The Beginner’s Guide to Betting the Super Bowl

In advance of the biggest American sporting event of the year, many people start thinking about placing a bet or two. For those who don’t know the difference between a fullback and a backpack, it’s a harrowing time.


In 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act banned sports betting in the United States, but a grandfather clause permitted Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana to continue taking bets. Currently, only Nevada exercises its rights. If you want to lose a stupid amount of money, legally, that’s the place to go.

Of course, thanks to the internet, you don’t need to visit Vegas to place a bet — although illegal in the United States, no federal laws prohibit American citizens from using offshore betting websites like (Latvia, not Las Vegas), and

In advance of the biggest American sporting event of the year, many people start thinking about placing a bet or two. For those who don’t know the difference between a fullback and a backpack, it’s a harrowing time. But, with a little education, you too can get in on the action.

What the Hell is a Bookie?

Sports Betting Terminology

Action: a bet
Book: a sports betting establishment
Bookie: someone who takes bets; also called a “bookmaker”
Chalk: team predicted to win; the favorite
Dime: $1,000
Dollar: $100
Fifty cents: $50
Handle: total monetary value of the bets taken
Hedging: placing money on multiple options in order to minimize loss
Juice: bookie’s commission on a losing bet
Line: the odds or point spread on a given event
Money line: a bet placed on the outcome of a game, regardless of the spread
Nickel: $500
Oddsmaker: person who sets the lines, typically employed by a large casino or offshore book
Over/Under: a bet placed on the fact that the sum final score will be over or under a preset number
Parlay: a bet involving multiple teams in which all teams must win for the bettor to get money; in exchange for the extra risk, the bettor receives a higher payout
Prop (proposition) bet: a bet placed on a certain unique topic
Spread: predicted scoring differential between two teams
Underdog: team predicted to lose

The first thing to know is how the betting process works. It starts with oddsmakers, professional sports analysts who work for big casinos or offshore books. They examine performance reports, advantages, disadvantages, injuries, morale, personal stories, and even the weather to establish lines — the odds set for the outcome of any given event. When setting the lines, oddsmakers try to keep equal numbers of bets on both sides. That’s how they make money. If one side gets too many bets, they’ll move the line to even things out, though if someone places a bet before the move, he keeps the original line.

Most outlets offer numerous ways to bet — we’ll cover the four most popular options for beginners. Before we continue, please note that Gear Patrol doesn’t encourage gambling, or advocate for any specific team, and that we’re not responsible for any losses except our own.

Betting the Spread

First, one can bet on the spread. According to, the spread at the time of this article’s publication was +3 for the Seahawks and -3 for the Broncos, where (-) indicates a chalk (favorite) and the (+) indicates an underdog. So, if one picks the Seahawks to win, and he wants to make money, the Seahawks would have to win or lose by less than 3. If one picks the Broncos, they’d have to win by more than 3. When betting the spread, it’s important to realize that you can still win money even if your team loses, or lose money even if your team wins, because you’re not betting on a win or loss…you’re betting that the team beats the spread. If the Seahawks were to lose by three exactly, the bet would push — you get your money back.

How much money does one win? That depends on the line. In every casino or on every betting site, you’ll see a number next to the spread, always preceded by a (-) or a (+). That’s the line. Let’s say you’re dealing with $100. A (-) before a number means that you lay that amount to win $100; a (+) means that you lay $100 to win that amount. At present, for the Super Bowl, the spread and line for the Seahawks are +3(-115), and for the Broncos they’re -3(-105). So, if you want to take the Seahawks, and you lay down $115, and if they win, or lose by less than 3, you get $215 — the original bet, plus $100. If you want to take the Broncos, and you lay down $105, and if they win by more than 3, you get $205.

Why I Don’t Gamble

In high school, I joined the wrestling team. Our coach was a square-jawed, muscular Italian that worked for the Drug Enforcement Agency. He often came to practice fifteen or twenty minutes late and excused himself by saying stuff like, “Sorry boys, I was chasing a coke head around a shopping mall”, or “You ever try to run an illegal gambling ring, you’re gonna taste the pavement”. Then he’d send us on a five-mile run and stake out the street from the backseat of his car to make sure we actually ran. I know I can gamble legally, but I’m still scared to try. —K.B. Gould

Betting the Money Line

In bet option number two, one picks a team to win regardless of the spread. For this option, the money line for the Seahawks is +115, and for the Broncos, -135. So, if you bet $100 on the Seahawks, and they win, you get back $215 — your original $100 + $115 in winnings. If you bet $135 on the Broncos, and they win, you get back $235 — your original $135 + $100 in winnings.

Betting the Over/Under

Bet option number three is the over/under, where one bets that the total points scored for a given game comes to more or less than a preset amount — in the case of the Super Bowl, 47. You either take over 47 with a money line of -105 or under 47 with a money line of -115. If you think that the total score will be under 47 points, you could lay down $105 with the the hopes of getting back $205. If you think that the total score will be over 47 points, you could lay down $115 with the hopes of getting back $215.

Prop Bets

The final option is the prop (or proposition) bet, where a book offers a line on a unique or interesting topic: for example, an over/under on how long it takes Renee Fleming to belt out the national anthem, or whether or not Richard Sherman will get called a “thug” by a major news outlet on live TV. The possibilities are endless, and, more often than not, fun. With prop bets, potential winnings are generally shown in fractions (4/1, for example) but can also be displayed in a line format (+400).

For the upcoming Super Bowl, a few GP staffers used to place a prop bet at +130 that the temperature in New York will be below 32 degrees at kickoff. If you’re headed to the Super Bowl, help us out and bring some ice or something. Throw it on the field before kickoff. That’s how science works, right?

Join us next week as we a) flaunt our winnings, or b) look for an office with cheaper rent.

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