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Getting Started Making Bets on the Super Bowl


We’ve all heard lectures from anti-gambling nags. “The longer you gamble, the more money you’ll lose,” they say, painting a casino boss as a kind of supernatural boogie-man. “The house knows every game’s statistics down to the fraction. People don’t have a chance!” But that’s not always true. In fact, the sportsbook must play by a separate set of rules which actually put bettors in charge. Quite opposite from what happens at the slot machine, it is often the bookmaker’s hand getting forced.

Gigantic events like the Super Bowl attract a ton of recreational betting. Many Super Bowl gamblers only place a few bets per-year. Except for those who bet against their hometown team as a hex on the opponent, nobody wants to lose a bet on the Greatest Show on Earth. Recreational bettors tend to ignore Super Bowl odds, simply placing bets on the consensus favorite to win the NFL title.

As a result, underdogs often have the best odds at a Super Bowl. The betting public’s rush to pick the favorite does not change either NFL club’s chances to win, but it does affect what a Super Bowl betting site can do with its odds. Bookies must balance the “handle,” or the amount of money taken on the game, so that the coffers are safe no matter who prevails. Gold-rushes of gambling on the favorite or the underdog are discouraged with changing odds. Therefore, the Super Bowl favorite often ends up “shrinking” in potential payoff while the underdog’s odds become more profitable than they should be.

In particular, what sounds like a fantastic opportunity to make money betting on the gala could also sound like Greek – actual Greek and not the “fortune teller” gimmick of so many handicappers who use “Greek” as a nickname.

Never fear! FanDuel has you covered. Scroll down for a guide to common NFL gambling markets and the basics of handicapping Super Bowl 54 against the betting odds.


Super Bowl Odds: Basics of NFL Betting Markets

Futures Odds

“Futures” odds on the Lombardi Trophy are offered from an NFL season’s training-camp days through preseason, and even from week-to-week at online sportsbooks. Futures gambling can feel simple enough – pick out a favorite to win the Super Bowl at 5-to-1 odds or a wild underdog choice at 50-to-1 payoff odds. Either way, you get to live-out a season cheering for your pick just as a season ticket-holder would.

Careful, though. The betting odds are about more than a team’s chances to win a Super Bowl over another NFL club. A gambler might pick the Seattle Seahawks at 15-to-1 preseason odds, thinking that Pete Carroll can out-fox Bill Belichick in a rematch. But what if the Seahawks run into trouble in the NFC race and never make it that far? And what if the New England Patriots aren’t fated to meet Seattle in February? There will always be mountains to climb before a team can win a Super Bowl – and pay off at lucrative futures odds.

Futures odds are often expressed in “moneyline” form, for instance 5-to-1 = (+500). Moneylines are the most basic Super Bowl betting odds offered by sportsbooks as the kickoff draws near, so let’s go over how to understand the “ML.”

Super Bowl Moneylines 

Moneyline odds promise a % payoff when a gambler’s chosen team wins the game straight-up. A favorite’s Super Bowl moneyline odds are denoted with a “-“ as in the ML (-200). Underdog moneylines are marked with a “+” as in a ML of (+350).

Payoff is calculated differently for the betting odds in the favorite’s and underdog’s markets, but always with imaginary Benjamins, or $100 bills, in mind.

(-200) odds mean that for every $200 wagered on a team, the house will pay out $100 if that team wins. (-500) odds stand for $100 payoff on every $500 wagered at the betting book. On the underdog side, moneyline odds represent the amount paid out on won $100 bets if the team surprises. (+350) odds equal a $350 payout on $100 wagered, (+1000) odds represent $1000 payout on the same risk, and so on.

Occasionally, betting site will refuse to put moneyline odds on a heavy favorite or even an underdog. Bettors will risk almost any amount if given the chance to take New England over an expansion team playing its 1st game, or Alabama in a “thrash-for-cash” Homecoming vs an FCS opponent. Meanwhile, the bookmaker setting the betting lines must worry about enormous payout owed if the underdogs win, even by forfeit.

