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Super Bowl 2014: Gambling odds and prop bets through the years

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The coin toss, the MVP, the length of the National Anthem ... you can bet on anything for the big game, including the actual game itself. David Fucillo takes a closer look at the real fun behind the Super Bowl.

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Super Bowl XLVIII kicks off at 6:25 p.m. ET, and while two fan bases have an interest in the outcome, a sizable portion of America will have a financial stake in the result. Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest gambling day of the year, both for Las Vegas and for oddsmakers around the world. Super Bowl XLVII saw $90.76 million wagered in Las Vegas, which was a drop in the bucket compared to the billions wagered everywhere else.

The history of Super Bowl wagering features an assortment of crazy covers that have cost Vegas millions, and wild prop bets that suck in gamblers with their shear randomness. Whether you're at a Super Bowl party, in MetLife Stadium, or visiting Las Vegas on Super Bowl Sunday, you probably have wagered money on some aspect of next Sunday's Broncos-Seahawks tilt.

The Spread

Over the years, oddsmakers have done a great job at setting the favorite. Through the 47 Super Bowls to date, favorites are 26-19-2 against the spread. More importantly, underdogs have only won eight games outright. Of course, as this table shows, three of the last four and four of the last six Super Bowls saw the underdog take home the Lombardi Trophy. Furthermore, 9 of the last 12 Super Bowls have seen the underdog cover. The NFL's move toward parity might very well be evening out the playing field just a little bit more.

SB Year NFC AFC Favorite Over/Under ATS Result O/U Result
XLVIII 2014 Seattle Seahawks Denver Broncos Broncos -3 47
XLVII 2013 San Francisco 49ers Baltimore Ravens 49ers -4.5 48 Underdog Over
XLVI 2012 New York Giants New England Patriots Patriots -2.5 53 Underdog Under
XLV 2011 Green Bay Packers Pittsburgh Steelers Packers -3 45 Favorite Over
XLIV 2010 New Orleans Saints Indianapolis Colts Colts -5 57 Underdog Under
XLIII 2009 Arizona Cardinals Pittsburgh Steelers Steelers -7 46 Underdog Over
XLII 2008 New York Giants New England Patriots Patriots -12 55 Underdog Under
XLI 2007 Chicago Bears Indianapolis Colts Colts -7 47 Favorite Under
XL 2006 Seattle Seahawks PIttsburgh Steelers Steelers -4 47 Favorite Under
XXIX 2005 Philadelphia Eagles New England Patriots Patriots -7 46.5 Underdog Under
XXXVIII 2004 Carolina Panthers New England Patriots Patriots -7 37.5 Underdog Over
XXXVII 2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Oakland Raiders Raiders -4 44 Underdog Over
XXXVI 2002 St. Louis Rams New England Patriots Rams -14 53 Underdog Under
XXXV 2001 New York Giants Baltimore Ravens Ravens -3 33 Favorite Over
XXXIV 2000 St. Louis Rams Tennessee Titans Rams -7 45 Push Under
XXXIII 1999 Atlanta Falcons Denver Broncos Broncos -7.5 52.5 Favorite Over
XXXII 1998 Green Bay Packers Denver Broncos Packers -11 49 Underdog Over
XXXI 1997 Green Bay Packers New England Patriots Packers -14 49 Push-Over Over
XXX 1996 Dallas Cowboys Pittsburgh Steelers Cowboys -13.5 51 Underdog Under
XXIX 1995 San Francisco 49ers San Diego Chargers 49ers -18.5 54 Favorite Over
XXVIII 1994 Dallas Cowboys Buffalo Bills Cowboys -10.5 50.5 Favorite Under
XXVII 1993 Dallas Cowboys Buffalo Bills Cowboys -6.5 44.5 Favorite Over
XXVI 1992 Washington Redskins Buffalo Bills Redskins -7 49 Favorite Over
XXV 1991 New York Giants Buffalo Bills Bills -7 40.5 Underdog Under
XXIV 1990 San Francisco 49ers Denver Broncos 49ers -12 48 Favorite Over
XXIII 1989 San Francisco 49ers Cincinnati Bengals 49ers -7 48 Underdog Under
XXII 1988 Washington Redskins Denver Broncos Broncos -3 47 Underdog Over
XXI 1987 New York Giants Denver Broncos Giants -9.5 40 Favorite Over
XX 1986 Chicago Bears New England Patriots Bears -10 37.5 Favorite Over
XIX 1985 San Francisco 49ers Miami Dolphins 49ers -3.5 53 Favorite Over
XVIII 1984 Washington Redskins Los Angeles Raiders Redskins -3 48 Favorite Under
XVII 1983 Washington Redskins Miami Dolphins Dolphins -3 36.5 Underdog Over
XVI 1982 San Francisco 49ers Cincinnati Bengals 49ers -1 48 Favorite Under
XV 1981 Philadelphia Eagles Oakland Raiders Eagles -3 37.5 Underdog Under
XIV 1980 Los Angeles Rams Pittsburgh Steelers Steelers -10.5 36 Favorite Over
XIII 1979 Dallas Cowboys Pittsburgh Steelers Steelers -3.5 37 Favorite Over
XII 1978 Dallas Cowboys Denver Broncos Cowboys -6 39 Favorite Under
XI 1977 Minnesota Vikings Oakland Raiders Raiders -4 38 Favorite Over
X 1976 Dallas Cowboys Pittsburgh Steelers Steelers -7 36 Underdog Over
IX 1975 Minnesota Vikings Pittsburgh Steelers Steelers -3 33 Favorite Under
VIII 1974 Minnesota Vikings Miami Dolphins Dolphins -6.5 33 Favorite Under
VII 1973 Washington Redskins Miami Dolphins Dolphins -1 33 Favorite Under
VI 1972 Dallas Cowboys Miami Dolphins Cowboys -6 34 Favorite Under
V 1971 Dallas Cowboys Baltimore Colts Colts -2.5 36 Favorite Under
IV 1970 Minnesota Vikings Kansas City Chiefs Vikings -12 39 Underdog Under
III 1969 Baltimore Colts New York Jets Colts -18 40 Underdog Under
II 1968 Green Bay Packers Oakland Raiders Packers -13.5 43 Favorite Over
I 1967 Green Bay Packers Kansas City Chiefs Packers -14 Favorite

