Best Super Bowl betting stories: ‘It was his dream and my nightmare’

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Betting for the Super Bowl is unlike any other sporting event. People used to come from far and wide to Las Vegas to get their big wagers down, but with sports betting now legal in over 30 U.S. states, there is a much wider distribution of money. Bettors can wager large sums of money from the comfort of their homes.

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Still, there is no place like Vegas for the Big Game. A few long-time bookmakers shared their favorite Super Bowl betting stories from behind the counter with VSiN.

Super Bowl XLIX: Seattle Seahawks vs. New England Patriots (-1)

Johnny Avello, DraftKings Sportsbook Director

I’m at Wynn at the time, and a guy walks up to counter a few days before the game. He says that he wants to bet $1 million. I tell him that’s fine, we’ll take a million. He had the money at the cage, I think he had brought it in via cashier’s check. So he has a bunch of $25,000 chips, brings in 40 of them and bets the Patriots to cover against the Seahawks.

At that time, while we’re counting the money, I’m curious, so I ask him why wants to bet all that money on New England. He tells me, “I had a dream last night that the Patriots were going to win the game.” That’s it. That was the whole reasoning behind his bet. Well, it ended being his dream and my nightmare.

Super Bowl XXXVIII: New England Patriots (-7) vs. Carolina Panthers

Jay Kornegay, Vice President of Race and Sports at Westgate SuperBook

A guy from Los Angeles comes into the book before this Super Bowl and he had $10,000 to bet. He didn’t know what to bet, but he knew he wanted to bet $10,000. He’s looking at all the odds, looking up and down the board, and he decides he wants to bet something that’s a longshot. He ends up betting on the Panthers to score exactly 29 points. I think he chickened out and just bet $5,000 on it, but the odds were like 30-1 or something. And, of course the fricking Panthers score exactly 29 points.

Super Bowl XXXIV: St. Louis Rams (-7) vs Tennessee Titans

Chris Andrews, South Point Sportsbook Director

The year the Rams beat the Titans was a bad one. Early in the year, we had the Rams at like 300-1 to win the Super Bowl. They were horrible the year before. Trent Green is a fine QB, so they get lower, lower. Green gets hurt on the eve of the opener. Dick Vermeil, who I always thought was a great coach, but he’s Mr. Optimistic. He says, “No, we’re going to be fine with Kurt Warner, and we’re going to play great football.”

I’m thinking, “Are they out of their minds?”

I looked Warner up, saw he was cut by a few teams, playing on the Iowa Barnstormers, and I went back to 300-1 and said Vermeil was out of his mind. From Week 1, you could see that he was pretty good. I tried my best to offset as much of that liability as I could throughout the season and playoffs, but 300-1 isn’t easy.

We get to the Super Bowl, and at that time, I was part-owner of Cal-Neva (in Reno), and probably a third of what I’d make was based off how we did on the Super Bowl, so I was very invested. The line was bouncing between Rams -6.5, -7, -6.5, -7.

My girlfriend at the time calls me at kickoff and says, “What do we want?’

And I said, “Well we don’t want the Rams to win, but if they win by 7 it’s a huge disaster.” I had it almost down to the penny, and it was a lot.

Late in the game it’s tied, and I’m thinking for the Rams, just get the field goal. The Rams winning will be bad enough, but I’ll take my lumps. Warner throws the TD and I said, “You got to be kidding me.” I’ll never forget, back then we didn’t have caller ID on phones, my phone rings and right away I know it’s her. She just screams this intense scream. “I know,” I said and hung up. Mike Jones tackles Kevin Dyson at the 1. I ring it up and see the amount I lost. To me, it was a lot of money.

We had plans already set for after the game, she was going to pick me up right after work and drive through Northern California. So she picks me up. She said, “You wanna drive”

I said, “Nope.”

Anything you want to listen to?

“Nope.”

She put in Abbey Road. I remember leaning my ahead against the window and listening to I Want You (She’s So Heavy). It’s one of the few long jams the Beatles had. And at the end of it, I picked my head up and said, “Man, I love that song.”

And she looked up and said, “Oh my God. I didn’t think you were going to talk for the whole two weeks.”

I said, “Nah, it’s only money. I’ll try to make it back. What else can I do?”

Still, to this day I know how much it was and it was the biggest loss of my life.

