Super Bowl betting: There are more six- and seven-figure bets than ever, and we're fascinated by them

·7 min read

The players on the winning team in Super Bowl LV will make about $130,000 each as a bonus.

Meanwhile, if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t lose by more than 3 points Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs, at least a couple of bettors will make millions.

The lead-up to this Super Bowl, which hasn’t had many controversial headlines, might be more interesting in Nevada. A $2.3 million bet on the Buccaneers +3.5, made by an undisclosed bettor on the BetMGM app in Nevada, made news. Jeff Stoneback, the director of trading for MGM Resorts, said he believes it’s the largest sports bet the company has ever taken. A $3.46 million bet on the Buccaneers by “Mattress Mack,” who has gotten plenty of attention the past couple years for his seven-figure sports wagers on big events, was also big news. Stoneback said there have been several inquiries from well-known big bettors about potentially large Super Bowl bets and the sportsbook is anticipating at least a few more huge wagers.

There have never been this many enormous bets in the sports betting world, and the bets keep getting bigger.

Most bettors will be sweating out their own bets, anywhere from the casual $20 bettor to the fan who puts a thousand or two on the game to make it interesting. The thought of logging into an app and clicking accept on a $2.3 million bet is absolutely foreign to just about every one of the many millions of fans who bet on sports.

Maybe that’s why we’re so fascinated by it.

The history of enormous sports bets

The first time a huge Super Bowl bet became big news might have been in 1995. A bettor put down $2.4 million on the heavily favored San Francisco 49ers to win straight up. The moneyline bet of 1-to-8 odds made a $300,000 profit when the 49ers won easily.

It wasn’t like that led to a series of million-dollar bets on the Super Bowl. The frequency of enormous bets on the Super Bowl, and all other games for that matter, is a fairly new phenomenon. Stoneback said it used to be a big deal to see a six-figure bet, and while it is still a big deal to take that much money, it is much more common.

BetMGM had a bettor win $510,000 on a routine Nov. 29 regular season game between the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers, a pair of mediocre teams. The Vikings won in the final minute to cash a huge ticket for that bettor. It wasn’t too strange to see six-figure bets come in last year. During 2020, BetMGM had at least five single-game NFL bets win $500,000, four college football bets bring in at least half a million, four quarter-million dollar wins on college basketball games and even three regular-season MLB games that brought in a profit of $250,000 or more. And there were plenty of other bets of at least $100,000. BetMGM often promotes huge bets through its social media channels.

And with every massive bet, there’s interest from fans. It’s especially true Super Bowl week. There’s a reason “Mattress Mack” has become a minor celebrity around the nation, and it’s not for his Houston furniture store.

“It’s like the old show, ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,’” Stoneback said. “People want to peer into their lives, and see who they’re betting on.”

Stoneback has been working in sportsbooks since the 1980s and even he is surprised by the explosion of large bets on games. He has no idea what caused it, either.

“That is one question I ask myself all the time,” Stoneback said. “I don’t have an answer for that. I rack my brain and I can’t come up with an answer why. It has baffled me.”

Many bettors will be wagering on Super Bowl LV. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Many bettors will be wagering on Super Bowl LV. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Who makes the major bets on sports?

Even if you dream of one day walking into the MGM or Mirage sportsbook and dropping $1 million on a game, you can’t. At least not without the proper authorization. For an unknown customer coming in to the sportsbook, the limit for an NFL game is $30,000. And it’s less for other sports.

Exceptions are made. For just about every big bet MGM takes in, Stoneback said, it’s done through a casino host who caters to MGM’s biggest bettors. The request for the nosebleed bet is made to the host, who contacts the sportsbook. Then the bets will be authorized. That’s how those headline bets are made, generally.

The profile of the bettors who make the biggest wagers completely changes during Super Bowl week. If you see news of a big bet in the regular season it’s usually from a handful of MGM’s regular sharp sports bettors, Stoneback said. When you hear about a massive Super Bowl bet, it’s usually from someone who isn’t a regular sports bettor but wants huge action on the biggest game.

You might think professional bettors bet more on the Super Bowl, but that isn’t the case.

“To them it’s just another game,” Stoneback said. “The Super Bowl is the same as a Presbyterian-Gardner Webb basketball game.”

To a few non-professionals who can afford it, betting a fortune on the Super Bowl is the best way to enjoy the biggest event in sports.

Floyd Mayweather’s big bets became famous

Maybe we are enthralled with big bets due to the Floyd Mayweather effect. The champion boxer started bringing attention to his six- and even seven-figure sports bets, often tweeting out pictures of the tickets (mostly after he won, never of a losing ticket). That brought a lot of publicity.

You probably didn’t know anything about “Mattress Mack” (real name Jim McIngvale) if you aren’t from Houston, but his series of huge sports wagers have made him a household name to anyone who pays attention to the sports betting scene. He doesn’t hide from the attention. This week he retweeted a Houston TV report about his big bet on Super Bowl LV. He also had the largest known wager on last year’s Super Bowl.

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Whatever the reason, massive sports wagers draw our attention. There were at least eight wagers of at least $500,000 on last year’s Super Bowl, according to ESPN Chalk. BetMGM reports six six-figure wagers already on the Super Bowl, and the company generally does a large majority of its Super Bowl business over the weekend:

  • $2.3 million to win $2 million on Buccaneers +3.5

  • ​$345K to win $300K Buccaneers +3.5 -115

  • $205K to win $186,363.65 Chiefs/Bucs under 56.5

  • $180K to win $100K on Chiefs -180 moneyline

  • $115K to win $100K on Chiefs -3.5 (-115)

  • $110K to win $100K on Chiefs -3.5 (-110)

Stoneback compared the big bets on the Super Bowl to the casual bettor who might bet $10 on a normal game, but pushes it up to $100 for the Super Bowl to make the game more interesting.

With 20 states and Washington D.C. allowing sports betting this year, more people than ever have access to wagering on the Super Bowl. Many people will have their props and parlays to track when the Buccaneers and Chiefs kick off. For just about everyone who bets but can’t even fathom putting six figures on a game, we can live vicariously through those who do.

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