Sunday, February 06, 2005

Bet your bottom dollar

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Any column about gambling on sports would be incomplete without a lengthy warning about its illegality outside of authorized venues and, of course, the horrors of gambling addiction. Therefore, let's just consider this column incomplete, shall we?

I bring up the issue because today many people will be betting on Super Bowl XXXIX, wherein the New England Patriots will face the Philadelphia Eagles. I won't be betting. Just like you won't be betting. Nobody can prove a thing.

Super Bowl wagering has a long and storied tradition dating back -- what? Thirty-nine years? Really? To 1966? Egad, that just can't be right! But I guess the Roman numerals don't lie...

A quick trip online to do some research shows that, yes, in that first Super Bowl, the fabled Super Bowl I, is where Super Bowl gambling began. A drunk sitting in a bar in Las Vegas, Nevada, won ten bucks off another drunk for correctly guessing the outcome of the game's opening toss. Later, that drunk was to find out that his vision had doubled, so he'd just bet against himself. Also, he'd only won five bucks. But that man went on to turn a little idea into a pot full of golden dreams, and founded a little place you may have heard of in Vegas -- he called it Caesar's Palace. And his name was Julius Caesar.

And now you know...the rest of the story.

Other interesting facts about Super Bowl I: After losing several dollar bills to a stiff breeze, the referees eventually switched to coins to decide the opening toss.

The Beatles were also mired in scandal that year when they headlined 1966's Super Bowl I halftime show. During their performance, Paul McCartney ripped off part of George Harrison's suit jacket, exposing Harrison's right nipple.

I, myself, have a long and storied tradition of gambling that dates back 18 years. I'm thinking of the time when I was about 10 years old and my family went to Walt Disney World. We went on a daylong cruise into the ocean around Florida, and the second we hit the international waters they fired up the slot machines.

Trying to escape the sweltering heat and all those strenuous outdoor activities, I snuck into the casino. I sat down at a slot machine and stuffed a quarter in. Nobody bothered me until I won a cup full of change. I was just about finished with my victory dance when I felt a meaty paw seize the scruff of my neck and yank me out of there.

So accept these betting tips from somebody who knows the joy of winning and the pain of losing. Read, place your bets, kick back to watch the Super Bowl, and watch the money roll in.

Probably.

--Any knowledge of the sport of football will be a distinct advantage in your favor when you bet. If possible, play professional football before placing any wagers.

--If you're participating in one of those pools where you buy "boxes" based on the digits in the score, buying every box will ensure a 100 percent victory.

--Office pools are illegal. Remind other bettors in your office pool that "everybody knows what happens to squealers."

--Remember: Football is a game of inches. Placing bets on every inch of the game played will dramatically increase your chances of winning.

--If you're unable to make it to Las Vegas to place your Super Bowl bet in person, there are hundreds of Web sites online, headquartered both in America and internationally, that will gladly accept your money. Some of them are even connected to casinos.

--Speaking of online gaming: If you're worried about giving up your credit card number online to a casino, try giving them cash. That's what that slot in the computer is for.

--When deciding how much to bet on the Super Bowl, always bear in mind that, when it comes to your children's college fund, there are very many sources of financial aid available from the federal government and private donors.

--Consider the many side bets you can make on the Super Bowl. Besides the actual outcome, you can gamble on whether the halftime show will stink or not, how many million dollars Buick spent on that perfectly ordinary commercial they keep playing, and the average height of the playing field grass.

--If you're betting on a Patriots win, give Tom Brady steroids. If betting on the Eagles, Donovan McNabb.

--Don't be stupid. Betting your life savings is a bad idea. Of course, if you get lucky, it could be a brilliant idea.

--If everybody else is using bills, it is impolite to pay your share of the office Super Bowl pool in empty Coke cans.

--Studying the team rosters can often be a source of help when deciding whom to bet on. For example, the temperature in Jacksonville, Florida, is often warm. A glance at the Philadelphia team roster reveals that three key players are penguins, giving New England the natural advantage.

--Lastly, before forking over the cash in your office pool, write "This money not legal tender if I lose" in fine print on your bills.

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