Las Vegas has generally faired well each season, but there are a few notable games that cost the sports books big time. In 2008, the New York Giants stunned the undefeated New New England Patriots, in a game made even more famous by David Tyree's miracle helmet catch. In 1995, the San Francisco 49ers covered the largest spread in Super Bowl history (18.5 points), blowing out the San Diego Chargers 49-26.

The worst day in Super Bowl history for Las Vegas came in 1979, on a day referred to as Black Sunday. The Pittsburgh Steelers opened as 4.5-point favorites over the Dallas Cowboys. A flood of Dallas money convinced oddsmakers to drop the line to Steelers -3.5. The Steelers ended up winning 35-31. Sports books had to pay off bettors who got the Cowboys at +4.5, and the bettors who got the Steelers at -3.5, and it was money back for the folks who pushed when the line was at Steelers -4. The Gaming Control Board did not track the money, but the sports books took a bath on that one.

Prop Bets

Some of the biggest action on Super Bowl Sunday will surround prop bets. You might bet on the over/under of the length of the National Anthem. You could bet on the color of the Gatorade poured on the winning coach. You might bet first player to score, or the first type of score. And those are arguably the most normal prop bets. If you are really bored, you can potentially bet on things like "Which will be higher: Total goals scored in West Bromwich vs. Liverpool, or Peyton Manning touchdown passes" (I'd take Manning all day).

Prop bets have grown like crazy, and they all date back to the man they call The Fridge. In 1986, sports books put up odds of approximately 40/1 that William "The Refrigerator" Perry would score a touchdown. The rookie defensive lineman was occasionally used as a fullback near the goal line. He had two rushing touchdowns that season, but Bears coach Mike Ditka declared that Perry would not get a shot at the end zone in the Super Bowl. Gamblers ignored Iron Mike, and the influx of money dropped the odds all the way down to 5/1. Las Vegas lost a sizable amount of money when The Fridge rumbled in, but the marketing value of the prop bet took off.

More recently, Christina Aguilera managed to make gambling history with her rendition of the National Anthem at Super Bowl XLV. The over/under was set by Bodog at 1:54. Aguilera ended up clocking in right at 1:54, but if you watch the video below, you might notice that she skipped some words.

Different online sports books had different rules for it, but fortunately some refunded wagers on the National Anthem. Given Aguilera's singing form, the over seemed like a sure thing, and it would have been had she not botched it. That is probably as good a reason as any to not wager on this kind of thing, but that will hardly stop us this year.

There will be a vast array of prop bets to bet on over the next week and a half, and SB Nation will be here to encourage this kind of behavior. Best of luck!

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