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Words of Advice for Betting on the Super Bowl

By Yong-yi Zhu

COLUMNIST

So this is it, Super Bowl weekend. The hype of the game, the anticipation of great commercials, and the expectation of more wardrobe malfunctions to come are what draw us to watch this national phenomenon. But something else draws many towards this sports scene: gambling.

These days, betting can be as much of a sport as football itself; after all, millions have been tuning in to ESPN for the World Series of Poker during the last couple of years. And what could be more perfect than combining our love for large men pummeling each other with our worship of large sums of cash?

Well, let me analyze some of the potential bets and how you can make enough money come Sunday night to actually pay for those tuition hikes, which seem to come every other month. (All betting lines that follow are from the Web site http://www.sportsbook.com and are current as of Jan. 26).

The most popular bets are usually the most obvious and also the most boring. The easiest wager to make, and to me the safest, would be to take the Patriots and give them seven points. When the Patriots win games, they usually win by more than a touchdown, and I expect Sunday to be no different. In fact, of the games they have won this season, only two have been by less than a touchdown, and those two were over two months ago.

Another safe bet might be to take the Patriots as the first to score. The only time they failed to do that all season was the last game of the season against the 49ers, when there really was nothing on the line.

In fact, while you’re at it, you might as well take the Patriots to score last as well, as they have scored both first and last in a game twice as often as the Eagles.

But those bets don’t quite offer you bargains, as they all pay at a little less than one to one. There are potential big money makers if you’re willing to be a bit bolder.

Taking the Patriots to win by 11-13 points gets you 8-1 odds, and taking them to win by 18-21 points gets you 12-1 odds. Taking the bets might be better than the odds would indicate, since the Pats have blown out both the Colts (who had the second best offense) and the Steelers (who had the best ranked defense).

Another good bargain might be putting a couple bucks on what the first scoring play of the game might be. Taking a touchdown run by either team pays off at 6-1, which is safer, while gambling on a non-passing, non-rushing touchdown to start the game pays off at 18-1 for the Pats and 20-1 for the Eagles. Think about the terrific defense being played by both teams and you might start to believe that a Tedy Bruschi or a Lito Sheppard could just snag one out of the air and take it to the house to start the game.

But beyond those bargains, there are even more interesting bets to take, like whether Eagles kicker David Akers will score more points than University of North Carolina point guard Raymond Felton will have assists on Sunday. Felton hasn’t done that well on the road against tougher opponents, and playing in Tallahassee against Florida State will certainly be a challenge. I look for Akers to have at least five or six points, and I think Felton will fall short of that in assists.

Another intriguing one is whether the combined points of the Pats and the Eagles will be more or less than 21 shots below Ernie Els’s final round score. For example, if Els shoots a 69, will the Pats and Eagles combine to score more or less than 48 points? In the last three years in Royal Melbourne, Ernie has averaged 69.3 shots in round four. He has done worse while ahead and better while behind. So come Saturday night, if Els is in the lead, he might be the better choice. If he is a couple of shots back, the Pats/Eagles might be the wiser selection.

Now to be quite honest with you, I don’t even know what classes I am going to today, much less who is going to win the Super Bowl, but it still is interesting to note what kinds of absurd things we are willing to put our money on. Comparing a football score to a golf score might just be a bit extreme. You might as well give me 1,000,000-1 odds that another wardrobe malfunction will take place. After what happened last year, I’d take that in a heart beat.