and yet, while the league shifted into a much higher offensive gear, this prop has remained in neutral as the time specification has not changed. Scoring is now the norm. Defence is old school. If we look at each team’s first score of the game during the playoffs, we’ll find that only once in five combined games did it exceed the 6:30 minute mark. In fact, in their other four playoff games to date, there was a score prior to the 3:37 mark. If nothing else, you’ll know how you did on this one just a few minutes into the game.
THE GIMMICK PROP
These can be fun but not worth much of an investment. The best thing we can recommend is to make a list of 10-15 of these silly tenders and have your Super Bowl party attendees select from them. Most correct gets to take home the guacamole!
PROP: Length of postgame handshake/hug between Harbaugh brothers:
Over or Under 7.5 seconds.
*Jim Harbaugh won’t Jim Schwartz his own brother, would he?
PROP: Colour of Gatorade poured on the winning coach?
Red, orange, yellow or blue?
*Maybe go with what matches the winner’s uniform?
PROP: Will Alex Smith take a snap?
Yes or No
*That’s just sad.
PROP: Who will score more points on Sunday?
The 49ers or Kobe Bryant (vs. Pistons).
*We would defer to Charles Barkley on this one.
Also, an important reminder when it comes to props is to not bet against yourself. If you took the Ravens to cover but then took San Fran’s Colin Kaepernick to have more touchdown passes than Joe Flacco, you’ll be more confused than Manti T’eo.
Sharp or square, Super Bowl Sunday offers something for everyone. Whether you use in-depth stats, a gut feeling or a dartboard to make your selections, we hope you’ll now be able to discuss them confidently the next time you gather around the water cooler.