Is it legal?
A legal grey area is not the most fun area to be in. Filming a cop is in a grey area. Saying, "I sincerely do not have a bomb on this airplane, I really don't" is also in a grey area. And for the last few years, gambling with real money online has been lumped in there, too. Sure, you can go to Tunica or AC or (if you're some kind of jet-setting billionaire with hedge-fund profits to burn) Reno. But any site purporting to accept your actual cashola in exchange for allowing you to ply your trade at games of chance and skill is (technically) breaking a law/laws (probably).
There's a lot that goes into figuring out what the law actually says about gambling online, and it generally varies by state. One way to look at it? If you don't live in a state that expressly prohibits it—sorry, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin—you're essentially playing with house money here. A lot of people got busted a while back for doing illegal things peripherally related to online bookmaking; even more people lost tons of money in the process. But you weren't one of them. That's already a win. And even if you do live in one of those prohibition states, the current doctrines on how the Commerce Clause intersects with local regulation of the internet are murky, at best. Federal statutes are mostly interpreted to be concerned with how banks process funds, which is their damn problem, not mine. Worst-case scenario, you're generally not doing anything more "illegal" than playing in a card game where you give the host a few bucks for pizza. You do like pizza, don't you?
Man, just answer the question.
Will you be arrested for betting on sports using the internet? No.
Where should I gamble?
I use Bovada. There was probably a reason for this, when I first decided to do it years ago, but that reason is lost to time and beer. Luckily, the site still works for U.S. players. Other places do not.
You can read reviews of sportsbooks, because, yes, there are places that review sportsbooks. Frankly, that's sort of a goofy concept to begin with—a bit like asking which Mafioso is known for shattering legs the tenderest. These places/entities are not "good" in any tangible sense. If their primary objective (at least as regards their U.S. customers) is to lie to or at least avoid the further scrutiny of the U.S. government, then their secondary objective is to trick customers into giving them money. Now, if it sounds like I don't enjoy the entirety of that process, allow me to make this plain: Gambling is actually a fun thing to do, sometimes and for some people. But sportsbooks ain't on Yelp for a reason, you know?
Although a few years ago, it was perhaps not a widely held belief that those so-called reviews sites could be accepting payment in exchange for favorable reviews—as happens in virtually every reviews process ever documented—as it turns out, they probably are. The forums on any of the sites publishing ratings are openly critical of the reviews process, and significantly more trustworthy than the ratings themselves, but even then, it is impossible to tell who is working for whom. Anecdotally, anyone who posts on any forum is a little bit crazy, but gamblers are in a league of their own.
Basically, you can't trust anybody. (Except me.) Sorry about that. There aren't very many books that accept U.S. players, and the ones that do are restricted in numerous other ways. There are horror stories about every single site, so don't bother Googling them. The best I can do for you is this: Deadspin doesn't accept ads from sportsbooks, so far as I know, and if they did, I sure as hell wouldn't get any of the money. Below is a screenshot of a deposit I made to Bovada with my own funds. I have never gotten any money out of Bovada, because, well, it's none of your business where all the money went. I have heard good (and blood-curdlingly awful, I'll admit) things about 5dimes.eu, but it's got a friggin' .eu domain name! Jesus Christ, I'm not sending anybody money who has a damn .eu. Forget it. Just use Bovada. Or don't, I don't care. I even took out the link so you wouldn't think I getting some kind of referral.
Okay, so how do I get money over there?
The best way to deposit to any online sportsbook is to take your money and throw it in the garbage, because ultimately, that's where it's going anyway.
But if you're determined to be entertained by the inevitable disappearance of your hard-earned dollars, it's actually even easier than it used to be to give some shady guy in Costa Rica your bank-account information.
In the past, you'd go to the dollar store and get some kind of weird debit card, and the cashier would ask for your address before you could put any money on it. Or, you could pretend you understood what Moneygram is, and wait a week for some kid on a unicycle to carry an envelope full of cash to Small Tony.
Nowadays, though, for some reason, you can use a credit card.
So take your (Visa only, in my experience) credit card and put the numbers into the box where you think they should go. You might have to tell a person over the phone that you're the one who is doing it. Your bank might say, "Hey, did you authorize a charge to a place called 'SaunaStore' from Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic?" To which you will reply, "No, my card was surely stolen." But then you will remember that you are a willing pawn in this game of international espionage and intrigue, and that you did technically buy something from SaunaStore, and everything will be fine.
Also, there are fees.
So how do I bet on the Super Bowl?
Can we actually say the words "Super Bowl"? If we can't, then please someone edit this to say "the Big Game of All Times," or whatever we have to legally call it so the NFL's legal team doesn't stop throwing unsolicited videotapes into a big furnace long enough to sue us.
Betting on the Super Bowl is easy. If you're depositing soon, you're going to see ads splashed everywhere for it. A quick primer: Betting on either New England or Seattle against the spread is also known as "taking a side," and will pay you out if your pick covers the spread. In this case, New England is favored by two points, which is written as (-2). That means New England must win by more than 2 points for your bet to be considered a winner. If the final score is Pats 51, Seahawks 50, you lose. If it's Pats 52, Seahawks 50, you push, meaning your original bet is returned to you, and you neither win nor lose. If the final score is Pats X-11, Seahawks Calculus Alpha, then Terry brought his famous medical-marijuana soy wraps to your Super Bowl Bash, and you should probably go lie down before you commit another arson.