Adam Pullen, Assistant Director of Trading at Caesars Sportsbook

I was working at a property on The Strip and a well-known Hollywood actor came into the sportsbook and said he wanted to bet the Super Bowl. He didn’t want to lay 7 on the Rams, though, he wanted to lay -6.5. The game was a solid 7 and we told him he could buy a half-point, but he didn’t want to. So, we decided to oblige him

My boss was at the counter with him and gave me the signal, so I switched the line to Rams -6.5. The actor bet $1,100 to win $1,000, and I switched the line back to Rams -7. Even in that short period of time, though, it caused quite a stir. People came running in, asking to lay the 6.5 as well, I think we just told them it was a computer glitch. Sometimes we oblige a customer’s request as a courtesy, and knowing his character from some of those mob movies, it’s not someone you want to mess with [laughs].

Wasn’t a big amount obviously, but the spread obviously came into play and he cashed his ticket when Dyson was tackled at the 1-yard line.

Super Bowl XXXIII: Denver Broncos (-7.5) vs Atlanta Falcons

Jay Kornegay, Vice President of Race and Sports at Westgate SuperBook

We were pretty sure this would be John Elway’s last game, and we thought that if the Broncos were up — I think they were around a 7.5-point favorite — they would take him out and give fans a chance to give him his due. So we had a prop on if Bubby Brister would have a rushing attempt, and a kneeldown counted as a rushing attempt.

Late in the game, it happens and they pull Elway off the field, but the broadcast is only showing Elway and we’re looking to see what happens on the field. Brister took two kneeldowns, so Yes was a winner, I think it closed like +100 or something, but they never showed it on the broadcast.

I was at the Imperial Palace at the time, and one guy found out that he lost his bet because he tried to cash a “No” ticket. He knew that I was from Denver and a Broncos fan and started screaming at me, “I know that you called coach [Mike] Shanahan to put Brister in. Jay. Is that a hotline you got back there?”

We actually had to get security in there to calm him down.

Super Bowl XXX: Dallas Cowboys (-13.5) vs Pittsburgh Steelers

Jay Kornegay, Vice President of Race and Sports at Westgate SuperBook

One of the worst numbers we made on a Super Bowl prop was for Kordell Stewart in the Cowboys-Steelers Super Bowl back in the 90s. He was doing a little bit of everything for the Steelers. We put up prop, “Will he catch a pass, have a rushing attempt and have a pass attempt?”

I think we opened with No the favorite at like -250, we closed Yes -450. Everybody bet it. He was kind of the story, one of the stars in the game, and he was having a fantastic season. We had a tremendous amount of liability on this little prop. Very early in the game, he caught a pass and in the middle of the game, he had a rushing attempt.

Late in the game, he lines up at QB in shotgun formation and everyone is cheering, thinking that the prop is going to cash. He took the snap, rolled to the right, cocked his arm … and he didn’t throw it. He tucked it in and ran for a few yards. He never had another chance after that.

We did really well on that one.

Super Bowl XX: Chicago Bears (-10) vs. New England Patriots

Chris Andrews, South Point Sportsbook Director

In like Week 2, I said, “This is one of the best teams I’ve ever seen.” I remember betting 10-1 on them and lowered them at the Cal-Neva. I thought they’d waltz to the Super Bowl, no one was going to get in their way. It was one of the biggest bets of my life. When they get to the Super Bowl, another book opens the game Bears -7, Patriots +9. I had a friend of mine call me after they opened and told me the line, and I said, “How much you got on you? Lay the 7, as much as they’ll take.”

I think it got as high as 13, people were saying I needed to take back 13. I said, “I’m not taking back s—. The Bears are going to annihilate this team.”

There was one guy at Cal-Neva who was a bit of a shady character, but he had a lot of money. He comes up to the counter like 15 minutes before the game and says that he wants half a million on the Bears. This was 1985, a little old place. I said we’ll take $50,000 to a number. I’ll put you down for $50,000, I’m going to move it half a point, you can bet another $50,000. You can climb the ladder, but that’s what you’re getting.

He said, “I want half a million at one number or nothing.”

I said, “Well you’re making the decision very easy for me. You get nothing.”

The Patriots went up 3-0 early and he was yelling at me, “You should’ve taken that bet!” And I turned to him and said, “Philip, it’s early. Believe me when I tell you the Bears are going to kill them.”

The Bears ended up winning 46-10, and I never saw that guy again.