Betting the big game?
Of course you are. It’s the Super Bowl. What a stupid question.
But massive matchups like the Super Bowl breed stupidity, especially when it comes to sports bettors. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-time gambler or a seasoned sharp: the Super Bowl can make even the most disciplined bettor lose their mind.
There’s a little less than two weeks before the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots showdown in Houston on February 5. That’s more than enough time to completely tank your Super Bowl bets. It’s also plenty of time to heed these warnings.
Here are six mistakes Super Bowl bettors can make:
You bet too early/too late
If you’ve been paying attention to the early line moves for Super Bowl LI, you’ve seen the Patriots go off at anything from -2.5 to -4, after kicking the snot out of the Pittsburgh in the AFC title game.
If you’re a Pats backer and you didn’t get down on that small spread (which was offered before the AFC Championship was even over), you may have missed your chance. Maybe you jumped the gun and took Atlanta +2.5 and watched free points pass you by.
First off, let those odds go, ‘cause man they’re gone. Second, breathe. Third, realize that there are two weeks of wagering to be had on this game and that 97 percent of the money doesn’t come in until the 48 hours before game time. That means movement is coming. Fourth, get an opinion and plan of attack. Know what you realistically want for a line and how much you want to pay for it.
Patriots fans, you may want to grab the -3 on your beloved team now. Books took early money on Belichick's boys and New England is the most public team in all of football - maybe in all of sports betting - so it may not get any better than giving a clean field goal. Falcons backers, you may want to wait out that movement and see if you can get a half-point hook on that line or maybe even Atlanta +4 before showtime.
In the past two Super Bowls, there has been some very aggressive line movement. So hold tight, you might get what you want. That said, don’t let a solid number pass you by.
Waiting out a line move (I think that's a Bob Seger song...) that may never come could have you scrambling on Super Sunday and playing an over-juiced number or grabbing a spread you’re not crazy about.
The best plan of attack for wagering on Super Bowl props is to start with the spread and total, and then work backwards. Figure out how the game will play out. If you have Atlanta to cover, then who and what will get it there.
If you like the Under, make sure your prop plays coincide with those wagers. That means taking the Under in passing props, leaning toward the Over in rushing props and having a few more “No” than “Yes” bets.
The worst thing you can do is have props that go against each other in the Super Bowl.
If you think Matt Ryan continues the hot hand and lights the Patriots up for massive gains, then don’t load up on the Over in the Falcons' rushing yard props.
Believe New England will slow the pace and eat up time of possession with a run-heavy playbook? You may want to shy away from Julian Edleman's Over on total receptions prop and instead think Over for how many carries LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis will have.
Didn’t pay attention to prices
One of the worst rookie mistakes a new bettor can muff is not paying attention to the juice attached to each wager. And especially come Super Bowl time, when you’re not just limited to a side and total, bettors can easily overpay for props and alternative wagers.
Certain props can hold a hefty price tag, either set that way to draw action or adjusted after the betting market has had its say. Professional handicappers are always wary of high-priced moneyline favorites, setting a limit to just how much they’ll put down. Some pros won’t pay more than -150 for a bet and it may be a rule you integrate into your Super Bowl capping.
On top of some extremely juiced prop prices, books limit the amount you can wager on these alternative bets. So, throwing down $20 on a -170 prop bet is only going to net you like $12 in profit. And playing vig-heavy props can turn a winning record into a loss. Nothing stings like going 5-3 on your bets and still ending up in the red.
In a game as big as the Super Bowl, bettors can panic if things aren’t going according to plan by the time they start setting up the halftime show stage. That can often lead to people chasing their first-half prop losses and going against what they so intensely handicapped for the past two weeks.
Halftime lines hold value, as do in-game live betting odds, if you have a strong opinion. Many times, when a game didn’t play to the oddsmakers’ expectations in the first two quarters – high total had low-scoring first half or favorite underperformed – things will correct themselves in the second half.
But, when faced with the shame of a Super Bowl loss, some bettors will go against their existing bets just to have some black ink on the board. If they took the Over, and the halftime score is 10-7, they pull the trigger on the second-half Under. If they laid the favorite, and the chalk is getting beat up through two frames, then side with the underdog.
As mentioned, these abnormalities often even out and bettors can quickly wipe out a winning bet – that was perfectly handicapped – with a horrific halftime wager or live bet placed in sheer panic.
Too much media
Trust your instincts when it comes to the Super Bowl line. If you’ve watched the NFL intensely each week since the preseason and haven’t missed a minute of playoff action, you already have a firm grip on the two Super Bowl teams and how things should shake down.
If your knee-jerk reaction was “Atlanta +3 is easy money”, then it probably is. But for the next two weeks, the media is going to break down this game and put it back together 100 times. You will second guess your wager probably just as much.
Like a promoter hyping up a title fight, the Super Bowl will be sold as the matchup of all matchups. Both sides will present excellent reasons why they’ll win. The public consensus will flip flop like fish. Sharps will be on the Patriots one day and the Falcons the next. Stat heads will throw trends and numbers at you that go all the way to the invention of the forward pass.
And in the end, what was supposed to be a tightly-contested game with a field-goal spread is a 22-0 wash at halftime. So much for all the media hype.
Stick to your guns. First instincts are usually the right ones. Don’t over-soak your brain in two weeks’ worth of media mush. Pick and choose who you listen to, or get your bets down and tune out the Big Game buzz until kickoff like avoiding Game of Thrones spoilers. I'm only on Season 2, damn it!
You sucked all the fun out of it
If you’re a fan of the Patriots or Falcons – you’ve earned the right to be a little uptight for this game. I would be if my team was playing in the Super Bowl. But for the rest of us losers, who are left to just bet on the Big Game, don’t ruin what is the final football game that matters until Week 1.
Some guys think “Big Game” equals big bets. If you’ve been stashing your nickels away for a big-ass betting bonanza on Super Bowl Sunday, then have at it – but only if it’s within your means. Nothing takes the fun out of watching the Super Bowl like wondering how you’ll pay the rent after a disastrous interception in the end zone.
And if you’re watching the game with friends or even in a sports bar around strangers, keep your rage in check. There’s no need to start dropping f-bombs and getting your Tom Brady Underoos in a bunch because you didn’t nail that coin flip bet.
Sports betting is entertainment. And there’s no bigger show than the Super Bowl. Enjoy the game, win or lose.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in Jan. 2015 on Covers.com, a sister site also owned by Tribune. Stats and info have been updated.