The little numbers to the right of the line we discussed above are often something like (-110). In this case, they are (-105) and (-115) for the Patriots line and the Seahawks line, respectively. They describe the vigorish, or vig, that the book is placing on the line, which is basically an extra percentage taken from every bet that helps guarantee the bookmakers a profit. You are not typically afforded even-money wagers (say, betting $10 to win $10), and that's just the cost of doing business. You can find value, however, because oddsmakers sometimes like to adjust the vig before adjusting the line. For the Super Bowl, if you like the Patriots, the fact that the line you're getting at Bovada is not actually a great one at the moment is partially negated by the decreased vig on the bet. You'll only have to bet $105 to win $100, which is better than typical value. It also reflects that bettors are favoring the Seahawks at this number.
But you can also bet what are called propositions, or prop bets, and that is the most fun thing in the world to do, so let's do that.
Super Bowl XLIX Prop-Bet Picks
- Super Bowl XLIX MVP. So 26 of 49 Super Bowl MVPs have been quarterbacks, but recently, it's been six of 10. That might bode well for a QB pick here, if last year's MVP weren't a Seahawks linebacker. One thing to remember is that the media votes count for 80 percent of the total, so maybe don't bet the farm on Marshawn Lynch: Dude could gain 800 yards and jump through the uprights and still come in second to a particularly delicious hot dog. If the Patriots win, the sportswriters will bend over backwards to give it to Tom Brady again, so there isn't much value on his 9/5 odds. You can't expect every game to be the same, of course, but in last year's Super Bowl, Kam Chancellor had 10 tackles, an INT, and a pass defensed. If not for Malcolm Smith finding the end zone, Chancellor might have won MVP himself. And that aforementioned Smith pick-six came off a tipped pass from Richard Sherman, who, by the way, is also a very good player. I like Sherman and Chancellor, who are both 25/1 long-shots.
- Whatever you do, don't bet the "first score will be a safety" bet. After presumably getting crushed last year on one of the dumbest possible bets, books have lowered the odds from 50/1 down to 33/1. The first-score safety will probably happen again, and every year from now on until the sun dies out and we freeze to death in the echoing dark, but I can't stand losing odds like that. Increasing your odds, on the other hand, is fun! That's why I like the alternative-point-spread Seahawks (-6.5) (+195). Getting almost 2:1 on the Seahawks giving less than a touchdown is going to feel great when the Pats are just flinging it down 14 in the fourth quarter, and somewhat less good when Belichick is crushing Pete Carroll's head on the 50-yard-line like Gregor Clegane.
- Greater: The cheapest ticket on StubHub at kickoff or the cost of 300 Bud Light drafts at the stadium and Greater: Amount of penalty yards accrued by both teams combined vs. number of seconds of beer ads during game. Okay, I made those up for some podcast-contest thing I didn't win. I actually did research those, though, and I think they are interesting sides to play. Tell me which side you'd take in the comments and I'll keep track of the numbers on Twitter.
- How many viewers will this game have? (Over: 113 million). Three of the last four Super Bowls have set records for viewership. Last year's game really sucked eggs, competition-wise, and 111,000,000 people tuned in to applaud each and every Manning Face. But! There were three million guys named Sully in the greater Boston area who abstained, so this year, I think we hit this number easily. Plus, it's the only bet you can really have any effect on. If you think we're running in the 110 million-ish area, then get off your ass and go turn some other TVs on. That may be cheating, but to hell with it. This is the Super Bowl for us, too.
- How many times will the announcers use the term "deflated balls" during the game (under: three). The key here is that it doesn't include drunk Seattle fans in the stadium, otherwise they could probably hit four, maybe five times total. But it also doesn't include halftime, which is likely the only legitimate time the TV crew could say the phrase without getting brained on national television. I'm guessing it doesn't go over one.
Here are a few more quick ones I like:
- Will Bryan Walters score a TD in the game? (15/1)
Who the hell is this? Of course he's scoring. Put me down for yes.
- Will Danny Amendola score a TD in the game? (-650 for No)
- Over/Under number of beers + chips BronzeHammer consumes during game: 45 (Over)
Slam the over. There's no way this doesn't pay off.
- What will happen to the Dow Jones the day after the Super Bowl? (Market Up, -140)
Supply and demand, baby.
Good luck out there, everyone, and win one for the Gipper. (In this scenario, I am the Gipper.)
Bronzehammer is a recovering Deadspin commenter and beer not-drinker. You can watch him tell jokes on his Youtube Channel and tell him what sort of drinks really put hair on your chest on Twitter @Bronzehammer.
Art by Jim Cooke.
Adequate Man is Deadspin's new self-improvement blog, dedicated to making you just good enough at everything. Suggestions for future topics are welcome below.