The Super Bowl has long been considered the greatest (gambling) spectacle in America—if not the entire world. And the Baltimore Ravens’ thrilling 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday proved as much, as millions of dollars changed hands for the better part of four hours—right up until the game’s penultimate play. Herewith are the seven most intriguing betting moments from Super Bowl XLVII, which attracted a record $98.9 million in wagers statewide (shattering the previous mark of $94.5 million, from 2006):
1. The opening coin toss landed “heads”—the fifth straight time (and sixth time in the last seven years) that “heads” beat “tails.”
2. Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones returned the second-half kickoff a Super Bowl-record 108 yards for a touchdown, much to the delight of those who bet there would be a defensive or special-teams TD—the 14th time that proposition wager has cashed in the last 21 Super Bowls.
3. 49ers placekicker David Akers was wide-left on a 39-yard field-goal attempt in the third quarter, making a winner of all those who bet “yes” there would be at least one missed field goal and “yes” the 49ers would be the first team to miss a field goal … until the referees flagged the Ravens for running into the kicker, nullifying the play. Given a second chance, Akers split the uprights from 34 yards out.
4. After trailing by as many as 22 points, the 49ers had a chance to tie the game after a touchdown early in the fourth quarter trimmed Baltimore’s lead to 31-29. But San Francisco’s two-point conversion failed—burning those who took 3½-to-1 odds that there would be a successful two-point try.
5. The official box score showed that the Ravens and 49ers combined for five sacks, making a winner of those who bet that prop “over” 4½ sacks (and a loser of those who bet “under” 4½). The difference between the winners and losers? Two plays before halftime, when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was dropped at the Ravens’ 9-yard line on third-and-goal from the 9, the play was officially (and oddly) ruled a sack … for zero yards.
6. With the ball sitting right between the 1- and 2-yard lines midway through the second quarter, Ravens QB Joe Flacco completed a pass to tight end Dennis Pitta in the end zone. The play was ruled a 1-yard TD—allowing those who bet “shortest TD of the game under 1½ yards” to cash their ticket.
7. Finally, following a goal-line stand with less than two minutes to play, Baltimore got the ball back deep in 49ers territory, but couldn’t run out the clock. With 12 seconds left, Ravens punter Sam Koch took the snap and ran around the back of the end zone until he was knocked out of bounds for a safety. The decision had a massive wagering impact, including: “Will there be a safety?” (“Yes” was as high as 7-to-1 odds); “Will the final margin be exactly three points?” (“Yes” was as high as 5-to-1 odds); and “What will be the final scoring play of the game?” (“49ers safety” was 35-to-1).
And then there’s the financial ramifications the intentional safety had on the millions of (illegal) “squares” pools nationwide—imagine how you’d feel if those “meaningless” two points turned you from a winner into a loser (or vice versa). Actually, I don’t have to imagine: I was in such a pool, and that safety cost me $400 …