As of the Tuesday before Super Bowl 54, the Kansas City Chiefs are the big game’s moneyline favorite at (-128) payoff odds. Enough gamblers believe that Andy Reid’s fast and exciting Chiefs will overcome Kyle Shanahan’s tough, physical 49ers that KC’s moneyline has shrunk by a small margin even as the spread remains at 1 and ½ points.

Namath Nixes the Bookies

The last Super Bowl in which Las Vegas bookies refused to offer moneyline odds was probably Super Bowl III, in which the AFL’s New York Jets took on the NFL-representative Baltimore Colts, a 3-touchdown favorite on the point spread. Some eagerly chose to allow bets on the 7-to-1 Jets, however, figuring that a New York QB named Joe Namath was all wet when he guaranteed the AFL would win. Green Bay had won a pair of NFL-vs-AFL Super Bowls over Kansas City and Oakland, but Las Vegas ignored the Packers’ warning that if the rival league continued to improve at the going rate, the NFL could have its hands full. The defending champions (and Joe Namath) were right. Not even Johnny Unitas could save the Colts from a barrage of Namath passes and 60 minutes of fine tackling from the Jets, who won 16-7 in a landmark Super Bowl upset.

Point-Spreads on the Super Bowl

So the Kansas City Chiefs are a (-1.5) point spread favorite for the upcoming Super Bowl. What does that mean, and which bettors will win or lose on which outcomes?

Point-spread betting works by “spotting” points to the underdog and “taking” points away from the favorite prior to kickoff. It’s especially handy when trying to gauge what a final score might look like, and serves as a refuge for suspense-loving Super Bowl bettors whenever the February classic is handicapped as a potential route.

You might want to try betting on your hometown Patriots, but what’s the challenge – or the profit – if the Brady Bunch is a 2-touchdown favorite? The point spread takes (-14) points away from the Patriots and “spots” a plus-number (+14) to New England’s opponent. If the Patriots win by 15 or more points, those who took the Patriots “against the spread” win their bets. If the Patriots lose or prevail by 13 or less points, those who chose the underdog ATS win theirs. If the Patriots win by the expected 14 points, point-spread wagers are returned.

It’s been said that moneyline odds are the “serious” betting odds but that’s not necessarily true. Consider how many high-profile sharks have been obsessed with “the number” over the years. They’re not talking about the moneyline “number” or even payoff odds at all, though a sportsbook can adjust its odds on each point-spread market (usually (-110) odds on both “numbers”). The science of NFL point-spread betting can be a lifelong pursuit.

Betting ATS often puts the gambler at cross-purposes with a head coach’s decision making. An NFL team leading the Super Bowl, for instance, may be more-inclined to play safe and allow the clock to run unperturbed in the closing moments of a 4th quarter. Meanwhile those bettors who had taken the club to beat a certain number ATS are yelling at the TV, asking why-oh-why wouldn’t the players try to score when the end zone is right there!

Over/Under, or point-total bettors know exactly how that feels.

Super Bowl Gambling on the Over/Under

Forget that part about moneyline odds being the “simplest” kind of Super Bowl odds.

The simplest bet in all of pigskin is the Over/Under wager, which collapses both teams into a single market and asks how many points will be scored in the scrum overall.

Bettors taken-in by the “number” (not the payoff odds) can get plenty excited about O/U totals – the Over/Under line is a number with no math symbols, no bells and whistles. Just (45) or (51.5) (with the “.5” fraction blocking any chance of a push) or (65) if a pair of Big 12 teams are planning a high-scoring track meet on a Saturday. Next to the O/U number are the payoff odds – again usually (-110).

Recreational NFL betting affects the Over/Under line. Whether it’s the Super Bowl, AFC Championship, or any other high-profile game, the “Over” market will tend to take too much action, since people who bet for fun prefer to cheer for a shoot-out and lots of TDs by both teams. For serious Super Bowl bets, the “Under” can be a sure-fire winner at nearly 1-to-1 payoff odds when 2 defenses are found to be better than advertised.

Super Bowl 54’s Over/Under line has seen the most movement of any main betting market on February 2nd’s big game. Banking on the powerful San Francisco defense keeping Kansas City’s speed and skill in check for at least part of the evening, professional handicappers advised sportsbooks to set their opening O/U totals at around (52) points. But FanDuel Sportsbook is not alone in posting an inflated Over/Under of (54.5) as betting action surges on the Over.

Recreational bettors are not always skeptical-enough of the Over market, especially given that a percentage of fans typically pick the Over as a fun scenario in which to cheer. Cheering for points is more exciting than cheering for a lack of points. Given the play-makers taking the field for each defense in Miami, however, such as Nick Bosa of the 49ers and Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mattieu of the Chiefs, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of the most thrilling and memorable plays of the 54th Greatest Show on Earth be produced by linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs.

Bears Beat Patriots…and the O/U Number Too

There are pitfalls to the above tactic, however, such as when the Chicago Bears went into Super Bowl XX as heavy favorites over the Patriots. Chicago owned a destructive defense and liked to control the ball with running back Walter Payton, usually winning playoff games 28-7 or 21-3. The trend caused Over/Under lines to sink into the 30s as high-rollers took the low side, but even the public overlooked the potential for mayhem. The Bears’ legendary front-7 barely allowed any 1st downs, and Chicago converted on numerous easy scoring chances to blow-out the Patriots (and the O/U total) with a 46-10 victory.

Super Bowl Prop Betting

“Prop,” or “proposition” odds, consist of multiple-choice or yes-no betting questions posed by the bookmaker. Benchmarks are often used such as “will Tom Brady pass for 300+ yards in the Super Bowl?” Other proposition odds can be as simple as asking whether an athlete will start for his team and/or score points in a big game.

Super Bowl prop betting is a genre all its own. Speculators place bets on odds for how the coin-toss will play out, what color Gatorade will show up on the sidelines, and even on weird things that occur during the game (what a concept!) such as betting “the odds or evens” on a final point tally.

Watch this space for more on Super Bowl prop bets – the topic is boundless!

Live Betting on the Super Bowl

Live or “in-play” odds are odds offered to gamblers while an event is taking place. As you might imagine, a lot of sportsbooks are happy to offer “deluxe” in-play wagering on the Super Bowl, including odds on 100s of updated potential outcomes.

Live betting comes with its disadvantages, such as not always being able to “grab” a bet slip prior to the rapid-fire odds changing once again. But there are advantages too, such as being able to find nice payoff odds on a leading underdog as the gambling public expects the favorite to come back in the 2nd half.

Handy tips for betting a sportsbook’s in-play odds include placing bets during quarter breaks and time-outs (when the odds are less likely to change) and studying each team’s tendencies when leading or trailing in games. Don’t wait too long to place those bets though – the book may remove odds on late-game outcomes once a Super Bowl is in the bag.

Where to Bet on Super Bowl LIV

Even if you’re a lifelong Las Vegas betting enthusiast, it can still be a leap of faith to place a bet with an online bookmaker. There has been a small handful of scams and rip-offs of bettors since the internet began providing mobile betting on sports odds.

Thankfully, the most trusted name in Fantasy sports has gotten into the odds-making scene. You can find hundreds of Super Bowl markets at FanDuel Sportsbook , which offers legal betting, withdrawals, and member-privileges for residents of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Iowa, and Indiana.

If you’re outside of those states, you can get in on the Big Game action with FanDuel’s Daily Fantasy Sports. We’ll have tournaments and head to head games for the entire NFL playoffs, leading up to and including the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl Betting Tips & Tactics

Congratulations, you’ve made it through Super Bowl betting 101! But there’s a lot more to gambling on the biggest pigskin game of the year than just understanding the odds.

Research further into this section for a crash-course in researching, handicapping, and finding the best odds. Ready to place that winning bet on the upcoming Super Bowl in Miami? Sign up for FanDuel Sportsbook and get in on the action

Useful Links

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